You’re in Control…
Mid-way through the first month of the new year, I reflected back on my street photography. The true joy of shooting the streets is being able to recognize a moment whether, surreal, comical, interesting, strange and to anticipate the moment and act upon. There’s a feeling of ownership when you’re able to photograph a moment or a scene and call it your own.
We have the fullest control over our lives but realistically it doesn’t always feel that way. Yes, we can choose where we want to work or what career we’d like to go into…but once we’re slaving ourselves to someone’s company we don’t have full creative freedom of how we’d like to direct the company towards. We give our time, energy, and resources making someone else’s vision to life or someone’s company prosperous.
With my street photography, it’s simply by choice. I don’t work for anyone, I don’t sell prints or books (hopefully some day), I do it because there’s an excitement and liberating feeling when I’m out and about. I don’t have to shoot a certain way or capture a special moment to please a client or anyone for that matter…Other than myself.
Da Human Connection…
Occasionally, I’ll interact with my subjects if I’m making a street-portrait. It’s always nice to talk to people out of your comfort level….such as people at work, friends from school, childhood friends, people you meet in non-profit clubs, etc. I find joy by having real conversations with a strangers that I don’t know. Instead of talking to co-workers and hearing their frustrations about their bosses, or with old friends who only like to reminisce on old times, or sport friends only talking about…well sports!
I think that’s one of the most important skills to have as a street photographer…being sociable…being comfortable around others and having the confidence to talk to strangers on a personal level. Especially in this day and age where we all are focused in on our phones…it’s nice to look up, create small talk, smile at someone, and see what else is going around within your surrounding.
I’ve always made the analogy that street photography is like fishing…you go out for hours, waiting to find that special moment or person or thing and once you recognize it, you just want to quickly make a photo of it. Like in fishing you go out, put your bait on your fishing rods and you see what you can get. Once you get a bite and a big one that is, you want to reel it in and not let it go. It can take hours to reel something that you’d actually like but that’s what makes all that waiting much more satisfying.
In this fast pace crazy world we all live in…street photography allows us to take a step back, observe our surroundings with the intent to make it a better place.
I was lucky enough to watch a documentary on Netflix a few weeks ago (the kids hog the Netflix) on C.T. Fletcher,“My Magnificent Obsession”. Prior to this, I have never heard of C.T. Fletcher, I was just Netflix surfing and the main image and synopsis caught my attention. I really enjoyed an old documentary on weightlifting…”Pumping Iron” and thought of giving this film a try. The topic was on weightlifting, something I’m somewhat familiar in my old life (I hope to resurrect that old passion in 2017).
The film is a biography on C.T’s life, his recovery from open heart surgery, and his life long goal in opening his own gym “Iron Addicts Gym”. C.T. is known for becoming the strongest “Mutha Fucka” as he would always say without ever using steroids. He once benched 700 lbs and is a 3X world arm curl champion…curling 225 lbs! What can C.T. teach us? Below is what I’ve learned from him.
Become an addict to your passion
In the 1980’s, C.T. discovered weightlifting which was a turning point in his life. He became addicted to weightlifting, working out 7 days a week! The transformation of his physique made him even more obsessed with weightlifting. His initial goal was to be a cut up, drug free, body builder. Remember…in the 80’s, weightlifting was at it’s peak (Schwarzenegger, professional wrestling, Stallone) and a lot of bodybuilders were roided up. By the mid 80’s his attention shifted to becoming “the biggest, strongest, baddest, drug-free Mutha Fucka to ever walk this planet”. He was able to do this because he was passionate in what he was doing. He put in the time, the blood, the sweat, and the tears and made it a part of his lifestyle. To become great at something I believe you must be somewhat obsessed…which means you eat, breath, sleep, shit, repeat it.
If street photography is your passion, study the greats, analyze some of your favorites on social media, take risk, experiment, ask for critiques, sign up for workshops. Just rule o thumb though, be obsessed but don’t neglect other things in your life.
Count your blessings
Make the most of each day. After surviving open heart surgery in 2005, C.T. lost all his gains, his confidence, and even self pity himself. Years later, he realized that he was given a second chance. He did not give up on the gift of life and continued to proceed with bodybuilding.
Everyday is not guaranteed, if there’s something that you want to do, go do it, pursue it with all your heart and mind. If you’ve always wanted to shoot street photography but was always fearful of how someone might yell at you for taking there photo, don’t worry. Live today like it’s your last and you’ll get the most out of each day. Be thankful you have the opportunity to even wander the streets to make photos.
No matter how shitty your life is or how unhappy you are, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. One good day will always outshine seven bad days. Just like one photo your satisfied with will outshine a thousand crappy photos. As long as you’re above ground, breathing, moving, consider yourself blessed.
