Posts Tagged ‘street photography’

I work as a professional photographer in Boulder, Colorado, shooting portraits, business headshots, and commercial projects for clients like the U.S. Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force, food and drink for Whitewave/Silk and American Homestead Meats, and event coverage for companies in the cable industry.

On a recent day off, I decided to take a stroll down to the Pearl Street Mall, the local outdoor shopping area in downtown Boulder, and figured I’d build my portraiture client list by photographing people on the mall, getting their email, and offering to send them a photograph. In the email, I asked them if I could add them to my email list where I offer tips to great phone photography (something they’re probably interested in) while promoting my services.

The truth is, while my business clients are regular users of photographs, many people sometimes think to do family portraits or couple portraits, but that’s where it ends, with a thought. They never actually order a portrait session.

OUT ON THE MALL FOR STREET PORTRAITS

On this day off from client work, I took out a Nikon DSLR that is 9 years old, a D90 which debuted in August 2008. Why I brought that instead of my D810 is that I wanted to shoot with a vintage 1970s-era lens, the Nikon 55mm f1.2 non-AI manual focus lens for the soft backgrounds it produces, since I would be working on a crowded outdoor mall, and the information at Nikonians.org about its lens compatibility with my digital bodies says:

NO!
Definitely do not use, for it may damage the camera body. Also, warranty will be void.

That didn’t sound promising. But I was determined. So, I mounted the lens on my backup body, a D7200, and it mounted but it was tight to attach and once attached, the aperture ring wouldn’t budge.  Hmmm.

That mount seemed ridiculously tight. It took a good strong twist to mount it. Definitely not a normal mount. I thought, I’ll do a test with it, and then another one with the old D90 that I had laying around, knowing that at f1.2, I wouldn’t be needing the latest sensor capability for low light performance–I’d be shooting at base ISO (200, in this case) since I was working outside wide open.

The test with the D90 looked as good as the D7200, though it was a 12mp image instead of a 24mp. Good enough for what I was working on. And if it damaged the body, oh well, not much lost since that’s not my go-to camera . (It looks like you can get a D90 these days for under $200.)

So, with that 55mm f1.2 Nikkor S-C extremely securely mounted, I hit the streets.

And then I approached people, folks who looked like they were in a good location to interrupt them. Sitting somewhere, or chatting in the shade. Here’s what I found and created, with the promise to send them each their portrait. psmfamilyBW-kennethwajda
This couple got two images, I liked them as a package. She replied: Thank you so much for the lovely portraits. What a great treat to meet you and let you make these portraits of Pieter and me. Yes, we have been in love since we met in the summer of 1965 in the Netherlands, where we grew up. I will certainly think of you when we need a beautiful family portrait when we are all together in Boulder for a happy family get together. I will also recommend you to our friends. Until we meet again. With warm wishes, Susanna.pearlolder
If I hadn’t made them, would they ever get made? It seems a shame that they might not, and I’m proud to have made them.pearlolder1
This guy was working on the mall. pearl6
These three were sitting in front of an ice cream shop, and looked like a photogenic trio.
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Visiting Boulder from Italy and very flattered to be photographed.
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She tagged me in this Instagram post.

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The ice cream on their faces were what drew me to them.pearl3
Someone was trying to get a photo of them with a phone, when I offered to shoot it for them.
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A couple out on the mall with their dog, who was too old to make it into the photo.
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A dapper man who engaged me in talk of photography.
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A couple of friends out for happy hour drinks.
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A grandpa and his grandson sharing a bit of time watching street performers.
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She wouldn’t hold still long enough to get the three of them in the same plane of focus, so this is the result.familypsm-1-kennethwajdaThey were heartily laughing, which is how I approached them: “I love your laugh.  Can I photograph you?”
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Another guy interested in talking about photography.michaelportrait-kennethwajda
She’s into photography and was talking about my camera, and her interest.
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A daughter and her father sharing a coffee break.

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Two friends cruising the mall, who I asked to photograph them together.
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The only one that I kept in color instead of black and white was a young woman at a local taco joint, while I was waiting for my burrito, who asked about my camera and mentioned that she likes photography. I asked her if I could take her portrait with the light coming through the broad windows of the shop.
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These were all made with a 9-year-old camera body, (a senior citizen of the camera world!), that no one into camera models would take seriously. I took care of that with a small piece of black gaffer tape over the model number. Problem solved!

The people who I photographed loved their portraits. I asked them to please tag me in any social media posts. And of course I included my contact card at the bottom or each of my emails. And now, I have their contact information for my growing list of contacts. These are new contacts to people who have now seen my work, who like my work, who may need anything from family photographs to business images–someone might be the CEO of a company.

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Portraiture is all about the connection to the subject in the image that we create, the emotion we draw out–not just the technical quality of the camera. I wrote this story because I think sometimes we feel we need the latest and greatest, and we really don’t.

