You Got It or You Don’t – Maestro or Noodler?

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Immersion and the Subtle Art of Honing Your Craft – Becoming a Better Street Photographer

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Larry Cohen’s Baltimore car crash image

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Hollywood Street Photowalk Adventure – Jan 19, 2019

Hollywood

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Hanging with the Pelican – A study in “working” the shot

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Moving Violation: Capturing a Speedboat Crash – Photo of the Year

[cs_content][cs_element_section _id=”1″ ][cs_element_row _id=”2″ ][cs_element_column _id=”3″ ] [/cs_element_column][cs_element_column _id=”4″ ][cs_element_text _id=”5″ ][/cs_element_column][cs_element_column _id=”6″ ] [/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 045px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][cs_the_grid name=”BoatCrash”][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

The Ambulant Photographer 2017 Year in Review

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2017 was a very busy and intense roller coaster of a year.

Photography is not my main gig and I was heavily focused last year on growing certain aspects of my business to run themselves a bit more independently which should afford me some more free time to do things like run around the world making photographs.

My overall output was far lower than it had been in 2016, but I think that this was largely due to the 3-week European trip I took over the summer of 2016, while we stayed closer to home last year.

I was going to write a big ol’ list of things that I learned about photography in 2017 but I really think that much of what I learned can be boiled down into a brief concept.

It’s like this:

I can easily remember when I was just some guy with a camera. I had a camera. I pointed it at things and I styled myself a “photographer.” But I wasn’t. I was just some dude with a camera. There was a day when I crossed an invisible line, and I didn’t realize it until well after I had crossed it. That line serves to separate “guy with camera” from “photographer.” There is a lot involved in graduating (in my own mind) from the first place into the next place. It has a lot to do with things like maturity, an understanding and appreciation for the craft, and an evolution in the kinds of subject matter I now find interesting, especially compared to the sorts of things I used to capture. I feel that I moved between these two places somewhere around 2014 or so. I’d spent a good 6 years being that guy with a camera.

I have come to realize that there’s yet another place to get to — and a second line to move across. That next imaginary line is one that separates the photographer from the artist and I only became aware of the separation between these states in the past several months.

I was looking through some of Annie Leibovitz’s work, particularly her book Annie Leibovitz Portraits 2005 – 2016 and I noticed that when she does a portrait, it’s iconic. It’s timeless. Evocative, thought-provoking. Remarkable. At the very least worthy of note. Conversely, when I do a portrait, the best thing I can currently say about it is that it’s in focus. It’s usable. Looks great on websites and works for social media avatars.

My portraits are “in focus” and her portraits cause me to pause and reflect. I decided that this delta between her skills and my own was worth a few months of careful consideration. I’m now, for the first time, investing a significant amount of my time and energy into studying those photographers whose work I admire most and my next endeavor for the coming years is to find for myself that next invisible line which marks the place of photographer from the place of artist. It’s all mental space, and it’s entirely subjective. I don’t know where it is but I’ll know when I start to rub up against it.

What a worthy exploration, don’t you think?

Here are some of my favorite images of 2017.

[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/5″ style=”padding: 0px;”] [/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 045px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][cs_the_grid name=”2017 Year in Review”][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

A Stunning Contrast in Venice Beach, CA

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false”]A rule to shoot by[/x_custom_headline][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]As a steadfast and general rule, I do not shoot the homeless. While some people can pull this off very well, much of what I’ve seen is largely exploitative or just a cheap-and-easy shot. The only times I have gone there is when I’ve seen an opportunity to serve a larger narrative.

I’m currently working on a Santa Monica / Venice Beach project and part of this project involves exposing (get it?) the rigid dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots which, in communities such as this one, exist side by side one another every day in one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in America.

This shot, taken on June 1, 2017 in Venice CA speaks to the jovial celebration event being set up on the beach (note the lifeguard house painted up all Gilbert Baker style) with the contrast of the man sleeping late into the morning in his bag positioned in the foreground. Meanwhile the resident pedals past, signifying that life does indeed go on.

This was shot at 10am. I normally don’t get into Venice until mid-afternoon and I’d never seen the town before it really wakes up and starts to shake up. I was deeply saddened to see the sheer number of folks sleeping on the boardwalk. There were several dozens of them spread out along the beach and the boardwalk with their belongings all stowed against buildings and stashed beneath palm trees while they slept. They’re still there and still visible later in the day (when the tourists have come out) but it’s something very different to observe them like this.

If you’ve come this far, thanks a lot for reading.

Cheers.

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/170601-Los_Angeles-10-41-00.jpg” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_image type=”none” src=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/170601-Los_Angeles-10-34-58.jpg” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”13″ ][cs_element_row _id=”14″ ][cs_element_column _id=”15″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”16″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Prague Part 2 – Sandra the Fire Dancer

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 25px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 10: Europe 2016 – Prague Part II” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the 10th post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Prague. Sandra the Firedancer.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images. [/cs_alert][cs_text]As a rule I avoid shooting street performers, beggars, the homeless, drunks, etc, because I see these people as being “low-hanging fruit” for street photographers who haven’t quite built up the courage to approach someone and ask for a portrait. It’s far easier to act like a sniper and shoot these folks from relative safety than it is to step outside of one’s comfort zone. Also, we tend to treat people on the street like free models, and that’s where things can get exploitative pretty quickly.

That said, I have been shooting some homeless people lately in my own town because I’m working on a project that focuses on some of the social inequities that my community is facing and our homeless population represents an important voice in that project. I’m also not shooting them while I’m hiding behind a dumpster. I prefer to converse with them, offer lunch in exchange for their story, etc.

Street performers tend to be running the same racket from year to year and it’s the same in any major city you visit across Europe. Shoot these folks if you wish but you’ll find that you rarely come away from that “session” with anything better than a snapshot. Shoot it for posterity or to show your friends. Nothing wrong with that! I’m generally shooting with an intention of turning a shot into a large format print, so snapshots are just sort of not on my menu, if you follow my meaning.

Sometimes, however, I run across a street performer whose act is truly unique. Something that they are uniquely suited to do, rather than the street performer who’s simply mimicking what that other guy across town is doing.

I saw a couple of such examples in Prague.

Old Town Square, Prague

First there was a pair of musicians playing intense compositions in the Old Town Square. One on violin and the other on accordion. These guys were hardcore rock stars all the way and played with complete abandon. I loved their act and was as impressed with their virtuosity as with their presence. What fun. That said, it’s not easy to photograph what a band sounds like, and I got nothing from them but snapshots and some video footage with which to bore my wife upon my return home.

Then there was Sandra the Firedancer.

Wow. This. Woman. Brought it.

We saw her perform two nights in a row in the Old Town Square. The first time I saw her she had just apparently wrapped up her act and was fleeing the scene. Her attire caught my attention, but she was gone before I knew it. The next night smiled upon us as we were in the right place at the right time and we caught her entire act.

