As a travel and location photographer, I rarely get to work in a studio, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for what I call “studios in the street.” These are interesting, found backgrounds—usually painted murals, textured walls, unusual facades—that make great backdrops against which to photograph people, either in posed portraits, or just grab shots as they walk by.
Last week in Miami, using some of the mystery gear that has many of you in a major tizzy (more about that later), I used the same technique. But before you going searching the EXIF information of these pictures, these examples are not from that assignment! So you can relax.
The takeaway from this post will not be some top-secret coded reference to the gear (seriously, there was an entire deconstructionist discussion on DPReview (or was it Nikonians? I forget) on the use of the word “huge” in my last post that rivaled the bulls__t you’d hear in a post-doctoral seminar in Proust at Princeton!)
No, the advice I can give you here is in certain travel situations, it’s often a good idea to find an interesting background first, and shoot what comes along in front of it. In the case of street murals, billboards, etc. I often just wait for some kind of activity–walkers, joggers, bicyclists, etc to occur in front of it, as I did below in Havana.
Or, if I find an interesting person who’s part of the city scene, I’ll often bring him or her to the background and use it as a studio backdrop, as I did with the musician in New Orleans above.
So keep your eyes open on your next trip for studios in the street, and you’ll be surprised how often they can help you make pictures where they might not otherwise exist. It really helped me, much more than did the equipment, make some interesting shots last week in Miami, when the weather completely went south, or more accurately, went north on me.
Now, as for that equipment, hit the jump for my thoughts on that….
It’s pretty nice, but it’s not orgasmic, transformational, or life-changing. (At least not for me…I used to think I was a gearhead, but I am truly humbled by the level of hysteria excitement the prospect of new gear brings on in some quarters!).
One guy went so far as to contact the helicopter company to ask the pilot and ops guy what I was using, another accused me of using a green screen and phoneying up the whole thing (Yup, that’s just what I did, right after I engineered the sub-prime meltdown), and in the worst insult of all, somebody else thought I was shooting through a plexiglass door or window in the chopper. Not to mention the dozens who have been studying the snapshot like CIA analysts might pore over a satellite picture of an Iranian nuke facility.
This is just a thought, but all that energy some of you have been expending trying to figure out what the new gear is, might be better spent actually making pictures!
If you put even a quarter of that gumption, imagination, and ingenuity being spent on gear-lust analysis into actual picture making, photography would enter a new golden age and the pages of Flickr would look like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!
I’m just sayin’ :-).