Street Sleeper

I do like a good juxtaposition, and they don’t get much better than this.

Street Sleeper

Click to enlarge, then click again

A juxtaposition occurs when you place side-by-side two objects that wouldn’t normally be seen together. Doing so emphasises the properties of each object by contrasting it with the other. Imagine that you’re at a fashion show, watching (allegedly) glamorous models striding down the catwalk: after seeing the fiftieth fancy outfit they all start to blur together and none stands out. Suddenly, a car mechanic dressed in oily overalls appears in the middle of the line of models and strolls along with them. Now you are acutely aware of the fancy femininity of the models’ outfits because when they are juxtaposed with plain, dirty overalls your senses are awakened. Moreover, you notice the overalls far more than you do when you walk into a garage, and you’re likely to think about the differences between the lifestyles of models and mechanics. The juxtaposition has made you much more aware of the nature of models and the nature of mechanics, and done so on more than one level. If you made a photo that showed the mechanic among the models the juxtaposition would make the viewers engage with the photo, i.e. spend longer looking at it. To put it another way, the photo would be far, far more interesting than one of models on a catwalk. Successful (i.e. appealing) photos are ones that people emotionally engage with and spend time looking at, and a juxtaposition can make a photo successful.


Superb Steve McCurry slideshow

Click on the four arrows to go full screen. If you’re on a slow internet connection click “HD”, but keep the “HD” blue if you can.

Hat tip TOP.


Photo Trip: Viaduct Harbour 5-9-09 

On Saturday 5-9-09 I went hunting for street photos at the Viaduct Harbour in downtown Auckland, New Zealand (click here to view a map of this trip).

After getting off the train at Britomart (click here for photos of that most unusual railway station) I went over to the Ferry Building, which is a pile that was done in the Imperial Baroque style and completed in 1912:

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Outside the Ferry Building I caught this lady unawares…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

It’s times like that I’m grateful for a near-silent camera; she had no idea that I’d taken her photo, despite the fact that I was less than an arm’s length away. I’m almost certain that the book is in French. I then found this little girl who thought that dancing backwards was a great lark…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Next stop was the Viaduct Harbour, which is almost entirely enclosed and contains both working and pleasure boats. The main area has a promenade beside the water, a string of bars and restaurants beside the promenade, and above it all apartment buildings.  Who would want to live in an apartment where the businesses below are pumping out music until the wee hours?

People parade on the promenade in unusual ways…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

I’d arrived in the city about two hours before sunset – when the light starts to get good –  and the sun was getting very low by the time I got to the Viaduct Harbour. This guy was at one of the bars, facing directly into the setting sun:

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

The colour of that photo is natural, and you too can get a similar effect in your photos by setting your camera’s white balance to Daylight (usually indicated by a sun symbol). If you were there at the time the scene wouldn’t have looked so strongly coloured because your brain knows what colour things really are and corrects colour casts so that you perceive things as they “should be”. When your camera’s white balance is set to auto it too will try to remove colour casts, so to capture the true colours of sunsets, street lighting, candle lit rooms and so on use the Daylight setting.

This kid enjoyed circling a tree but it would appear that he got his licence out of a cereal packet that very morning:

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

After the paternal tow truck rescued him he went looking for a wife…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

…and the rejection left him feeling rather stunned…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Once the sun went down the photo opportunities dried up, so I went back to the Ferry Building and found these kids doing what kids do and trying to choose their gelato flavour (gelato is a type of icecream)…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

I also spotted these teens doing what teens do and cruising around town in a pack…

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Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

That was enough hunting for one day, so I headed back to Britomart and found a train that would take me home…

Busking Bagpiper

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(Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again)

I spotted (actually, I heard him before I spotted him) this bagpiper in downtown Auckland, New Zealand. I’m particularly keen on street/candid photography, and I could see a lot of photographic potential here.

This situation also has some educational potential for you. You’ll see that the photo above has sky which is close to white, but not quite there. Most cameras will give you a horrible sheet of white sky in this situation because the camera cannot accurately reproduce the huge range of tones (range of brightness) from the black wall to the bright sky. The person who made the camera figures that you’re only interested in the foreground so the camera is set to reproduce that accurately and let the sky be “burnt out”, i.e. be pure white. There is no simple way to overcome this problem without technical knowledge. On-camera flash is like a mad elephant – best avoided at all costs – but in this situation turning on fill flash or forced flash may help on a last-resort basis, and that is what I used but it is not a complete solution.

Now have a look at this photo:

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(Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again)

This photo has a range of tones that a camera can cope with (apart from a few very small areas in the shop front) and is a much safer bet if you want a nice photo without technical skills. I’ve knelt down because that gives the viewer a point of view that he’s not used to and catches his attention: it also makes the donations box more noticeable than it would have been if I’d been standing when I took the photo. That donations box is a critical part of the story that this photo tells.

I chose this particular photo because the raised foot and the kilt lifting in the wind adds some movement to what would have otherwise have been a very static and dull photo.

Click here to view more photos taken on this occasion.

Do you have any questions or comments about what I’ve written?

Storm Dancing

Storm Dancing on Princes Wharf, Auckland, NZ

(Click to enlarge, then click again)

This guy is leaning into the wind on Princes Wharf, Auckland, NZ during the storm of 26-7-08 when the winds were gusting to more than 110kph/69mph: imagine what the wind is like when you’re driving down the highway, then increase it.

Princes Wharf juts out into the Waitemata Harbour and was completely exposed to the winds. People were being blown backwards and the rain felt like a barrage of needles; even though I was kneeling behind a large pillar I was literally getting knocked around by the wind. At the time I thought that this was as close as I’d ever get to combat photography, because the conditions were so extreme and the screaming of the wind so insane. Taking photos whilst avoiding injury to myself and my camera was quite a task. The storm dancer had no idea that he was being photographed, rather he was just enjoying himself.