Sandra is obviously a trained dancer. She worked elements of Tango and Ballet into her Fire Poi performance. There were other fire dancers working the Old Town Square during our stay but they were sort of brutish and their acts were standard fare. Sandra was graceful and elegant. She romanced the fire and her performance was incredible. I was entranced, and I worked the show for the better part of 15 minutes.

When she finished her act, she wrapped up her stuff and vanished into the night like a woman pursued.

I went home that night and edited up the hundreds of shots I took of her act, putting the best dozen or so on my phone in hopes that I’d see her again the next night and could approach her with something to show her. Once again the night smiled upon us and she was back in the Old Town Square at dusk.

I introduced myself and showed her my photos from the night before. She was overjoyed with the images and asked me to email them to her. With that relationship in place, I stayed on to shoot her performance again, but this time the performance was partially directed at me, and I was able to make some images that far exceeded the quality and intimacy of my shots from the previous night’s performance. She knew I was there shooting her, she had seen the quality of my work and we had created a basis of relatedness. And so she was able to play to my camera in a way that was a real joy for me.

You’ll see from this gallery that I played with several settings designed to freeze her motion and to blur it. You’ll also note that much of the crowd is only minimally engaged in her act. This was a disappointment for me, as I felt that she was worthy of a rapt audience. I gave her the equivalent of $25 USD upon the completion of her act and promised to email her the photos that I had made. In truth I should have paid her more because I’ve turned 2 of the images into prints for sale here on the site and any relationship of this nature is a partnership — one that I’m more than happy to share the wealth on!

Build Relationships. Always.

My personal takeaway from this experience is to make an effort to build a personal relationship with any subject that I want to share intimacy with. Respect boundaries, work hard to produce the best possible images of that person, and share the wealth.

Enjoy!

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section bg_color=”global-color:4272616e64205365636f6e64617279″ parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” class=”man” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]Prague – Sandra the Fire Dancer – Image Gallery[/x_custom_headline][cs_text style=”color: #fff;”]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox. [/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Prague2″][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Prague Part I – Charles Bridge & River Vltava

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 9: Europe 2016 – Prague Part I” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the 9th post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic. Prague. Oh man..
What can I possibly say about Prague? This first post will focus on the Charles Bridge and the River Vltava.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images. [/cs_alert][cs_text]

Prague. Oh man..

What can I possibly say about Prague. This was my second time in this incredible city. Pausha and I visited Prague in 2011 on a road trip from our place in France to visit her family in Poland and we stopped for a day and night. I was in my “I’m tired of photography” phase and largely left my camera in the car as we went out exploring and I only caught a few iPhone photos which were nothing more than snapshots.

This time around, I found myself with 9 days in the city and I came home with 1250 keeper images. I’m going to share only a handful of my favorites here, and I’ll break this into a series of 4 articles as there’s a lot to talk about. I want to keep each of the articles within a size that will best fit people’s attention spans.

Nine days in a town is a wonderful luxury and I’m more accustomed to spending a few days in any given location before moving onto the next. As a photographer there are some very real benefits to spending more than the average amount of days getting a feel for a location. It takes a while to learn where the good light hits and what times of day are best to be in any particular place. I took a lot of photos while in Prague, and I mean a lot of photos. Those taken over the first few days were little more than just snapshots. Why? Timing. Light. Location. It took a few days to get settled in, drink some beer, eat some excellent food, and figure out what we wanted to hit and plan out a rough shot list over the next week.

This first post will focus on the Charles Bridge and the River Vltava. The Charles Bridge is of course one of the focal attractions of the city and it’s the first thing people think about, sort of like the Eiffel Tower is for Paris. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is only one of a million attractions in Paris but it’s iconic. The Charles Bridge is like that.

I’m fascinated by rivers. Rivers are sustainers of life, fertility, and agriculture and what’s more they are the Kickstarter of cultures. Rivers made it possible for people to explore and discover other people, trade goods and culture with each other, thus playing a major role in the evolution of our species on countless levels. It’s the beginnings of things that I look to, and that likely explains why I’m also a fan of etymology.

I make it a point to visit the major river system of any city I visit.

I grew up in a town with a major river that led directly to the Atlantic Ocean. In Paris we have the Seine, London has the Thames. I was thrilled to visit the River Wisła in Warsaw on my first visit to Poland in 2001 largely because I was reading James Michener’s Poland at the time, which tells of a rich history of the river and its importance in the development of the Polish nation. In Vienna I visited the Danube. Etc, etc.

Like Paris, so much of Prague was built up around the river. The river is crossed by 18 bridges within the city limits and none of these bridges is as well known or as densely touristed than Karluv Most, AKA the Charles Bridge.
If you’re interested you can read up on the history of the Charles Bridge here on Wikipedia.

Tourists Tourists Tourists

On some days the tourists were so thick on the bridge that we were weary and furious before we could get to the other end. On other days the tourists were the attraction and those days were quite fun. We got up at 4am one morning to get to the bridge before sunrise and take some shots of it with few or no people on it. We found that some folks were there, still drunk from the night before, or out with the same thoughts as we had.

What follows are some photos taken over the course of these nine days, on different days and in different types of light. My intention is to show a variety of vibes and tones. While some of the images may be redundant, I hope to convey some of the magic of the Charles Bridge and the River Vltava, and the activity that occurs around the bridges.

The Charles Bridge is without doubt the beating heart of the city, though some may argue that the heart is the Old Town Square. To me it feels like the bridge. There is so much on the bridge or immediately off the bridge that I feel one could almost avoid the old Town Square entirely and still “get” Prague.

Thanks for reading!

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section bg_color=”global-color:4272616e64205365636f6e64617279″ parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]Prague Charles Bridge & River Vltava – Image Gallery[/x_custom_headline][cs_text style=”color: #fff;”]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox. [/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Post_Prague1″][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Our One Day in Kraków

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 8 : Europe 2016 – Our Day in Kraków” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the 8th post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images from our day in Kraków. [/cs_alert][cs_text]I always enjoy my time in Poland, a fact which my wife — who is actually from Poland — finds terrifically baffling. I suppose I’m not a big fan of my hometown either, and would find it strange to hear from anybody who traveled out of their way to visit Taunton, Massachusetts. Okay, it’s pretty bizarre, come to think of it. I don’t care, I really enjoy Poland.

I particularly fell in love with Kraków when I first visited the city in 2001, freshly engaged to Pausha and abroad for the first time in my life. I spent a month kicking around with her in Warsaw, though my role was largely to distract her from the work she was supposed to be doing. I had a second-hand copy of James Michener’s Poland and I had already read Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies. Where the subject of Poland was concerned I was fascinated, and still am.