It’s really not about the camera. We need something proficient for what we want to create. The D90 is from 2008 and the 55mm f1.2 is from 1972. Good gear matters, but it doesn’t have to be the latest in all cases.

It’s about creating art out of beautiful, wonderful subjects.  And these people certainly are.

Kenneth Wajda is a freelance commercial photographer and film producer in Boulder, Colorado. You can see more of his work at KennethWajda.com.

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Ohmigod, is that a Saturn?  And look, remember when you had to pedal your bike!

The year is 2066.

We’re teleporting to different parts of the earth, holding meetings on virtual beaches while sitting at home, and having robots do all the chores.

And we’re using the latest camera technology, which means no camera at all–just look at something and it’s captured.

We’re lamenting not having any photos from the first quarter of the century, since we didn’t bother to print any of our pictures, and they all got lost in dead computers and outdated phones and hard drives that last booted up decades ago.  And some old program, Facehead, or something, that was supposed to save them all.  Yeah right!

Plus, we don’t have any computers that use USB anymore!   How ancient that technology!

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My Leica M2, still going strong in 2066.

As we sit looking out the window, our Leica M2s and M3s and Rolleiflexes still just as functional as they ever were, we load a roll of film and take a walk to go capture some street photos of the day.

The sky is full of PTDs–personal travel devices.  Everywhere, our brains connect with each other through telepathic waves.  Cars have long ago ceased to exist.

And we find ourselves thinking about the good old days.  Like 50 years ago, when things were simpler.  Sure there was that terrible fiasco with President Trump, but thankfully he was quickly arrested and tried for his crimes.  And then President Sanders’ brought all nations together.  War ended and America prospered, which is why we have such a great economy, plentiful jobs and USA-made robots and devices today.

But still, taking photos of present day just doesn’t seem as cool as the old days.  Back then, there were those cool Nissan Rogues, BMW sedans and those crazy Mini Coopers.  God, haven’t seen one of those in years!

What I wouldn’t do to be able to go back in time to 2016 and photograph them.  What a treat that would be.  But that’s crazy talk.

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Look at that old BMW, when they still had wheels!  And drivers!

That’s just what we did in 2016, fifty years ago, when we were enamored by photos of old cars from the 1960s and 1970s.  So busy looking at the old cars, we missed the shots of those cool 2016 cars then.

All I know is I’m glad my Leicas lasted.  And my Rolleiflex.  Because when film made its resurgence in 2022, we were the only ones who knew how to make real photographs.  The rest make memory records, but we make photographs.

Which is why we’re the wealthiest photographers because of our forethought.  Way to go!

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“Ah, look, the good old days.”  (Overheard circa 2016)

Time traveling.  That’s what people will be doing 50 years from today in 2116–looking back on life in 2066 (“Ah, the good old days,” they’ll say.).

That photo of the PTD fuel station that looks like nothing now, just a bunch of hovering vehicles powering up?  Add 50 years.  It needs time to become valuable.  Once time passes, familiar elements fade away.  Buildings change.  The cars, the shops, the cities.  Then the photos take on meaning.

I’m no math whiz, but here’s the equation: [P+T-GP!]   (Photograph + Time = Great Photograph!)  The photo needs to be good, too.  Let’s not forget that.

Ask Stephen Shore.  Or William Eggleston. They both knew the equation.

If I were back in 2016, I’d go out and shoot ordinary things, with an eye to the future.  Because maybe I’m not shooting them for me.  Maybe they’re historical photos for the Shorpy galleries of tomorrow.  (So glad that company is still going strong, with galleries around the world.)

But alas, I can’t time travel.  They say that technology will be ready in another twenty years but they’ve been saying that forever.

I better get shooting!

…then a detail photo, one that lets us really see something that we might have missed, is worth a million, too!

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You can see more at ColoradoFaces.com

…then a comedic one is worth a million as well.  Because there are things in our world that are genuinely funny.  And capturing them is its own special joy.

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You can see more at ColoradoFaces.com

…then, an emotional photograph is worth a million.  Because, emotion is what we relate to in an image, what touches our heart.

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You can see more at ColoradoFaces.com

I realize I shoot film a lot, but I have multiple bodies with film loaded, and I tend to shoot conservatively, just a frame or two on a person or a subject.

I want to change that.  I just added motor drives to two of my Nikons, an F3, and an FM2, the cameras I used as a photojournalist throughout the 80’s and 90s.

I want to shoot more content.  And not hold back.  I think I do that–hold back.   I want to fire up the cameras and move film through them more quickly.

The motor drive will let me do that.  It’s license to burn!

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An observation:

Photography hobbyists make lens analyses, compare versions of bodies, features and lenses, read DXO scores, look to get the next best thing, discuss purchases, workshops, latest tricks and techniques.  They do a lot more than make photographs.

Photographers make photographs.

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