photography (and other observations) by John Matthews


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Timing Is Everything, Shoot with Your Gut

One of the things I like most about photography is the thrill of the chase. There is always that one moment or scene that you are trying to catch. Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don't. But when you do, and you are able to capture it, there is no better feeling as a photographer. Last week I was in South Beach, Miami and had the opportunity to do some street shooting. SoBe, short for South Beach, is world famous for its classic art deco architecture. What I love most about street photography is that the subject matter is always changing. You can look at the same space in the matter of a few seconds and it can change in an instant. Case in point is the series of photos below.  The bus captured in this photo was traveling about 35mph and was out of the frame as quickly as it was in it. The advertisement on the bus added just the bit of interest to what would have otherwise been a very boring photo.  Lesson learned: Be aware. Anticipate. Shoot with your gut.

Big Barber is Watching

Photography is something that I'm passionate about, but it's really interesting how there is a huge ebb and flow to my ability to maintain a groove with it at times. I am usually hyper perceptive about my surroundings when I'm in a photographic state of mind. I'm looking at everything, trying to frame it in my mind in a dozen different ways. I love seeing what no one else does. Capturing it is a bonus. Perhaps it's temporary burnout, but these streaks of peak creativity never seem to last as long as I'd expect them to. There are days when I'll click a couple hundred frames, then there are weeks I don't press the shutter once. I've tried to figure it out, but really can't come up with a solid reason why that's the case. So this year I'm going to try to do an edit a day, no matter the time, place, or weather. I'm finding that writing is something I don't do enough of either, and it's easy to only be able to communicate in blurbs 140 characters or less if that's what you do every day.

Tonight I took a walk around the village of Clinton looking for something that would catch my eye. Clinton is an historic village in Upstate New York and is about as Americana as you can get in this area. There is a quaint row of businesses along a central Village Green. It's the home of Hamilton College and has a rich history dating back to the mid 1700's. With its rich history, you'd think there would be a lot to photograph, and truly there is. Tonight's challenge was that it was dark and extremely cold. We're talking 1°F cold. Colder with the wind chill. So not only was it a challenge to find something bright enough to photograph, it was tough to motivate myself to go outside to begin with! But I told myself I'd try to get at least something that was more than a snapshot of a park bench or a window scene. I wanted to find something that made me think when I looked at it. I wanted to find an image that would evoke just a little bit of curiosity or wonder.   This is what I came home with. First shot is out of camera (OOC), 2nd is my edit. 



For gear, tonight (and I'm finding most days lately) my go to camera is the Fuji x100S. I definitely was pushing the limits with my settings tonight, this image came in at 1/25 sec at f/2.8 ISO 6400. For my editing my go to platform has been the NIK suite of editing programs. NIK was recently acquired by Google and what was a $500+ software package is now available for less than $150 with a discount code (available periodically). It's a solid suite of software and I do the majority of my editing in it after I get a basic crop established in Lightroom 5. For this edit I did a pass through NIK Dfine 2 for noise reduction, then exported to NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and used the maximum depth filter which highlights the center of the image. I then exported to Silver Efex Pro and tweaked using a filter using a high level of contrast and structure for the final black and white image.

Is this an award winning photograph? Of course not. But the exercise for me tonight was to find something that was interesting in not so friendly weather conditions and try to come back with a shot that made me ask myself a question when I looked at it. What happened to this barber that caused him to put in a security camera? It's also a nice shot that juxtaposes old time charm with new technology. To me, this this photo represents a small example of how the little village that I consider to be a place where you can leave your back door unlocked at night might not be so safe after all.  I really enjoyed going through this simple process tonight and I'm looking forward to things ramping up over the course of the year.

Would be interested in your comments!