A Brief (and pilfered) History:

The earliest known settlement on the present site of Kraków was established on Wawel Hill, and dates back to the 4th century. Legend attributes the town’s establishment to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a ravenous dragon, Smok Wawelski. Many knights unsuccessfully attempted to oust the dragon by force, but instead, Krakus fed it a poisoned lamb, which killed the dragon. The city was free to flourish. Dragon bones, most likely that of mammoth, are displayed at the entrance of the Wawel Cathedral.

(yes, really)

Before the Polish state had been formed, Kraków was the capital of the tribe of Vistulans, subjugated for a short period by Great Moravia. After Great Moravia was destroyed by the Hungarians, Kraków became part of the kingdom of Bohemia. The first appearance of the city’s name in historical records dates back to 966 (!!), when a Sephardi Jewish traveller, Abraham ben Jacob, described Kraków as a notable commercial centre under the rule of the then duke of Bohemia; and mentioned the Baptism of Prince Mieszko I as the first historical ruler of Poland. Mieszko took Kraków from Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.

You can read more on Wikipedia.
The History of Kraków
Timeline of Kraków
Kraków Old Town.

Back to the Story

Kazdyn and I only had a few days in Poland this summer and we kept quite busy. I’ve already written about our time in Katowice, visiting Auschwitz, and the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle. We had one day set aside to drive into Kraków and the weather gods smiled upon us.

We drove into Kraków and parked up on Wawel Hill, which offers access to an incredible view of the Wisła River and to Wawel Castle itself, so we started there. I’ve been to Wawel now 4 times and it always looks different to me, being as it is in a near-constant state of renovation and modernization. It’s sort of fun to go back through my photos over the years, especially one series of images I’ve taken of Pausha sitting in the same spot. On this trip we didn’t have Pausha with us so Kazdyn graciously stood in for her.

From Wawel we worked out way down the hill towards the Old Town

There’s a lot to be seen on all of the little side streets and alleys and we hit them all. I then dragged poor Kazdyn around for a half hour looking for my favorite restaurant, which I couldn’t find as they didn’t have their trademark wooden statue outside holding its menu.

The restaurant is called Chłopskie jadło, which means, simply, “peasant food.” Really. And it’s so good!

From there we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, occasionally stopping for a beer and to rest up. It was a hot day and we grew tired pretty quickly. It had been my intention to stay into the evening and shoot the city at night, but we both were pretty tired after 2 solid weeks of non-stop shooting and we elected instead to head back to Katowice for dinner and some late-night shooting there after a nap.

Here are some images from our day in Kraków and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Enjoy!

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section bg_color=”hsl(0, 0%, 23%)” parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]Our Day in Kraków – Image Gallery[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Post_Krakow”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Hands On with the Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]The Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens is at the same time one of my favorite lenses and one of my least-used lenses. A very frequently asked question about this lens is how exactly is it different from Fuji’s 14mm f/2.8 prime lens, and while they’re both in the “ultra wide” category of lenses, I feel that they have far more differences than they have similarities.

Many folks use the Fujifilm 10-24mm lens for landscapes, and in fact I see a fair amount of conversations regarding ND filters for the 10-24mm (it’s a difficult fit due to the very large front diameter). I personally prefer the LEE Seven5 Camera Filter System for my Fuji lenses, though there are some problems with vignetting on the 10-24mm from 10mm until you get to about 14 or 15mm.

WHY I LOVE IT

The Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens is my “creative” lens choice. Make no mistake, from 10mm until about 16mm there is a good amount of perspective distortion that comes into play. I expect that distortion and use it to my advantage.

That distortion goes away around 16mm and it settles down quite a bit. Now, if you don’t want a bunch of perspective distortion and edge warping in your shot, you’d be better off staying between 16mm – 24mm with this lens, but if you were going to do that why not simply reach for Fuji’s 18-55mm f/2.8-4 “kit” zoom? It’s faster, and lighter and sharper. In fact, the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Zoom Lens is my go-to landscape lens, but I’ll get into that in another post.

In short, this lens brings the drama in a very pleasing manner, with excellent contrast and color rendering. When I want the drama but don’t want to get into crazy fish-eye territory, this is the one I reach for. It’s wide enough that you’re almost always in focus at any aperture and the OIS provides enough stabilization to shoot long after the lighting conditions have ceased to be ideal.

HOW I USE IT

Let’s start with how I don’t use it. I do not use this lens for landscapes. I know, I know.. a lot of people love this lens for landscapes. Lots of people use a lens like this to get a wide landscape into frame. Not me. I don’t see the point of that. This is also why I’m unconcerned about ND filter vignetting when pulled wide on this lens.

When I shoot landscapes, I’m either shooting in order to create a fine art print for sale or I’m interested in licensing the image on 500px. Either way, I want my image dripping with resolution. This lens isn’t super great for that. (My landscapes are created with the 18-55mm “kit” lens, or Fuji’s 56mm portrait lens and are made from 14 – 28 frame composites.)

Again, the perspective distortion characteristic of this lens (and which I love) doesn’t belong in my landscape photos. I personally feel that ultra-wides are the worst choice for landscape photography. Wide-angle lenses push any background elements into exaggerated miniature. I’m not entirely clear when that is ever a desirable thing.

Generally-speaking, landscapes are all about background. This lens is all about foreground.

I use this lens to get close. VERY close. With this lens, I can get right on top of my subject and still fill the frame with a large amount of contextual information.

I use this lens when I want to exaggerate foreground elements, or when I want to tell a very big story.

A couple of good examples in the gallery below are the giant Moreton Bay fig tree image, and the image of the palm tree on the overpass. Neither of these images would have been possible with other Fuji lenses, based on the surrounding area, how much room there is to back up, etc.

SOME USAGE DATA

There’s always how I think I’m using a tool and how I’m actually using a tool, and these things don’t always agree. In this case I was close to accurate, but I was surprised at the frequency count on the long end of the range. I pulled this data from Adobe Lightroom. Note that this doesn’t reflect my shooting habits, but the focal length frequency counts of my keeper images shot with the 10-24mm. I didn’t run this against the thousands of discarded images I’ve shot with this lens over the past 3 years.

As you can see, I definitely favor this lens at its widest.

IN SUMMARY

  • The 10-24mm is not a landscape lens. Lots of folks will say it is, but it’s not. Not for me, anyway.
  • I often use this lens on the streets, though it is heavy and is not at all inconspicuous. It tends to live in my bag and only goes onto a body when I see a story that I’d like to tell an in exaggerated way. I’ve used it to get some stuff out of my street photography that wouldn’t have been possible with a “normal” lens.
  • Additionally, it’s terrific for interiors. Yes, there will be perspective distortion, but that’s sort of the point when trying to make an entire room fit into a single frame.
  • Lastly, the Fujifilm 10-24mm is a must-have travel lens. I spend a fair amount of time traipsing through European cities and there are times when I want to pull a characteristic city feature into a shot. Again, the lens spends most of its time in my bag and not on one of my bodies, but I have it ready for when I want more environment than a “normal” lens can provide.

