Archive for the ‘Street’ Category

Pride parades are different in Canada

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

…in part, presumably, because gay marriage is legal and homosexuality seems to be more widely accepted. You certainly won’t see any military floats at pride parades in the States, but there they were at Vancouver Pride last Sunday, along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, numerous government officials, the border patrol, and much more (above is Miss Greater Vancouver – who apparently sees things a bit differently from, say, the former Miss California). Also, where most pride parades in the States that I’ve witnessed have been heavy on the G in LGBT, the LBT part seemed to get a solid percentage of the attention at this particular parade.

Vancouver Pride 2009

I used my D700, 24-70/2.8, and a 105/2.5 AI-S manual focus lens borrowed from my brother. Ideally I would have had my 80-200/2.8, but I decided not to bring it on this trip to save weight while traveling. If I’d known I was going to have the opportunity to shoot a parade, I definitely would have stuck it in my bag. Oh well. The 105 served decently for a few shots (like the two shots above), but I’m so out of practice with using manual focus lenses in fast-action situations that I ditched it in favor of the zoom after only 20 minutes or so. If my D700 had a split prism focusing screen it would have been different, but… it doesn’t.

Vancouver Pride 2009

So, 24-70 it was, and unfortunately I wasn’t often able to get close enough to go very wide. So I have tons of shots taken at 70mm, at f/2.8 or f/4.0, trying fruitlessly to get some subject isolation. I just didn’t have enough focal length to get anything but a bunch of ugly, cluttered backgrounds. Damn. I uploaded a ton of photos to Flickr, but only because the subjects were so compelling that I think they’re fun photos, not because the photos are technically great or even anywhere close. Still, there were a few times that a parade participant got close enough to me to make things interesting:

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

As I mentioned in the previous post, during the tail end of the parade I was able to get onto the street and go wide. I still got massively cluttered backgrounds, but at least my compositions were better. As for the rest of my shots, here are just a few favorites, or check out the highlights set for a more concise version of the photoset linked to above.

There was an uncharacteristic heat wave in Vancouver the weekend of pride (really the week before), and lots of people – parade participants and spectators alike – were rather scantily clad.

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Others, though, were seriously in costume (not that the dude above isn’t “in costume” per se!) and I can’t imagine how uncomfortably warm they must have been. There was even a guy wearing a full suit of metal armor (no joke), but I didn’t get a good photo of him.

Vancouver Pride 2009

“Public nudity is illegal” was clearly printed in the guidelines, but plenty of participants – and some spectators – apparently decided that public half-nudity isn’t covered by the law. I felt a little weird taking photos of naked people but most crowd members certainly didn’t seem to have any qualms :) One of my favorite photos has some incidental nudity – this woman was a spectator (as far as I know) but she was dressed up and totally into it, to the point that people in the parade were stopping to get photos taken with her. She hammed it up for me:

Vancouver Pride 2009

OK, that’s enough for here. Go check out the full photoset or the highlights for more.

Vancouver Pride 2009

Clean! Sober! Proud!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

This was my favorite float, photographically speaking, at the 2009 Vancouver pride parade. They were registered as “Fun in Recovery,” and lived up to the name: they brought the party big-time, with a truckload of dancers, two bubble machines, water guns, giant rainbow flags, and even more dancers in rotation around the truck. Better yet, as they were bringing up the rear of the parade, various crowd members (like me) were able to hop into the middle of the parade route and join the madness.

I’ll post more on shooting this event soon, but for now these are some of the photos I like just from this float. (And here’s a video that I didn’t shoot.)

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Election Night 2008: the U Street scene

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

U Street Obama celebration

At this point, you’ve probably already read all about it: Washington, DC’s U Street area became a massive block party forty years later after Barack Obama was announced the next president of the United States. You’ve probably forgotten about it by now – unless you were lucky enough to be there, or at one of the similar spontaneous celebrations that took place in cities across the country. I was one of those lucky folks: I went down to U Street with a couple friends after leaving my office at 8:30 (I was working on an election-related report and had to be up and working again at 6:30 the next morning!) and scarfing down a quick dinner. What ensued was, and I say this with little hyperbole, one of the most inspiring few hours of my life. And I say this with the benefit of two weeks’ hindsight and as a skeptic not totally convinced that Obama will really live up to his mantra of “change.”

U Street Obama celebration

What was so inspiring? That a politician could, in a very real way, inspire so many people. That an election result could lead to a spontaneous outpouring of joy as much as, say, a professional sports team winning a national championship. Most of all, that so many people of all walks of life could celebrate together, really together, un-self-consciously and with no regard for their differences. The intersection of 14th and U Streets was Ground Zero of the city’s worst race riots in 1968, but on this night, total strangers were high-fiving each other, chatting animatedly, dancing together, hugging one another, and just generally sharing in a feeling of positive solidarity that seemed to transcend all barriers of race, class, age, gender, etc etc.

I’ve never seen anything like it: for me the word “solidarity” has always been in the context of opposition: solidarity among oppressed peoples fighting for their rights and livelihoods; jail solidarity among arrested demonstrators; that sort of thing. This night saw an unprecedented (in my experience) solidarity that defined itself positively instead of in opposition. Apparently the scene at the White House was different, with an equally joyous crowd that was chanting taunts at the outgoing president; but on U Street, I literally never heard Bush’s name mentioned all night (and I was there from 10pm until 3am). This was a night for Obama and for a real shared feeling that things could really get better. I’ll never forget it.