Use your passion to help others
Now at 57 years old, C.T. inspires people all over the world whether it’s through a meet and greet, speaking to an audience, or if you’re working out at his gym. Through his body of work, surviving a fatal heart condition, and his life experiences, C.T. inspires others through his healthy lifestyle philosophy. He not only used his passion to better himself but to better others.
Besides from trying to capture that decisive moment….which I haven’t yet. I’d like to do some good with my street photography. Maybe it’s to hold a workshop in a third world country for an orphanage home. Or to be able to put together a photo book and donate a portion to a specific cause…We are our most happiest as human beings when we are able to give back and help without seeking any reward.
If you need inspiration, I recommend you to watch “My Magnificent Obsession” on Netflix. My biggest takeaway from C.T. is that you have full control of your destiny and in reaching your goals. You will always encounter obstacles but it is up to YOU if you want to accomplish any task or condition. Obstacles is an illusion set to divide the weak from the strong.
***Read my other blogs on people that I find inspiring.
For the first time, I spent the spookiest night of the year not dressed up in a costume but instead shooting others dressed for Halloween in Waikiki. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was just hoping to capture some surreal moments, nothing in particular. Something special to add to my collection. While I wasn’t able to capture anything spectacular, I walked away with more knowledge for next time. Here’s what I learned from shooting on Halloween night.
Mask have no Emotion
My first 15 minutes in Waikiki I was noticing a lot of people wearing mask and not so much costumes. I realized although some mask are unique, they lack emotion. Maybe because it covers the eyes and there’s not much of a emotional attachment, I don’t know, mask’s feels stiff to me. I was afraid I wasn’t going to see anyone in customized costumes or anyone unique. I started to doubt myself with a feeling of regret for having drove into town so late at night. I continued walking down the strip, it was busy as ever, everyone squeezing through tight spaces. Even though I realized that photos of people wearing masks make for boring photos, I couldn’t resist to not take them. After all, Halloween is once a year.
Note: IMO photos of people wearing Mask works best if juxtaposed. See photo below.
Flash is a Must!
Flash is a must! Especially on my micro 4/3 camera (olympus M5II). One rule in street photography is to be stealth and go unnoticed. Unfortunately, when using a flash you can’t help but to be noticed. Most people were aware that I was photographing them, most loved the attention, some thought I was photographing something behind them (as usual), and a few said the “F” word. But that was it. If you shoot without a flash at night, regardless how high your iso can go up to, your photos will suffer more often than not (unless you’re going for a grain effect similar to Daido Moriyama; he’s the master of that). My recommendation…Use a flash! No one cares or don’t even knows that you’re photographing them!
I’m a fan of motion blur and slightly out of focus photos if used properly (again…Daido Moriyama). If used correctly, I think these effects can add more emotion and drama to your photo. Referencing my photo above, I saw this couple kind of tired and swaying back and forth (drunk and in love? maybe).
Their intimate bond caught my eye and without wasting time by checking my shutter speed I made clicked my shutter. My observation of the photo is that regardless of how much craziness, booze and weed in the air, or obnoxious groups around them, it doesn’t really matter because they have each other and want no part of their environment. In short, “Life’s a Blur”.
Stay in One Spot
For most of the night, everyone was pacing back and forth, lots of movement, and I wasn’t really feeling nor seeing anything. I was capturing a lot of the same type of photos of people walking right past me and not much was happening. I decided to settle in one spot and let the action come to me. Finally, a person in a Trump costume came around the corner and caught a lot of people’s attention both positive (wanting a photo selfie) and negative (people saying insulting remarks).
A group of teenagers approached the person dressed as Trump and said some negative things all in good fun. Apparently, the person as Trump decided to stay in character (Trump’s hand gesture) and not back down from the harassment, causing the scene to be more hostile. Initially, I was focused on the two teenagers and Trump but then realized that around them were some older folks who seem to be laughing it off or having a good time with it. The US flag behind the kid with the mask adds a nice layer that reminds us all that this is how divided we are in the United States of America. It’s quite spooky knowing who our options are for 2016 Presidency.
Lesson from that night is to be patient, let the action come to you. Good things come to those that are patient. Try new things, be open to experimenting. Street photography should be fun and therefore you should try new things and push your limits/boundaries. Don’t add any pressure to your photography…to remind myself to have fun and enjoy the moment. And last, shoot more flash! Flash is fun!
What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop
A little over a week removed, I attended my first street photography workshop through Streetfoto San Francisco Festival. Continue reading “What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop”
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”
― Anthony Hopkins
“Always be yourself…do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it” – Bruce Lee
” When you’re in the day-to-day grind, it just seems like it’s another step along the way. But I find joy in the actual process, the journey, the work. It’s not the end. It’s not the end event.” Cal Ripken, Jr. Continue Reading
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs
Today I want to write to you on how I think your street photos will be more appreciated as time moves forward. Sometimes I feel my photos are not significant in partly because it blends in with the ordinary of our modern society (for example above two human beings disconnected and on their devices) Continue Reading