Some of my favorite and most popular prints have been made with this lens. I’ve bought it sold it twice during a 6-month period when I was trying to figure out if the 10-24mm or the 14mm was right for me. I ended up keeping them both after tiring of the repetitive eBay hassle and after realizing that each one of them belonged in my toolbox.

Enjoy the gallery below, and hit me with any questions you might have about this or any other Fuji lens.

Cheers!

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Post_10-24mm_Lens”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”10″ ][cs_element_row _id=”11″ ][cs_element_column _id=”12″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”13″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

11 Photography Lessons 2016 Taught Me

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Holy Crap, it’s 2017

How was your 2016? Into which worlds did your own photography journey lead you?

2016 took me on a 20-day non-stop photowalk that had stops in Barcelona, Southern France, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I held my first month-long exhibition resulting in the sale of several prints, I participated in a group showcase, and I was invited to hang one of my Iconic Santa Barbara images in the Mayor’s Office as part of the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative Art in the Mayor’s Office program. What have you done over the past year? I’d love to hear your stories!

All in all, it’s been one hell of a year. As I do at the top of each year, I’m currently ruminating on what I’ve learned, where I’ve grown, and where my growth has maybe been stopped or slowed. I’m not a big fan of listicles, but I’ve got one here anyway. What started out as a list of 3 or 4 items that I have learned over the year quickly Tribbled into a list of 11 items. Let’s dig in.

#1: Shoes matter

This year I’ve walked more than 850km in service of photography in all sorts of environments. I’ve worn out a pair of Nikes and a pair of Merrill Moab Rover street shoes (my favorite photowalk shoe) chasing my craft and I’ve learned that shoes matter more than almost anything else. If you’re serious about pounding the pavement you need to focus on form over fashion with regards to your footwear. I recently went out for a few hours in the pouring rain in order to get some shots that were rare and difficult to get (as it hardly ever rains in Southern California) and in doing so I very quickly learned that I had completely worn the tread off of my sneakers. I almost took a nasty spill at one point but recovered. Luckily, I had another pair of shoes in the car, which leads me to my next lesson.

#2: Change of clothes

I often shoot an hour or more from home. I live in Santa Barbara and I like to work the Santa Monica-Venice Beach area. Since it’s Southern California I never know what the weather is really going to be like, and since I tend to be a bit on the adventurous side I never know if and when I may find myself standing waist-high in the surf trying to shoot a dolphin or something. I always therefore have a change of clothes in the car and I cover all of my bases down to socks, underwear, and a dry pair of shoes. This isn’t only a preventive measure; I’ve found myself accessing my daypack at least 50% of the time. In fact I find that knowing I have a wardrobe with me affects the risks I’m willing to take in order to get a shot.

#3: Blend in but add flair

Disclosure: I’m kinda fashionista. My wife is definitely a fashionista so it sort of rubs off. When I go out I normally dress for going out.. but I’ve learned not to. This year has brought me to some rather dicey urban spots around Los Angeles, San Francisco, Prague, and Poland. On at least one of those occasions I realized rather abruptly that I was entirely overdressed for that part of the city after sundown. I’ve therefore learned to dress for my audience. Dress to blend in, not to stand out. I’m not trying to impress anybody with my fashion sensibilities. In fact I’m trying to not attract any sort of attention to myself at all.

Let’s talk about street photography psychology for a moment. With regards to shooting people on the streets, I’ve learned that I need to look like them in order to blend in but I also need to display a bit of credibility in case I’m caught taking the shot and that this varies from location to location.

For example, I wear street clothes in Los Angeles. Jeans, non-descript street shoes, a cap, sunglasses, etc. I blend in. But I will also wear a nice scarf. This is a step above how others are dressed and I’ve learned, as weird as it may sound, that a scarf totally disarms people who I approach openly. They look at the scarf and relax a bit. I look like they do but the scarf tells them (I have no idea why) that I’m not going to bother them for money or try to scam them in some way. They usually see the scarf before they see the camera.

In Paris this is different. People dress very well in Paris. I therefore have to dress well. If I were to wear my LA street clothes in Paris my subjects would actively avoid me. I need to dress up when working the streets of Paris and I wear an even nicer scarf.

In Poland, I found that my clothes need to be practical, not showy, but also a step above casual.

I’m not sure how much of this actually matters but you want people to ignore you in the best of times, not feel unsafe around you if they do notice you, and you always want to avoid becoming a target for aggression or theft. I feel more safe on the streets now that I’ve worked this all out. Your mileage may vary.

#4: Have business cards in your bag

This one speaks to credibility as well. Let’s say that I’ve just shot a candid portrait and the subject catches me in the act. I can slink off into the crowd like some dirty thief, or I could play the “silly Asian tourist card” that Eric Kim uses — he’s such a funny and great instructor. Working with him was a high point of 2016 for me — but I’m not Asian.., or I can walk straight up to my subject with a smile, say “HELLO!”, hand them a business card. While they’re busy being very impressed with my calling card (I have very cute little Moo MiniCards with images on the back) I chimp the best image of them and show it to them on the back of the camera. I always invite them to email me and I offer to send them their photos for free, no strings attached. I have only ever been met with enthusiasm and gratitude at this.

#5: Watch that Bag

If you’re anything like me you have a penchant for nice camera bags. I own no fewer than 5 camera bags of varying size and fancy-pants-ness and no matter how much I covet that wonderful full-leather ONA Bowery or Prince Street bag, I’m never going to buy one. Why not? Re-read lesson #3 about blending in. Carrying a very expensive leather camera bag puts a target on our backs that I’m not willing to wear. My everyday carries are an ONA Bowery or an ONA Prince Street bag in waxed canvas with leather accents. They’re beautiful bags and they do great in foul weather (the leather bags obviously do not.) And what’s best is that these bags could conceivably be a (AHEM) man-purse. I do not attract very much attention wearing these bags which for me is entirely the point.

[x_alert heading=”A note about camera straps.” type=”info”]Hopefully you’re not carrying the strap that came with your camera and has an enormous CANON EOS 5DS-R logo printed on it. If you are, come on. Only tourists do that. A mugger can see that logo a mile away and you’re just asking for trouble. These straps are awful anyway and will contribute to neck and shoulder strain. Get yourself a Black Rapid sling strap or better yet anything from Peak Design. Better gear, better experience on the streets means that you’ll shoot more frequently with more comfort and fewer obstacles. Ditch the branded stuff.[/x_alert]

#6: Be able to hide the evidence

This one is really an adjunct to the last lesson. I always carry two camera bodies for reasons I’ll get into in a moment. It’s important that the bag you carry can accommodate ALL of your gear. Here’s why: I used to carry a small bag with either a spare body and lens, my phone, wallet, car keys, etc. That bag would be full and I’d then wear my main body on a strap. Travel light, right?!

