Street photography

Exploring National Harbor

One of the places I have frequented now that I live on the East Coast is National Harbor. It’s just across the bridge from Alexandria and has a lot to do and see in the way of entertainment. I spend a couple of hours down there just looking around and taking photos. Being that it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday there weren’t a whole lot of people around but what was around was some unique opportunities to brush up on my photography skills when not shooting people.

Denver Comic Con 2016

This marks my 3rd year of covering Denver Comic Con and it always seems to wow me every year. It feels like this convention only gets bigger and bigger every year and this year absolutely felt the biggest. Being on the floor on Saturday put you elbows to elbows with everyone and mobility was incredibly limited. At many cons this would be seen as an issue with the layout but in the case of DCC this year it was purely due to the shear amount of people packed into the rather large Denver Convention Center. That being said it didn’t stop me from trying to get the best images possible down on the show floor. It’s been a while since I have been able to shoot such a festive event and I hope I get to do more going forward in the future. It is a always important to challenge ones self when getting out to shoot.

Maxine’s Curves.

Anything can and will go wrong on a shoot, it happens and it happens to the best of us. On a recent shoot with Maxine things “went wrong” in that we couldn’t find the intended location, the area we were in had terrible weather and we were losing light pretty fast. When things like this happen it’s important to keep the spirit up and roll with the punches. With the initial idea being scrapped we drove down to Old Town Albuquerque to try and make up for a shoot that didn’t happen and the results were well worth it.

In the car ride (that got extended) Maxine, my assistant/girlfriend, and I had conversations about shooting women with curves (as Maxine obviously does) and how to get the best images out of it and we specifically talked about how it’s not hard to get great images with curvy models. Essentially when working with curvier models you don’t want to hide the curves, you want to highlight them and use them to your advantage. Curves can be incredibly flattering and work very well aesthetically but in order for get them to work you need to know how to pose the model. Posing is important for any model, it’s the basis of modeling in general and every model is different in what works but I’ve noticed that curvier models are very specific. You need to know where their curves are, where they look the most flattering and extend those areas out so that they get more of the attention than anything else.

Shooting curvier models is a lot of fun. It’s not nearly as challenging as you would think it would be and to be honest is more visually interesting to look at. If you want to get better at directing and posing I would recommend working with more models with curve because it makes you more attentive to what you are doing with your directions.

Travel Photography: Virginia/ D.C 2015

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It’s been a little more than a year since I traveled Virginia to visit my girlfriend’s family and friends. The last time I was out there, the weather was relatively cold and I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to get two feet of snow overnight. This time around, I got to experience what a humid summer is like on the East Coast.

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To be honest I didn’t play with my camera much this trip. I came out specifically to spend time with my girlfriend and her loved ones and I didn’t particularly feel compelled to spend my time hiding behind a camera. However there were situations while we were out and about with Emilie’s friends that I brought my camera along.

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One of the first places we walked through was Old Town Alexandria, where we spent most of our time going in and out of the different shops. Normally, this would have been the ideal place to shoot some street photography, however the crowed in the area didn’t particularly catch my interest. Instead a lot of my focus here was on Emilie and her friends as we entered and exited the different shops.

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Later in the trip we took the Metro up to D.C. for the standard Museum and sight-seeing day. The great thing about being in a touristy area is that you don’t have to work too hard to blend in.

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Summers in D.C. and summers in Albuquerque look incredibly different. For starters, D.C. Is a proper metropolitan area whereas Albuquerque can sometimes have more of a wide-spread, small town feel. On top of that, it’s a lot greener in D.C. on account of the humidity.But, in contrast, D.C. doesn’t have the same sky that New Mexico does.

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While in the Museums I didn’t want to get too trigger happy; instead of focusing on the exhibits I focused on my group of people (and some strangers) while still maintaining respect for the atmosphere.

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The lighting in the museum of art was very different from what i am used to. There were areas with really soft flattering lighting, and others with dark areas that had intense falloff. Nothing I couldn’t handle especially with editing the RAW file in post.

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In the backwoods of Virginia I tried stepping out of my normal comfort zone and shooting some nature shots, a realm of photography I am certainly not native to.AJA_0153

While shooting so close to nature I discovered that I craved the convenience of a macro lens (something that I don’t own) which could have let me get in closer for finder detail shots. I found that many of the wide shots that I had taken felt a bit chaotic.

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Of course I couldn’t just get a new setting in front of me and pass up the opportunity for a portrait session. So me and Emilie went out on one of the few days that we had down time and took some photos. The seemingly constant overcast sky provided soft lighting and the foliage gave the perfect backdrop. The drawback of this was the humidity that caused my lens to fog up at the top of the shoot, which called for some editing to make it look like it was on purpose.

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Overall, it was a fun and successful trip and I look forward to going out there again.

Denver Comic Con 2015: Lessons From a Large Convention

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Denver Comic Con 2015  by a landslide was the largest pop culture convention that I have ever attended. With over 100,000 people in attendance over the Memorial weekend, the challenges that I thought I knew about candid photography in a convention environment couldn’t have been more frustrating.

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At any kind of comic convention crowds are a given. No matter how large the space is, no matter how well designed the flooring is, there is always going to be an issue with crowding. What I wasn’t expecting with how dense the crowding was going to be at just about every turn. Many of the shots I had taken were lost or ruined by the amount of people blocking  subjects or intruding in parts of the frame. The only real solution to this problem goes back to the age old saying- if the shots not good enough, you’re not close enough.

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I found myself being uncharacteristically timid during my time in Denver. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t been in one of these candid environments in a long while but I found myself being further away from my subjects and not being in the scene that I was shooting. As time went on I got better about it and just needed to kick off the rust but a lot of my work suffered because of it.

