I left my wife in a shoe store as I walked around taking photos in the old streets of Barcelona. This is not your typical mall.
There’s something pleasing about photos of people juxtaposed to the surrounding buildings; especially when the buildings are very old or very new. Even if the people are just going shopping, it’s better than hanging out at the mall.
Malls are becoming a thing of the past. Or, maybe, they are morphing into something else, less mall-like. I’m not sure I buy into that because as long as you have to drive to a mall, it’s still a mall. But I digress. Where was I?
This was taken on a rainy October day in Malaga when I got soaked to the bone. About a year or two prior I did the same thing in Solerno. Back then I bought an umbrella from a vendor who magically appeared as soon as the rain started. I paid too much for the umbrella and then lost it on a bus. I’ve since given up on umbrellas when taking photos. Besides, it’s not really feasible to hold an umbrella and take a picture, unless you have three arms.
It might be an understatement to say it was raining cats and dogs in Malaga. But that’s of little consequence when you traveled over four thousand miles to get here.
I was determined to go out, come hell or high water. The universe obliged and gave me high water. I wore jeans, a light rain shell and got utterly soaked. The bus pass in my pocket was unreadable and plastered flat against my iPhone. When I showed it to the driver, she seemed more worried about my phone than the pass. Thankfully, iPhones are water resistant these days.
Speaking of which, I’ve read a lot about how the Sony a7RM3 is “water resistant,” so I decided to put it to the test. Imagine standing under a sprinkler. A little moisture got onto the lens mount, and the camera started giving me error warnings; however the camera and lens continued to operate, and I didn’t lose any shots. The camera got soaking wet. When I got back to the ship, I let it dry for a few hours, and it was perfectly fine. I suspect a tighter lens fit of a pro-grade GM lens would have eliminated that issue, but I was using the consumer grade 85mm f1.8, which I love as a lightweight travel lens.
All in all, I had a blast and, it was a good test of equipment and perhaps, my own craziness.
When I was last in South Beach, I hung around Ocean Drive. This is one of the many spots where they serve those half-gallon Margaritas. Only in Miami.
This colors on this were so loud and crazy that I opted for monochrome to focus more on the people. These kinds of street scenes are fun to look at later, away from the sounds and heat of the moment. It’s taking a glimpse into a snap of time and spinning a tale in our mind of what was going on.
Sometimes, I get looks from people that make me a little self-conscious. I don’t mind if it’s just people looking at me and wondering, but in places like this, there are quite often celebrities. I’m not into the whole celebrity thing and am really bad at recognizing faces. But I do occasional snap a star, so I hope they will realize that I’m just some guy without an agenda that probably just finished one of those half-gallon Margaritas.
Last week we were in Malaga for a day as our ship made it’s only port of call before crossing the Atlantic. As luck would have it, it rained cats and dogs, which was perfect for my purposes.
I like shooting at night, but if I have to take photos in a European city during the day, rain is my next best friend. It puts everyone a little out of sorts as they rush to and fro with umbrellas. It also creates that nice sheen on the ground to add a little extra something to the image. The only catch is you have to be willing to get wet, which I did, beyond a reasonable doubt.
I had been here previously when I was about eleven years old. When I saw the section of the city that faced the port, little bubbles of long lost memories began to percolate. My conscious mind has long folded over those early years, but it would’ve been nice to have an old photo to help free more bubbles. Nevertheless, I was struck with the desire to return and explore a little more. So I will plan on that, and when I do, who knows what I might uncover.
The other night we hung out in a tree-lined park with outdoor cafes and listened to live music by candlelight. And to top it off, we were a thousand miles from land.
The Symphony of the Seas has six neighborhoods, and Central Park is my favorite. There are upscale restaurants with outdoor seating. At one end is Vintages, a wine bar where somehow, I end up at least once a day. In the afternoon, there might be one or two patrons, and you can sit at an outdoor table, and watch folks stroll by.
There are way too many choices; neighborhoods, restaurants, nightclubs, sports, shopping, and bars. Speaking of which; there are at least sixteen different bars, and I had a plan to try each one. I’m only halfway through, and it’s not looking like I’ll hit the goal. But rest assured, it’s not for lack of trying.
I like renting a bike in Miami beach to get off the beaten path. I want to see how the natives live which, in reality, is exactly as I do.
For me, the challenge with urban photography is finding an angle that’s not crappy. But that’s just me, and at the same time, I love the work of photographers that show urban grittiness, like Thomas Hawk. His work is not crappy, but it shows ugly details. Nevertheless, I spend hours looking at his work on Flickr.
It comes down to what I’m comfortable with, even if I get inspiration from different styles. Anyway, this is my take on South Beach urbanism, which is more of an ideal than the reality. Because if I turned the camera just a little, you would see all the grittiness of telephone wires, parked cars, and liquor stores. But if Tomas Hawk did it, it would be okay.
Here is a shot like the one I posted last week from the central section of old Montpellier. As with that other shot, this is from the day I wandered around taking photos of people walking the narrow streets. I could do that every day if I lived in an area like this, but I don’t so I have to take a lot while I’m there.
I processed this to make it look like the shot was at night even though it was midday. Transforming it like this is a personal preference of mine, and it creates a slightly different narrative for the image. For me, these types of images are studies in mood, lighting, and effects. I do them to satisfy my curiosity as to how far I can take a picture from its original exposure.
Aside from the processing, what makes a shot like this is the combination of the narrow streets, the curve of the leading line, high walls and the people. That’s a combination that’s generally found only in Europe. That is why I really would like to get back there more often. Maybe I can work something out. <knock on wood>
A few years ago I was wandering around the old section of Montpellier. This image is from a day when I walked around taking random photos of people walking past shops.
What’s relevant is I took this photo during the day, and the original looks much different. However, I wanted to recreate a low light look, so I’ve manipulated the lighting with photoshop and other tools, like Luminar from Skylum.
I took this when I was on vacation. However, no one likes looking at vacation photos, unless maybe they’re our own. However, I do like looking at pictures that have a sense of mystery to them. That’s what I tried to do here, create a sense of something I saw in my head but wasn’t there.
When in big cities I’m usually quite happy with rain. It creates scenes and situations that are interesting to observe.
First of all, people are carrying umbrellas which by itself creates a certain aesthetic. Then there are the motions people go through to keep out of the rain, like running from one source of cover to another. However, in places where it rains all the time, you will also notice how well people ignore it. Amsterdam is one of those cities where people are always outside, rain or shine. So it’s just as interesting to see what they don’t do as what they do.
In this case the couple were taking selfies and the gentleman was texting the pictures on his phone, oblivious to the precipitation. I noticed that in Amsterdam people are always riding bikes regardless of the weather, in some cases holding umbrellas as they go.
I haven’t quite perfected the art of ignoring the rain. I’m a duck and cover kind of guy. But from a temporary shelter I can stand there, observe and take photos of things around me. The best part of that is stepping into a bistro and waiting it out with a hot chocolate. Then, sufficiently refreshed I head back out for more fun.