NO. I have come to appreciate the ability to stow all of my gear into my bag and become just another tourist in a moment’s notice. This practice has served me in several cities around the world. There are times when I want no evidence of carrying a bunch of rather expensive camera gear on my person. I’ve gone so far as to stow all of my gear and drape a sweater over my bag, through the straps, in order to look like a tourist with a day pack instead of a photographer carrying $6K worth of highly desirable and easily re-sellable equipment.

Imagine how you look to a mugger in Barcelona carrying 3 months pay on your person. That’s a lot of temptation and you’ve got to think about this sort of thing if you’re going to be out in the world.

#7: Gear pack

I keep a small waterproof camera bag in the trunk of my car with a few items in it. There’s a small flash unit, a set of Allen wrenches, a box of AA batteries, a Peak Design Cuff hands strap with some replacement hardware in case I lose the bottom mount or one of my anchor clips breaks on me. I also keep a MeFoto Walkabout monopod (in fire-engine red, of course) in the car in case I need it for something or in case I need a bludgeon. No joke.

#8: Always a backup

I bring two bodies with me on all planned photowalks and trips. I’ve come to realize that changing lenses in the field is a huge pain in the ass and exposes one to risk of theft, damage, and increases wear and tear on my gear. Thus two cameras. Also, I have had a camera body die on me while on a photo trip. Replacing it was not an option at the time and the entire trip would have been forfeit had I not been carrying an exact duplicate of my main camera. I put a wide lens on one body, a long-ish lens on the other and that’s just how I work. My hit rate has increased dramatically since I employed this habit. For those of you who argue “one camera, one lens”… yeah, okay. That’s fine. That’s also hobby-talk and there’s nothing wrong with hobby-talk. There are days when my second body never comes out of the bag at all and I do work with “one camera, one lens.” The difference is that I have it when I need it. I’m shooting for prints and projects and being unprepared against equipment failure is simply unprofessional.

I can’t imagine not having a foolproof backup system for my files and I can no longer imagine not having a backup for capturing and creating those files.

#9: Plan your walks

This one’s a little bit banal but has made a big difference for me. There is something to be said for just losing oneself in an unfamiliar city. I advocate this and enjoy doing it myself. When I’m working an area that I’m familiar with I do tend to make a rough game plan instead of leaving it to chance.

I figure that I’m going to shoot in zone A for a certain period and I’ve got a good idea of what the light is going to be like at that time in that area. I plan out zone B and I know what sorts of things I’m looking for and I know where the light will be coming from. Zone C is almost always a café or restaurant that I’ve been looking forward to trying out, and I will hang out, rest up a bit, and review my images. That pit stop becomes an oasis and a point to look forward to. I’ll change out my lenses if needed and then head off to Zone D. And that’s how I plan my photowalks. I leave plenty of room for improvisation but I know what I’m after and my eye is calibrated against the natural light.

Discards, revisited

A couple of years ago I wrote about sitting on your discards as I learned that immediately following a photowalk was not the right time to do selects and delete images. That’s stuck with me and I teach it to this day. I’ve since taken it a step further however. I now work my shots quite more than I have in the past.

I wrote about this one image I got of The Princess and the King. That was frame #13 of 15 shots. In the past I’d have taken 2 or 3 shots and moved on, missing out on that perfect shot that has made a wonderful print and has sold a handful of times.

There’s another image, currently one of my personal favorites, of a heron that I worked for 10 minutes before finally getting what I wanted. I enjoyed a lengthy interaction with the bird whose natural distrust eventually turned into curiosity. My rapport with this heron (if you can call it that) enabled the image to be far more than it would have been otherwise. And to make things even more magical a pelican flew right into my frame adding even more magic than had been there before.

The resulting print came from frame #69 of 75 total shots. There’s an argument for doing the work and sticking with an idea if ever I saw one.

I have found that I like to have a record of the “misses,” a sort of digital contact sheet, if you will. It’s incredibly instructive to save those images which before I’d have considered rejects; discards. I now save them and I learn from the “contact sheet.” This contact sheet also serves as an excellent teaching tool for me as I work with others.

#10: Projects, always Projects

Think about your favorite television shows. Some episodes tie together into a larger narrative told over several weeks or months and some episodes stand by themselves and deliver their story arc in a single sitting. I think of photography in this way. I like to have an ongoing project that I’m shooting for because it changes how I shoot.

I’m all for heading blind into a town and getting what I can. It’s fun and as an exercise, serves to train my eye, hone my skills, and sometimes even results in an image or two that I can be proud of or even turn into a print for sale. This is like one of those stand-alone television episodes.

However, the larger narrative approach is far more rewarding for me and I generally tend towards having multiple open projects at a time. It’s like going into the grocery with a list. A shopping list doesn’t exclude the acquisition of items not on the list but helps you get through the grocery more effectively while ensuring that you don’t leave without essential items.

People ask me about being overwhelmed with too many concurrent projects and the truth is that shooting for one project has me shift my thinking about how I shoot for another of the projects. Having multiple ongoing projects is an enormous benefit for me as my results are better and bigger than the sum of all parts.

Projects I’m working on:

  1. Knockers and Knobs. Format: Photobook. A coffee table book of door knocks and door knobs shot over 6 years on locations throughout Europe and USA.
  2. The Other Santa Barbara. Format: Photobook. A socio-policital photo essay covering a fuller story of beautiful Santa Barbara, California than is normally conveyed.
  3. The Origin of Food. Format: Photobook. A story of agriculture in California.
  4. The Now Bostonians. Format: Photobook. Still conceptually vague. First location trip to occur May 2017.
  5. Iconic Santa Barbara. Format: Collection of Fine Art Prints. Ongoing project resulting in regular product updates on my store.

Each one of these projects takes up space in my head and what I learn in support of one of the projects acts to enhance and improve the work I do on other projects. I highly recommend conceiving a project and holding space for that whenever you go out to shoot. This leads to the pursuit of Voice, which I intend to expand on a lot more in future articles.

#11: Wetter is Better

I never thought having water resistant gear would make much of a difference for me until Fujifilm starting releasing WR camera bodies and lenses. I do not like being wet and I do not like being cold. Therefore I used to have no photos that were taken in wet or cold conditions.

Well, look: If you want images that are different than what everyone is shooting you’ve got to be different than everybody else. My WR gear has encouraged me to go outside in the rain and capture some truly unique images and a range of subject matter that I otherwise would have no access to.

Images of Santa Barbara in the rain are very rare given both people’s reluctance to go out in the rain and the infrequency with which rain actually falls in Southern California these days. Another huge upside of being out in the rain is that the rain will sometimes stop and when the sun comes out through the clouds the resulting light is unbelievably gorgeous. And rare. Very rare. An entire new world has opened up for me and I’m enjoying it. See Lessons #2, #3, and #9 from above as they’re related.[/cs_text][x_line style=”border-top-width: 1px;”][cs_text]Well. Wow. That’s all, folks.

Thanks for reading, and if you want to chat, let me know what’s going on for you.

