Photography Tip -- shoot gritty

Just a coincidence in the name of this dumpster or a sly joke?It seems a majority of photographs are about beautiful subjects, like sunset landscapes, Aston Martins, flowers, etc.  Where you mostly get to see other types of photographs are in press photos.  When I lived in Tokyo, I used to always go to the World Press Photo exhibit and there I was able to see gritty photos.  

So the next time you go out shooting, try not to look for only beautiful subjects.  Go out with the purpose of photographing something gritty, something less than beautiful, something that will force the viewer to think.  

Vintage Door Model Portfolio Shoot St. Petersburg Florida with Rita

Framing the model, Rita, with detailed architecture and a vintage door - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/100th - Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame left

For my model portfolio shoot with Rita in downtown St. Petersburg, I finally had a chance to use a very small part of a building I had been wanting to feature in a photo shoot for a long time.  Many times I walked past this spot while teaching 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons and kept making mental notes to use the features of the spot (long brick wall, medieval looking door) in a shoot someday.  Finally, that day was yesterday evening with model, Rita (her official website).

Featuring a brick wall in this panorama model headshot - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th - Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/16th power with diffuser cap pointed at the wallThough we only shot in a space of about 10 feet, we were able to produce a variety of different shots by featuring the brick wall or the metallic door as the background as well as close-ups and wide shots.  I also switched between using a 2-strobe setup like the one above, and a single strobe setup like the lead image.  

Model positioning her arm as a triangle to be symmetric with the door handle - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame leftRita's style of changing poses after each time I pushed the shutter made for a flow that I had not experienced with a model before.  I really liked it as it kept the shoot moving giving the process a dynamic feel.  

Bokeh made by traffic lights - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/16th power to frame leftI liked being able to make soft looking images, like the one above, along with gritty images in the same shoot as no matter how long or short of a shoot, I do like to create a variety of looks for the model.  For the above shot, I thought the straight perpendicular composition looked too rigid, so I tilted my camera to remove the boundary feeling of the 90-degree angle framing.

This images features a vertical line theme - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame leftI was again impressed with the lighting job my 43" brolly did.  I will feature it in a proper gear review soon.  As you can see it does not take a lot of lighting equipment to make an effective portrait.  The above shot features a single speedlight off camera in the brolly.  All I did was place it about 45 degrees to the left of the model on a light stand using inexpensive Yongnuo radio triggers (to be reviewed soon also).  Of course it also helps to have a beautiful and talented model like Rita to work with!

Photography Tip - It only has to interest you - drumsticks

These drumsticks & their case interested me - Nikon D80 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 400 1/200thI first and foremost make photographs that interest me.  This for the most part even applies when I am shooting for a client as I trust they hired me because they liked my past work and know that I will bring that same perspective to their shoot as well.  I made this drumsticks shot while shooting a Brett Eldredge concert for an event client.  This photograph may have no interest to anyone but me, but that does not come into my thinking at all when I made the image.  I was drawn to the satchel the sticks were sticking out of in particular.  It looked very old and worn and thus must have a great story behind it.  I never talked to the drummer about it, but I wanted to make a photograph of it for my own memory and for me to wonder what might be the origin of the satchel, was it his father's before him, or given to him by a drummer he looked up to?  Those questions interest me, even if I can never get an answer to them.

I included this image in the 240+ I delivered to the client.  It may just be a throwaway image, but for me it will be a reminder of that concert and shooting that job.  

Shooting what interests you first and foremost is what one should really only ever do in one's personal shooting.  I cannot imagine doing otherwise really.  When just going out shooting (not for a client) why would you ever shoot anything that does not interest you?  Likewise, shooting something you think will be interesting to others, but is not interesting to yourself, I cannot imagine the point in doing that and I would also imagine the results of those photographs would be very subpar at best.  

If no one else in the world finds the photograph interesting, but you do, then that is still a successful photograph.  That is my thinking.

Photo Story: Saint Petersburg Alley in Sepia

With this shot I was trying for a repeated pattern image.It had been a long time since I just went out shooting for myself.  Not for a client, not for the HDR gallery project I am participating in, just for me and it was 20 minutes of pure escape.  Now you may be looking at these shots and thinking, "dude, this is what you photograph with your rare free time to shoot on your own?"  Well, I had seen this particular alley months ago and made a strong mental note to photograph it.  Something about the idea of photographing this alley long had me excited.  

So today with my Nikon D300 and Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR micro F2.8G lens I made the time to do some exploratory photography, as I like to call it.  No doubt I looked mental to any passersby as I stepped in and around trash pointing a camera of not insignificant size at relative junk and decay.  If they could only read my mind they would have known I couldn't have been more stoked.  I was full of the thrill of potential discovery.  Who knows what I might find here in this alley?  That unknown always gets my heightened interest.  

 I dream of doing acrobatics on a fire escape, often.

In reality, the alley was not filled with many hidden treasures, but it was graced with a high concentration of human waste, in multiple states of matter.  One thing that attracts me to alleys is the behind the scenes nature of them.  On the other side of the buildings are the facades, what the masses idle to and before.  On the flip side of those buildings, the real side, is where people live and die.  Workers toil and nothing ever gets polished.  I have no interest in facades.

The bicycle, an elemental mode of transportation.

The above bicycle was the object of greatest monetary value in the alley.  While locked up, like any sentient being, does a bicycle too dream of Freedom--greatest of all things in the known Universe, far greater than Love.  

A questionable means of security.For myself, I felt great Freedom making photographs in this alley.  There are more mysteries there still, like what is behind this rusted padlock?  I'd rather never know because a well-fueled imagination is the only thing that helps keep me sane as the forces that attempt to limit mine own Freedom reach for me.