My previous posting, The 2015 Austin Dia de los Muertos Parade, was in black and white. It was an homage to classic street photography and an acknowledgement of my growing interest in monochromes. But it would be a shame not to share the event’s wonderful colors and textures. I shot the entire parade in both black and white (JPEG) and in color (RAW), so I got to choose which I liked better.
I have a simple rule of when I use color versus black and white. I try to maximize impact. I like dynamic images after all, and if the color is not adding anything, I’m more likely, these days, to explore monochrome. Here, colorful textures and the deep blue of these costumes are more than enough to justify color.
Sometimes, I’m torn between the black and white and color versions of a photograph. You may remember this picture from my previous post where it was in monochrome. I like that image very much, it’s one of my favorites. This version works too, I think, though it changes the emphasis slightly. The costumes to the right distract somewhat from the central subject — but the layers of colors are enticing. Ultimately, I think the subject is strong enough to hold attention and the color enhances and does not completely overwhelm. Which do you like better?
Here is an example where color is a necessity and there is no doubt of its efficacy. The figure in green anchors the image and separates it from the other elements. I found that without the color, the center didn’t hold.
Along the way, I captured noteworthy spectators. The parade was held on Halloween this year and I found some costumes, on the sidelines, made for colorful image making.
Here’s my favorite character, this time in the middle of Congress Avenue, near the end of the parade. The red paint makes him look even more fierce.
We reached the terminus in front of a shiny modern office tower. These hand-made papier-mâché characters contrasted nicely against the sleek glass exterior.
I’ll finish where I started, women with their airy lace parasols. White outfits with a slash of red and its bold use of color. As much as I love color, I realized it’s not necessary to always use it. Photography, in once sense, is the art of exclusion. How do you simplify the image while still telling the story? I’ve come to realize that color can take away from the strength of an image, adding more complications without much benefit.
I’m not shying away from color. It’s definitely something to use when it adds benefit — sort of like those touches of red in the costumes. To be sure, in a richly textured event like this, it would be a shame not to explore color.
It was a busy Halloween for me this year, photographically. I went downtown for my 3rd Annual Halloween Portraits on 6th Street where I shot street portraits at night with a flash augmented with post processing — the portraits have sort of a studio feel. And earlier that same day, I was down on the east side shooting a parade in a more typical street photography style. I’ve been enjoying black and white a lot lately. I actually shot both color and monochrome, but for this post, it’s all black and white. Sort of a nod to the roots of street photography.
I think the key to these events is to get down there early. I was there at 11am, an hour before the parade started and was rewarded with the opportunity to document behind the scenes. Photographing the parade is fun, but I wanted to capture the candid, atypical views.
The event has become popular. This is my 3rd time and I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in photographers. Even compared to my last visit, 2 years ago, I noticed more pre-parade onlookers. The thing is, I didn’t want to shoot the same portraits, like most people. I was challenging myself to shoot things the other people weren’t.
I got close and searched for interactions.
I looked for gestures and patterns.
When I did portraits, I wanted them to look more casual
I also took pictures of the parade, of course. East Austin is changing rapidly with new apartments, gentrifying. Two years ago, I didn’t see any of these hip accommodations. Documenting this parade had the added benefit of documenting a changing east side.
I wasn’t content just shooting from the sidelines. It’s fun but challenging to use a wide-angle and get in close. I would jump in the middle of the action, once in a while, to get these. But I didn’t embed myself in the parade the entire time, since I didn’t want to get in the way of the other onlookers.
Finally, I was on the lookout for interesting people on the sidelines. I asked these sharply dressed women for a portrait and later sent them a copy (both in color and black and white).
After looking at my 2011 and 2013 parade posts, I’ve noticed a some shifts in photographic style but nothing dramatic. Perhaps a few less portraits but I’ve shot mostly candid street photographs. While I’ve changed cameras over the years my style remains intact. Not sure if that’s good or bad, maybe I’ve setted into a look that I like.
This is the 3rd year in a row that I was down on 6th Street for Halloween. I’ve grown fond of these street portraits and wanted to continue the series. While the technique is the same, every year brings a new cast of characters. Here are the Halloween portraits I did in 2013 and 2014.