Cheers, and Happy Shooting.
Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”7″ ][cs_element_row _id=”8″ ][cs_element_column _id=”9″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”10″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

The ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle, Poland

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px 0px 45px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 7 : Europe 2016 – Ogrodzieniec, Poland – Let's Capture the Castle” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the 7th post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images from inside the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle.[/cs_alert][cs_text]Ogrodzieniec Castle is a ruined medieval castle in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. Built in the mid-14th century this gothic castle has been subjected to countless sieges, fires, attacks, and has changed hands several times. It was finally burned down in 1702, never to be rebuilt.

A few of the original wooden areas have been restored to illustrate some of what the castle was like when there were apartments, stables, storehouses and merchants actively working and living within the walls.

Another fascinating part of this castle is how is was built into the living rock, though this is not unique. I’ve seen this all across Poland.

My favorite part of touring Ogrodzieniec Castle is observing the town from the top. The village of Ogrodzieniec is as picturesque a Polish village as ever you’ll find, and the town exists largely to support the rather large influx of tourists who arrive to visit the castle each year. In fact, Kazdyn and I parked in a local resident’s driveway for a few hours for the low cost of 10 złoty (about $2.50).

There’s an observation tower which features a very tight and steep spiral staircase inside of a very cramped stairwell. It’s also always very crowded with other tourists and both times I’ve visited this place I’ve suffered a panic attack in the same spot. Being afraid of both heights and enclosed spaces it’s perhaps best that I avoid the tower in the future.

The trail leading from the access road to the castle has been turned into a promenade of commercial activity with every manner of tchotchke on display as well as activities for kids, and the ever-present beer gardens and sausage vendors. Very, very Poland.

Here are some photos of the castle. The featured image in this post (at the top) was not taken by me, but pulled from the Castle’s Wikipedia page as I was too stupid to take a proper establishing shot open arriving. We were being pursued by a vigorous thunderstorm that day and I suppose my brain was addled by the rushing about.

Thanks for reading.
Chris.

Featured Image Credit:
By Łukasz Śmigasiewicz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]Ogrodzieniec Castle Image Gallery.[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Ogrodzieniec”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Auschwitz – Poland

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/6″ style=”padding: 0px;”] [/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 6 : Europe 2016 – Oświęcim, Poland – A Trip Into Auschwitz” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the sixth post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images from inside Auschwitz.[/cs_alert][cs_text]

Auschwitz. Concentration camp. This place is many things to many people.

I’ve been practicing steadfast avoidance with regards to writing this blog post for the past 7 months now. It’s very hard to talk about this place and what it means to me. It’s not particularly painful to talk about, though it is painful to visit. It’s just rather difficult to articulate. I find that words are insufficient to convey what’s there for me.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp is located in Oświęcim, Poland. (“Auschwitz” is simply the Germanization of the Polish “Oświęcim”, just as “Gdansk” became “Danzig” under German occupation.)

Auschwitz 2001
Pausha & Chris in Auschwitz, 2001

I first visited the camp in 2001 with Pausha. I’ve since been back in 2012, and once again in 2016. Pausha has been countless times. Each time for me has been a profound experience and each time I’ve come out changed.

[x_alert type=”info”]CASE IN POINT: I’ve been sitting at my computer typing out these two paltry paragraphs for the better part of an hour. I really do find it difficult to explain why this place is important for me, what I get out of bearing witness here, why I’m so drawn to coming back. In this case words just fail. [/x_alert]

I’ll talk about photography instead. Kazdyn and I rented a car and we had our week planned out. We were a bit bummed when the forecast quite suddenly called for heavy rains on “Auschwitz Day”. Undaunted, and unable to change our plans to another day, we headed towards Oświęcim with some optimism that the weather would hold up. The weather did not hold up. We were treated to dark, overcast skies until finally it broke wide open and we were treated to a steady downpour. For over an hour.

The downside of the rains is that we took refuge inside various buildings waiting for pauses in the deluge to go back out and shoot. I was personally disinterested in shooting any of the museum exhibits (all quite horrifying), but having to stay indoors with those exhibits wasn’t very comforting either. I finally went outside in the rain anyway. My cameras are weather-resistant and it was warm enough, and I didn’t want to spent any more time inside the museum buildings than I needed to. I’ve included some of the images from the few hours we were there at the bottom of this post. You can skip down to the gallery if you like.

Before we get to the gallery, there are two photos that I wanted to talk about in particular.

First is this image, which I have entitled Hope, the Dove of Auschwitz. There’s a story behind this image.

Oświęcim, Poland
Oświęcim, Poland

When we first arrived at the camp we were one of a thousand, million, billion people mulling about the front gate. There were several tour groups who went in that day, with many school-aged children and young adults all wandering around the place being loud kids and generally driving me crazy. I tried to shoot the iconic front gate and was not able to get anything of use. Between the rain and terrible light and the sheer volume of teenagers taking SELFIES at the front gate of the death camp (I really have no words for this) I resigned myself to failure and moved on.

Well, lucky for me, the rains seem to have encouraged most of the tour groups to pack up and leave early. As we were walking around the back end of the camp towards the crematorium an couple of hours later the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun once again graced smiled upon us. I took off and made a beeline for the front gate. It was *relatively* deserted, which is to say the hundreds of people blocking my shot had now been reduced to mere dozens of people actively blocking my shot.

I claimed my ground, found my composition and got set up for my shot. I ended up taking about 30 shots from this vantage that all look very much the same but for the rapidly changing light on the buildings. As the clouds shifted over us, the dappled sunlight danced for me, and I had only to be patient and shoot around the steady stream of tourists pouring out of the grounds. You can’t see that there are bunches of people just off to each side of every frame I shot. Well, as fate would have it, I was rewarded for my patience.

This dove was nested on a rooftop in the building over to the left corner, and she took flight and circled the gate twice. I got 4 shots of her in various positions, but in this frame I got her just as she turned her belly towards me, posing for the camera in the best way imaginable. The other shots I have with her in it feature her as a bird flying head-on or as a squiggly line, etc. This one was the kind of shot I was praying for when I got up that morning. I could go back there every day for 30 years and never again get that shot. To make things even nicer, just as the dove came out that building in the center of the image lit up for just a few seconds. Prior images feature this image in mostly flat light similar to that of the building to the left. This is one of my favorite images in my portfolio to date.

Uh oh, Closing Time

I spent too must time fussing about on the gate shot and we were dangerously close to missing out on gaining entry to the Birkenau (Auschwitz II) camp just down the road. We hopped in the car and rushed over there with only 20 minutes to spare before they were to close the gate. There’s a railway car parked permanently on the train tracks inside of Birkenau and it’s quite a ways away on foot. Huffing and puffing we raced to the car and got to work.

The sky remained clear, but we were also losing the sun, and fast. I wanted to get this (also iconic) shot in a way that was perhaps a bit different than all of the ways I’ve seen it done before by others.