Luckily, even if I do manage to forget it, I have the photos to remind me.

U Street Obama celebration

Photographically, the night was obviously a treasure trove. Happy people always make for good photographs, to say nothing of crowds of thousands of them. With my 17-55/2.8 busted, I used my 12-24/4 exclusively, which was a more appropriate lens for the job anyway. Pretty much every shot I took was wide-angle, getting close up to people and capturing a bit of the environment as well. I used my SB-600 on almost every shot, mostly off-camera using CLS infrared triggering (which looked like this – that’s me in the blue jacket). I used manual exposure but set the flash to TTL – the action was just too fast for me to be fiddling with manual flash outputs. I was a little nervous about this because I have little experience with TTL off-camera flash, but whatever the little chips are doing in Nikon’s flash exposure system, they did a hell of a job and I got great flash exposures very consistently. The only issue I had was a period when the CLS system wasn’t reliably triggering the flash – not sure what the deal was but the problem went away after maybe 15 minutes of going on the fritz. User error perhaps, but I still haven’t figured out what went wrong. Makes me want to get a cheap off-camera flash cord.

U Street

Anyway, no new photos, but I just wanted to post one final thing about that night and showcase a few more of my favorite shots. (And make room for my next post, about an absolutely fantastic show I shot last night.) Full set of the U Street photos, again, is here.

Four years

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Almost four years ago, at George W. Bush’s second inauguration, Washington DC looked like this:

Last night, after Barack Obama was announced as President-Elect, Washington DC looked like this:

U Street

Let’s do that again. Four years ago:

Last night:

U Street

One more time. Bush inauguration:

Obama’s election win:

U Street

Granted, DC is something like 95% Democrat, and its three electoral votes are the only ones in the entire country that have never gone to any party but the Democrats. Still, there was something special about the atmosphere last night. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. More photos here (with many more to come, I was out until 3:30am last night and so didn’t exactly have time to process all my shots) and I’ll have another post about it later.

Trip to Vancouver – Saturday

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Canadian Ire

Went to Vancouver last weekend. Took lots of photos of all kinds. Here are a few I like from Saturday (Sunday to come), after the jump. (If you’re reading this in an RSS reader, I think you’ll have to click through to the entry to see the photos below.)

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Hooray for renting

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Day 123: End of the season

One of the nice things about living in a city is that there’s a place where I can rent camera gear that I couldn’t otherwise afford right now. Enter Penn Camera, from which I have rented a Nikon 17-55/2.8 AF-S DX lens, normally a $1200 piece of gear, for the royal sum of… $30 for the weekend.

This is primarily for the two concerts I’m shooting this weekend, but I also got a chance to play with it when I went to an NBA game tonight (the last game of the Wizards season, alas, as they lost Game 6 to Cleveland). It’s a fun chunk of glass, to be sure. At some point I’ll definitely be investing in a normal zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture, though the Tamron or Sigma options are way, way cheaper than the Nikon and thus more likely.

As I was in the nosebleeds, 55mm wasn’t going to get me any action shots, so I had fun taking photos like the one above instead.

And I also wandered around outside the arena both before and after the game, doing a little more street-style photography. I’m not totally psyched about anything I got; this one below is probably my favorite (hmm, what is it with cigarettes and black & white photos?). Also, as a side note, a bunch of people actually yelled at me or tugged my shirt to get me to take photos of them. I tell you, this whole street photography thing is a fascinating experience.

After the game 3

Trying something new

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Adams Morgan 9

I’ve always been fascinated by street photography. Like so many other photographers, I was enthralled by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work and fascinated by the idea of openly photographing strangers in public places, capturing poignant moments in time when most people simply wouldn’t be comfortable pointing a camera. Reading this article about Garry Winogrand only served to pique my interest even more.

The problem is, I’m relatively shy, and generally uncomfortable with the idea of sticking a camera in a stranger’s face. So I never thought I would ever really give street photography a try. But, what the hell, I was in DC’s Adams Morgan bar district on a Friday night, with my camera, and if there’s ever a place with interesting subjects for this kind of thing, that was it. So, while chatting with a friend I had met up with, I fired away.

(The funny thing is, I had a conversation with a total stranger earlier today about this. He saw me shooting some random thing on my way home from work and asked for camera advice, saying he was interested in taking pictures of people – strangers in public places, actually. Just kind of an odd coincidence that I would try my hand at street photography just a few hours after having that completely random conversation.)

Adams Morgan 16

This was a pretty tough introduction, seeing as how I shot almost entirely with a 50/1.8; a wider angle lens would have made things easier. Also, the lighting was challenging to say the least, adding another thing that I needed to think about, as if cracking into a whole new kind of photography wasn’t enough. Still, for a first effort I think I had some reasonable success. Obviously I have a lot to work on if I ever try this again, not least being trying to capture actual interactions instead of single people or people just walking together. Though sometimes solitude in the midst of all these people makes for a neat composition, as in the above photo.

I was fascinated by people’s reactions to my camera. Most people never noticed me, even though I was hiding in plain view – often standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk with the camera up to my face. Of those who did notice, a few mugged for the camera, a few just looked surprised, and most looked completely uninterested. No one seemed the least bit annoyed. In that sense this was a good start. I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable by the end, but I definitely moved in that direction.

Adams Morgan 14

Oh, and also… it was a lot of fun. Here’s the full set of some of my better shots from the evening.