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.
Here is a street scene from a section of Barcelona that’s not too far from the beach. I took this from a moving pedicab that we hired late one night from La Ramblas to the Hotel Arts. Our driver was a German fellow who biked all over Europe and stayed summers in Barcelona to work the pedicabs.
Taking photos from any kind of moving vehicle at night is a challenge, but with a high enough ISO and a wide aperture it’s doable. And a pedicab is a lot easier to shoot from than a taxicab, although I’ve tried that as well.
The days and nights we were in Barcelona were very warm. One of the things I like most about Barcelona is how people spend a lot of time socializing in front of little cafes and bistros. That goes for much of Europe but Barcelona in particular.
I don’t recall exactly where I was when I shot this but it was probably close to the gothic quarter in Barcelona. I spent a lot of time shooting scenes at night there, just out having a good time. In the middle of summer, that’s what everyone does.
This is a picture I took this last summer of the street I live on. Now it’s cooler and as I look this I think of those warmer months. But to be perfectly honest, summer is hot as hell and the cooler weather is a nice change.
On the left is a row of townhouses where I live. On the right is open land that is a little wild and not yet developed. The street in the middle divides the urban from the wild. I look out the upper window and see nature just doing its thing.
Out there are all manner of wild animals. I’ve seen eagles, fox, coyote, and alligator to name a few. They all live literally within a stone’s throw; right over the fence. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that wildlife can live so close to our urban setting. If your someone like me that loves animals, I tend to worry about them and wonder how long they can hold out. My fingers are crossed.
I took this while walking around in the rain in the middle of summer. Even though it was raining it was warm and humid, not unlike Florida. However unlike Florida the energy of the city was entirely unique to me. I was very happy to be here, especially in the rain, because of the atmosphere it created.
For each image this week I’ve used Topaz to render part of the scene in an impressionistic style. In this scene all but the central subject has been “painted” by the software while I blended in the original image of the lady with the umbrella.
Having the ability to blend photos opens up choices in terms of artistic expression. I combine renderings of the software with realistic aspects of a photo. Then I work with color, saturation, contrast and shadows so I can re-create a scene more from my mind than actual event. In some cases that suits my preferences as it relates to photography.
When I was in Salerno it rained like cats and dogs. Italy had been in a drought that was just broken with a few days of heavy rain. Despite that I was happy to walk around looking for compositions while sheltering under entryways.
I took this during one particularly heavy downpour. I was forced to stay in one spot for an extended period, which in retrospect was a good thing. It’s sometimes better to pick a spot and let the world come to you. If you wait patiently, all kinds of interesting scenes will appear no matter where you are.
This is in an old shopping district of Salerno. The buildings and shops looked like they haven’t changed much in a hundred years. I got the sense that some shop keepers carried on traditions from one generation to the next.
As the rain let up I continued to walk and eventually the narrow streets opened up into a newer section of town. The shops there were brand-name boutiques you’d recognize in any mall. As for me I preferred the character of the old section much more.
I snapped this while walking through the streets of Calata Doria in Liguria Italy. Try as he could, this gentleman couldn’t remember what he had for dinner last night. I offered a suggestion but he said they didn’t have a Taco Bell nearby. This is my version fake news.
For some reason this man looks distressed but in reality I don’t recall that being the case, he was just taking a load off his feet and I happen to catch him with his hands just so. We all make expressions throughout the day that if taken out of context can send the wrong impression.
I feel a little like paparazzi when I take street photos of people. I prefer to have people look natural, but if they see me aiming they’ll react. The idea is to capture people unaware; it’s a more interesting study of human behavior.
The trick is to be as unobtrusive as possible. One technique is to line up a scene and wait for someone to walk through it. But if I’m too obvious folks stop and wait for me to finish, it gets a little awkward.