Many other photographers have made some excellent photos of this scene. Lots are done in very moody and grainy B&W, and I’ve seen a bunch of HDR work with super-wide angle lenses that just bring the drama. Neither of those approaches were for me and I came here wanting to avoid what I felt was an easy solution. I didn’t want to “bring the drama” to a scene that (for me) was already quite dramatic enough so chose a medium zoom, and shot the railway car and the tracks leading towards the gate. I shot the sun setting behind some guard towers, and I made some additional establishing shots at small apertures designed to show the massive scale of the place.

Then something caught my eye. In a ditch beside the train tracks grew a small patch of wildflowers.

Now, if you know your WWII history, you’re already aware of what this place was, you know what those railway cars were for, and you also know what exactly happened at that very spot on those very train tracks. I’m not getting any deeper into that here. Suffice it to say that a patch of wildflowers in the day’s last rays of sunlight on the exact spot where such horrific events occurred was just screaming to be photographed. This is a really good example of coming prepared but capturing something completely different than what you were planning to get.

Here was my shot. I crawled into the ditch and inched towards the flowers on my belly, careful to compose so that that tallest flower appeared to rise above the level of the train tracks and seemed to touch the sky. I took a few of these, some at f/11 where everything is in focus, including the main gate building, and a few others where the main gate is visible and recognizable, without being the focus. This one here is my favorite.

Birkenau wildflowers
Birkenau wildflowers

Right around this time the staff started to blow whistles and call everybody back to the entrance/exit. It was time to leave. We rode back to the hotel in silence. There was a lot to process.

It took me a month before I could even look at my images. It’s taken me 7 months to be able to write anything about it. Now it’s out. Let’s hear it for small miracles.

Thanks for reading.
Chris.[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/6″ style=”padding: 0px;”] [/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px 0px 45px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]Auschwitz Image Gallery.[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Auschwitz”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”14″ ][cs_element_row _id=”15″ ][cs_element_column _id=”16″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”17″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Katowice Poland – A Shining City with a Dirty History

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 5 : Europe 2016 – Katowice Cleans Up its Act” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the fifth post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of my favorite images from Katowice 2016.[/cs_alert][cs_text]

Katowice, Poland.

Nobody I talk to has ever heard of it, though it’s a is a center of science, culture, industry, business, trade, and transportation in Upper Silesia and southern Poland. The whole metropolitan area is the 16th most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union with an output amounting to $114.5 billion. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Kazdyn and I were there to attend (and get roped into photographing) the wedding of my mother-in-law. Our entire trip was actually wrapped around this one event, whose irony was increased tenfold when Pausha found herself unable to accompany us. Fear not; Mother was married, pictures were taken, and vodka was consumed in copious amounts. By others. I had sparkling water.

I like Katowice a lot. It’s one of those cities that can manage to look really gorgeous or really trashy depending on how the light falls on it. I’ve always enjoyed myself there, except for that time in 2001 when I had some trouble breathing the toxic air.

This is Pausha’s home town; where she was born and raised, so she has some pretty strong feelings of her own about the city in general. When I first visited Katowice in 2001 the coal mines had only just closed down leaving the air sooty and gritty. I was advised at that time not to wear a white shirt out of doors because I’d return wearing a gray shirt. No exaggeration. The coal dust was still in the air and the town smelled like an ashtray. That’s all changed and they’ve made a huge effort to clean things up.

I cannot breathe here! (That’s okay, none of us can.)

In fact, Katowice has undergone a large civic remodel just in the past year, which has effected the entire downtown city center. It’s actually kind of nice there now. Pausha was a bit surprised when I shared my photos with her.

Coal Mining has been a really big deal there since the mid 1860s when the region was annexed by Prussia. Here’s an interesting excerpt from Wikipedia:

[x_alert heading=”FUN FACT: ” type=”info”]Severe ecological damage to the environment occurred during the post–Second World War communist governance in the People’s Republic of Poland, but recent changes in regulations, procedures and policies of Polish government since the fall of Communism have reversed much of the harm. Economic reforms since 1989 have shifted the economy away from heavy industry towards small businesses.[/x_alert]
Some of the highlights of our time in Katowice are:

Food.
Polish food is among my favorite cuisine I’ve experienced.

Street Art.
There’s some very cool and innovative stuff happening here.

Spodek Arena Complex.
This thing is just crazy cool. Aside from the main dome, the complex includes a gym, an ice rink, a hotel and three large car parks. It was the largest indoor venue of its kind in Poland until it was surpassed by Kraków Arena in 2014. Spodek translates to “saucer” as in U.F.O. It’s sort of a joke. It’s also built on a mining waste dump. That’s not a joke.

Right next door to Spodek is the Katowice Culture Zone (Katowice Strefa Kultury). Formally a major coal mine (in operation from 1823 – 1999) around which the city had been built, it has been transformed into a museum and cultural center, providing a wonderful city park environment for residents while celebrating the regional heritage. It’s pretty cool.

Street Photography.
There’s a lot to shoot here in Katowice with many residents traveling on foot and the frequent appearance of the Silesian Interurbans – one of the largest tram systems in the world, in existence since 1894.

We plan to visit again in 2017 for a few days on our way back to Prague.

Cheers!
Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]A Katowice Image Gallery.[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”katowice”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

That Time We Popped into France for Dinner

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 4 : Europe 2016 – We Popped into France for Dinner” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the fourth post in a series chronicling my 2016 summer photography project through Spain, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of my favorite images from Céret 2016.[/cs_alert][cs_text]I lived for two years in a little town called Céret, just a few kilometers over the French/Spanish border. Since Barcelona is only about an 80-90 minute drive, it stood to reason that we’d take a day out of this vacation and head up into “Catalonia Nord” which is the bit of Catalonia that extends up into France.

[x_alert heading=”FUN FACT: ” type=”info”]The cérétans (people of Céret), like the barceloní, also identify very strongly with their Catalan heritage, despite being French.[/x_alert]

My plan was to visit Céret, see some friends, and make some photographs that I regretted not making when I lived there. I’d also planned to hit some other towns along the way, including Cadaqués and Figueres (both in Spain) and Collioure and Argeles sur mer (both in France.)

Alas, renting a car that Saturday was just not going to happen as none of the car rental agencies who advertised being open on Saturday actually were.

[x_blockquote type=”left”]Pro Tip: In Europe, services such as Yelp and Trip Advisor are to be taken with a nice heavy grain of skepticism. Posted store hours are always wrong. Such profiles are unmanaged by the business owner if in fact they are even aware of the profile. Do not rely on Yelp.[/x_blockquote]

After a bunch of wandering around in the blistering sun we finally found a car rental agency who was actually open and whose posted hours stated that they’d be open on Sunday morning as well. We’d already killed too much time in searching for a car to rent, so we decided to go up into France on Sunday instead. Reservations were made and we went about our day on the Barcelona waterfront.