I used the same technique and exactly the same equipment as years past, which I describe in this post. I briefly considered using my newest Olympus, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, instead of the E-PM2, but decided to use the old camera for nostalgia’s sake. Since everything is manually set, the more advanced features of the E-M5 Mark II added no benefit.
I did make one minor change to the process. I used gaffer’s tape to make sure my controls and focus didn’t move. This made it faster and easier. I shot about 60+ portraits in record time, about an hour and a half. I was there by 8pm and done by 9:30. It started to rain and I was tired from my earlier photography event, so it was an early night for me.
Without realizing it, I framed the portraits a bit differently this year. I was further away, so I mostly captured from around the knee up. In previous years, I composed more from just below the waist. While I liked my compositions, the added distance made my portraits a bit darker and required additional post processing. Something to keep in mind for 2016 portraits?
There’s no lack of commentary on the internet, including my humble attempts here. I got a chuckle last night when a blogger I follow ripped into a posting by another blogger I follow. Both are professional photographers with a considerable following. That got me thinking about something I was meaning to write for a while.
Whenever you hear an opinion, it’s really useful to know the person behind it. The same goes for camera reviews. There’s a lot of “free” advice out there but is it any good? Here are some tips for judging the validity of camera reviews.
1. Does the reviewer post real world photographs? Shooting test charts and brick walls do not a photographer make. Most modern cameras have great image quality. What’s more important is how a camera feels and how they work for your type of photography. Only a real photographer (pro or amateur) that actually uses the camera, in the real world, can make these type of assessments. Test results derived from a lab environment are only theoretical considerations. Reality has a strange way of upending theory.
2. Do they take the kind of pictures you want to take? There is no point in getting sports camera recommendations from a wedding photographer. A studio only portrait photographer does not understand the handling considerations of an optimal street photography camera. A daytime landscape shooter on tripod is not going to know much about high ISO photography at night.
3. Do they show you their photographs? Beware of blogs and forum posters that don’t show their photographs. I find it amusing when photography sites and posters talk a good game about photography and equipment but you never see their handiwork. Until you see their work, it’s all theory and mostly likely, bluster.
I’ve done my share of camera reviews on this site. You may or may not like my photography but I’m clear about the things I shoot, which are usually street and travel photographs, urban landscapes often, though not exclusively, at night. I post plenty of real world examples, so you know where I’m coming from, when I review a camera.
Keep that in mind the next time you read reviews or opinions out there in internet land.
Over two years ago, I hung up my modest sports photography duties. I moved from the action oriented Canon 7D to a slower but higher quality Canon 6D. I was never a serious sports shooter. Just a dad capturing his sons playing on the weekend soccer league.
Since then, my boys have grown up and moved from soccer to tennis. I’ve also moved on. I don’t find tennis very interesting, photographically and it doesn’t take a sports camera to shoot it. Well, out of the blue, this has changed. My older son has fallen in love with lacrosse.
Not sure how serious he’s going to be, but I went to his first game today. For all the cameras I have, and I have a lot, I don’t have a really good sports setup. I could use my Canon 6D but its focusing system is not ideal. Plus my nice 70-200 F4 L zoom only reaches 200mm on a full frame camera — not very long for field sports.
My fastest camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It’s faster focusing than my Canon and shoots up to 10 frames per second. But I’m really lacking in the telephoto department. For most of my photography, I like to shoot at 50mm or wider. I have a choice between two unassuming kit lenses — the Olympus 40-150mm f4-5.6 or the Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6. I took the Panasonic.
What’s clear is a 400mm equivalent is really perfect for covering the entire field. The Panasonic 45-200mm worked well, size wise, on the E-M5 but optically, the results are underwhelming. The focus is soft and the bokeh is really harsh. I have dreams of Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro and a 1.4x teleconverter. Except, I wasn’t ready to drop $1750 on this combo.
I’m going to play more with the Panasonic and compare it against the Olympus zoom. It’s also going to be fun testing the E-M5 Mark II as an action camera. After shooting today, I already found the good and not so good. I love my mirrorless cameras for travel and street photography, but how about sports? I’m going to find out and let you know.