Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 Out of Chicago Photography Conference Day One

For the second year in a row, I went to the Out of Chicago Photography Conference with my brother-in-law Bob Crocker.  Bob and I had such a great time last year that we were eager to return for the 2017 version.  This year my wife Denice also joined the road trip from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Thursday, June 22. 2017

After a breakfast along the way, the three of us rode down to Chicago to the Travelodge on Harrison near Michigan Avenue where we are staying.  We had to time the trip carefully as I had signed up for a 2:00 photowalk.

a strangeness in my mind
Image by Marie Lagneau from her website

The workshop was Storytelling in the Street with Marie Lagneau.  Here is her bio from her website:  "I am a London-based street photographer who enjoy travelling to the world’s biggest cities to capture the fleeting essence of urban life, projecting my dreams and fantasy into ordinary scenes. My work has been exhibited in art galleries around the US, and published in several magazines such as Leica Magazine and National Geographic. My love for storytelling and composition has led me to publish my first free eBook: Storytelling in street photography."

I am going to share some of the lessons I learned about street photography as I show you what photos I took on this walk in Chicago.

The first choice dictated by the genre is the use of color.  I liked the color version of many of the photos that I took on this walk...but the standard of the genre is black and white.  I am not a great black and white developer (I use Photoshop Elements) but I am going to stay with black and white for this blog.  The photo above is a use of leading line with the white of the lettering providing the eye a place to go in addition to the sidewalk itself.

Probably the standard for photographers is a 50mm fixed lens.  I carry a Tamron lens that goes from 16 to 300 and I am too trained that way to even think about using a fixed lens.  The advantage I have is that when I see something like these images below (taken from one side of a busy Chicago downtown street all the way over to the little park across the way) I can use my telephoto lens to get them.  Normally a lot of post processing is discouraged in street photography but I will confess with all the junk in my way, I opted for some "interesting" cropping to get to the central purpose of the photos.

As opposed to the photos above, most of my street photographs are shot by NOT looking through the view finder in the camera.  This requires me to set the camera up for the expected light and fire from the hip without knowing what will happen.  By no means are all the photos I take good.  Sometimes, magic is possible.


While you might think that the photograph is all about the subject, what a street photographer needs to be aware of is what is the frame.  In the photo above, the frame of the crosswalk provides interest...and a guaranteed interesting pattern in black and white.

Marie's assignment on the walk was to hunker down in one spot and make the most of it. The basic idea is to find a frame and then let the people come on the stage in front of the camera.  

I chose to walk up the staircase of one of the L-platforms in the Loop.  From this location I could shoot in a number of directions.

The above shot was made through the view finder.  The rest of these were not...despite what they may look like.  The technique was to set up the camera, lean it on the railing, and fire away without knowing what was actually in the view finder.

These two photos are different because of the use of the shadows.  My preference is the photo above so normally I would show that and not the one below.

Notice any difference between these two photos?  I think interest is generated by the lead male figure looking out of the frame in the photo below.  What is he seeing?  I would show the one below over the top photo.

At times, less is more.  I would prefer the subject focus of the top photo over the lower one.

Shooting down from the L-platform allowed me to use the crosswalk for interest.  It also created certain light patterns that on occasion would allow the sun to focus a subject.  The top photo is classic street work but the lower one is enhanced by the tension of the moving car in the crosswalk. 

OK, black and white is the standard but who can resist this color photo where the blouse and the hair create a match?

This may be one of my favorite photos from the shoot.  It is abstract and street.  Remember, this was shot without looking through the view how cool is that?

While moving to our next spot, we are still on the lookout for opportunities.  How about a window with the word "photo?"

This is a great street photograph to use as an example of what works and what does not.  The odd thing about street work is that issues that normally would cause a photo to be rejected are OK on the street side.  Blur, lack of composition, shadows are all forgiven.  I really wish there was better light on the young man and that he was not blurry...but I will take this photo as a success.

Irony works real well in street photography.  Here, the irony comes in the words on display throughout the scene.  On the storefront, the word "forever."  On the religious side, the works "from god," "don't give up," and "take a copy."  But in the ultimate irony, the gentleman walking past the religious display has his own sign: "Good Things Inside."  How cool is that?

Is this street photography if there are not people in the image? There is a person in the ad but this may just be an interesting photo.

Add in the religious workers and their indifferent audience in front of the ad and it becomes a whole different image.

Two things to mention:  on the subject of indifference, I like the irony of these people trapped in their own little worlds walking past the store window which probably costs zillions to set up and is failing to do its job of attracting attention.  The second subject:  street photography in this area is dominated by people on devices.  (This was my next location that I selected to do some street work).

The next spot I stopped was in front of this scaffolding.  

The photo above is one I liked because of the left frame made by the briefcase.  Below, the photo is made by the pattern in the dress of the blond.

Here, the Loop bus stop provides the frame.

Again, a reminder that this one was made by shooting from the hip without focusing.  I think this one works.  

It might be hard to understand, but these were also shot without focusing and yet manage to have some interest.

Shot from the hip, these two photos illustrate why it is always a good idea to shoot multiple shots on one scene.  While I like the photo above, I thought the lower photo is my favorite until I saw the last one in this set.

Why do I like this one better than the one above.  Only because the man on the left in the white shirt is providing motion out of the frame...I think that adds interest.

Sometimes you just have to be ready to turn, fire, and hope.

One of the raging debates in street photograph is whether or not to take advantage of people living on the streets.  I do not shoot a lot of street people for my street photography but sometimes in a large urban area like Chicago it is hard to tell the difference between normal and down and out.

Of course, sometimes it is easy.  This woman asked someone else to take her photo with her own phone and then posed for me without knowing.

The last post we assumed on the photowalk was at this Loop bridge where we were challenged to use a piece of the bridge to add interest.  

Then I moved out to the center of the bridge and used the classic Chicago buildings as a frame for my street work.  

One of my issues with street photography is eye contact.  I cannot stand on the street, look through the view finder, and shoot right at strangers who are looking at me.  However, the work around is by shooting from the hip.  Sometimes I will try to distract my subjects by looking 180 degrees away from them while by finger on the shutter button is taking their soul.

I am always surprised when I find out later I may not have fooled my subject.

This young lady may be aware of me but she is unaware of her personal stalker.

We talked before about irony--I find this photo ironic:  is it possible she is calling him?

Here is where looking through the view finder would have helped.  I love the fact that the men appear to be doing what men do...but we miss the full irony because the camera did not capture all of their faces.  Still, you get the idea.

Through the view finder, I made this my last shot of the walk.

I want to thank Marie Lagneau for leading this walk and making me a better street photographer for it.

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