 

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Another tenant I forgot when shooting in Denver was patience. While going through my edits when I finally got home to Albuquerque I noticed that large sum of my photos were severely out of focus. I had forgotten that when shooting in continuous auto focus you need to give the camera time to lock focus and not just start shooting the moment you point the camera. Even when I was on the floor shooting I knew that I had hit the shutter too early. Some photos had more obvious flaws then others but none the less many were lost because of a itchy trigger finger.

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A big thing that could have helped me in my photos would have been to slow down. Today’s camera technology has conditioned many to adopt a spray and pray technique that may yield some lucky grabs but it doesn’t replace good technique when it comes to getting a high percentage of keepers. Often I set myself up with gear like Prime lenses to make sure I take my time but I noticed on many of my snap shots that I had issues with composition and camera shack that wouldn’t have been there if I had just slowed down a bit.

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One thing that could have helped me was actually bring my desktop to edit at the hotel every night so I could see my work from the past day and see what I was getting. Having the opportunity to reflect on my work and see what was working and what wasn’t could have helped improve my shooting that weekend. It’s like going back and watching tape the day after the game. But of course hindsight is 20/20 and you can’t don’t get any extra lives.

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Though there are plenty of frustration that came out of shooting this convention there are still some stellar diamonds in the rough in this take. Any photo outing you can be expected to take hundreds of images expecting that maybe only 10% of them survive the gauntlet of editing. I left Denver Comic Con with almost 900 images on an hard drive and by the time I had it widdeled down there were about 268 left on the block that got toned and exported. So over all I can’t say the entire outing was a failure. I just believe I could have done better.

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Once I had made it down from Albuquerque, kicked a stomach bug, and found time between errands and my day job, I got to editing the photos and the trend began… So much black and white. I’ve recently had complaints that I do it too much but quite frankly photography and photo editing like any art form is subjective. My decision to make photos colored or black and white comes out of a feel for the images and if I feel like that image works better in black and white that’s what I’m going to do to it. If a client was paying me for a shoot and specifically asked for all photos in color I would, but in my own creative freedom I’m going to do what works best for me and my sensibilities.

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There are certain set of instances where black and white has advantages over color; such as low light situations using higher ISO’s. The noise looks more like film grain in black and white and you don’t have to worry about lost color detail because you’ve thrown the color out the window; also busier backgrounds aren’t as distracting which befits candid shots well. Color can still work in these situations but you never really know how it’s going to work out until you spend some time toning the images.

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Cosplayers put a lot of work into their outfits (some more than others) and they want the pictures taken of them to show of as much of the costume and details as possible. My shooting style doesn’t really do that very well. I am much more concerned with getting a good image than I am showing off a good cosplay. Elements like interaction, juxtaposition, action, and raw emotion are more of what I’m looking for in a shot. Not how well made the costume is. A good costume can go a long way in catching my eye and dragging my lens to it but if that photo doesn’t come out that way I want it to I’m not going to share it with the world.

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What I love about these conventions is their diversity. People from all walks of life, backgrounds and mentalities come to these things for one purpose and that is to just have a good time and celebrate the things they are unironically enthusiastic about. It can be done in almost a million different ways, dressing up, meeting people who have worked on some of your favorite pieces of entertainment, or just buying new things to add to their nerd collections. You definitely run into some interesting characters at these things.

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However after several years of attending these events and shooting them the way I do, I seem to be developing a since of Convention Fatigue. I maybe end up attending 3-5 different conventions a year and the more and more I attend them the more I feel like I’m just going through the motions. Last year Denver Comic Con was my favorite convention I had ever gone to. This year it just felt like another convention just this time with 100,000 people crowding around.

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Denver Comic Con didn’t particularly do anything wrong this year. They just didn’t offer anything new for me. Perhaps I just need to take a hiatus from conventions for a while. Albuquerque doesn’t have a Summer con this year so that gives me an opportunity to get some distance from the nerd circus and be able to come back to it with a fresh take.

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But who knows, maybe that’s just the nerd flu talking. Knowing me I’ll end up caving and submitting for another press pass for the closest convention before anyone knows it. But for now I think I deserve a rest.

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Albuquerque Comic Expo 2014: Street Photography on the Show Floor.

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The Albuquerque Comic Expo has now came and went and there are a tone of photos to share from the show floor. Like Most Conventions I spent most of my time shooting in a candid fashion carrying myself as a photojournalist. ACE was so kind as to present me with a press pass for the event giving me free range to shoot where ever whenever (within reason.)

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For this event I shot exclusively with my 85mm 1.8 on my D600 Shooting at f2.5 and 1/400 of second, changing my ISO depending on where I was and the lighting that was present. On the show floor my ISO was at about 3200 and in the lobby it was dropped to about 800.

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My 85mm has always been my workhorse lens. I like having the short telephoto length to where I don’t have to be getting up in people’s faces but I can still be present in the scene. Many street photographers like using a more standard focal length like a 50mm or a 35mm. For me those angles are a little to much on the wide side. If I was confined to a tighter space I would probably use a 50mm but I didn’t want to be getting into peoples faces with my camera. I wanted them to act natural at the convention.

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The greatest thing about these conventions is the visual variety. People will dress up as their favorite comicbook, video game, Anime or movie characters, They’ll wander around the show and look at all the artist and vendors selling their merchandise and they’ll interact with each other in unique ways giving interesting Juxtaposition.

ACE-81I always leave conventions 1. exhausted but 2. pleased with the experience. I always leave making a couple of friends, taken tons of good images that seem to get a lot of people’s attention. And that alone makes the exhausting 3 day work weekend all the more worth it.

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