It turns out that this Sunday in question was the last day of La Fête de la Cerise et Céret, which while being quaint and mildly entertaining, is a really big deal for the people of Céret. We knew that we could expect a very crowded little town and full restaurants.

The day was warm and brilliantly sunny, though the forecast called for heavy rains. We hit the road early, and drove up into France without incident or border delays of any sort.

One truly amazing component to living in Catalonia was the near-constant exposure to the artistic energy of the area. It’s in the air, in the water, baked into the very fabric of the area. Goudí, Matisse, Soutine, Picasso, Dalí. These folks all lived and worked in Catalonia. This energy is inescapable and both Pausha and I credit this near-constant exposure to extremely cool art for awakening our inner artists.

There’s a special helping of this Catalan art ethos in Céret:

[x_blockquote type=”left”]From Wikipedia: Le Musée d’Art Moderne de Céret is a modern art museum in Céret, Pyrénées-Orientales, France, created by Pierre Brune and Frank Burty Haviland in 1950 with the personal support of their friends Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse who were involved in its creation.[/x_blockquote]

Picasso’s Céret atelier is of course no longer his, though the tenant card still bears his name.

Picasso's Name still at the door

Picasso's former workshop in Céret, France.
Picasso’s former workshop in Céret, France.

We decided to hit Figueres on the way to Céret.

Figueres, Spain and some Dalí for my baby

Figueres is a small Spanish town near to the border. This is where Salvador Dalí was born, and it’s where the Dalí Museum and Theater can be found. In fact, Dalí spent his last few years living in his museum.

Our first destination was the Dalí Museum and Theater gift shop, to pick up a souvenir for Pausha, in the form of one Dali elephant sculpture. She’s always been partial to these, since we first saw them, plucked out of Dali’s “the Elephants” painting and made 3 dimensional. I was very pleased with this purchase. So pleased in fact, that later I left it behind in my hotel room in Poland. Luckily Pausha’s mother lives next to the hotel and was able to swing by and rescue the elephant, whose name is Clarise, and ship it to us.

Figueres, Spain
Meet Clarice the Elephant.

After an hour in Figueres, it was time to challenge the border.

Well then, no big deal. Upon arriving in Céret, it was clear that a storm was indeed coming, though it seemed that we’d be safe for an hour or two. We therefore decided to go shooting first while we had the sun, and then eat dinner. This is when we hit snag #1.

My favorite restaurant, Café de France was full to the gills. I hadn’t told anyone there that I was coming and waltzed in with the intention of surprising the owner Pierre, and our good friend Marie, who runs the waitstaff there. In that I was not disappointed. I received a wonderfully ecstatic welcome and began to negotiate a table.

This is where I ran into snag #2. See, my French sucks. I can get by okay, but I have a lot of trouble with tenses. I thought that I had communicated pretty effectively that we were going to take some photos and that we’d be back at 3pm to eat. Everyone seemed quite amenable to this arrangement and so we went off to shoot up the town.

It turns out that Pierre was telling me that they were going to CLOSE DOWN that day at 3pm, because of the Cherry Festival and he was telling me to be back before then. Yeah.

Lost in Translation. My miserable command of the French language almost cost us our dinner!

Whoops. Luckily, we arrived at 2:55pm and after some frantic and hilarious back and forth, he was able to keep the chef in the kitchen for a few extra minutes and they provided us with a meal to remember, as is the norm for Café de France in little Céret.

Magret de canard

Céret, France - Café de France
Céret, France – Café de France

The storm arrived as we were finishing up our bottle of wine, and so we met up with a friend for more wine.

Raining like hell, might as well go home.

By the time we hit the highway south, the rain was coming down in sheets, sideways. This was the heaviest rainstorm I’d seen since we moved back to the States. We definitely don’t have rains like this in Southern California, though I sure wish we did. We ended up missing out on seeing (and shooting) in Collioure, Banyuls, and it was with a heavy heart that we decided to abandon the nightcap we’d planned in Cadaqués. That was a bit sad, but we did Céret, saw friends, had an excellent meal, and got some really nice shots of the town I used to know as home.

I thought that it would feel very weird to be back in Céret, and what was very weird about it is that it wasn’t weird at all. I didn’t feel like a tourist there, and I didn’t have any anxiety around it. It was just a familiar place. What did strike me as strange was the radio; hearing familiar radio station’s call letters and programming as we drove from Barcelona up into France and back. Otherwise, it was a perfectly normal day and I’m very glad that we went out of our way.

Here are some of the shots I got in Céret and Figueres.
Enjoy!
Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ bg_pattern=”https://ambulant.photo/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/square-harold.png” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]A Céret Image Gallery.[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox. Also, a few of these images were taken in Figueres, Spain. [/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Ceret Day”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Europe 2016 – First Stop – Barcelona (Image Gallery)

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 3 : First Stop – Barcelona” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the third post in a series chronicling my 2016 summer photography project through Spain, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of my favorite images from Barcelona 2016.[/cs_alert][cs_text]

Ah, Barcelona. How I’ve missed thee.

Pausha and I lived in Southern France for two years. Since we were right on the French/Spanish border, Barcelona was our nearest big city and we would “drive to town” almost every month, and more frequently in the warmer months and when we were entertaining friends.

We fell in love with Barcelona right away, as many people do. The food, the culture, the energy, the architecture, the art, the food. There is so much to love about Barcelona and to be quite honest, there wasn’t a whole lot Pausha and I missed about France when we repatriated back to the States. It was Barcelona that was fondest in our memories.

Kazdyn and I arrived at our flat late afternoon and hit the ground running. Forget sleep — we’ll sleep when we’re fed, as the saying goes. This stage of the trip was largely about food, settling into our photojournalist/bachelor lifestyle, retracing familiar steps and visiting old haunts. And food. Barcelona was very much a homecoming for me and it was comforting to find that everything was exactly as I’d left it.

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I had a shooting plan, but it sort of all fell apart.

We played it really loose for the first few days, and we were perfectly content to just sort of wander where our instincts took us. We were a bit more intentional in Krakow and Prague later on.

There’s a funny thing about Barcelona for me. Whenever I see a Barcelona street shot in my Instagram feed from another photographer, I almost always know it’s Barcelona before I read the caption or see the geotag. BCN is just that kind of town. Paris is like that too, I suppose, but Barcelona is just unmistakably and immediately recognizable.

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Unmistakably Barcelona

In a street photography scenario the locations are every bit as much part of the story as is the subject of the photograph, in a way that I don’t feel is true for cities such as New York or San Francisco. For this reason, I brought the two zoom lenses to use throughout the day, and two faster prime lenses to use at night. The zooms because I wanted to ensure that I could get the character of the surroundings into my frame even when working in a narrow alleyway that wouldn’t allow me to “zoom with my feet.”

I later found that I gravitated to the prime lenses for street shooting and favored the zooms when shooting vistas from on high or catching cityscapes and architecture. I’m glad that I brought the zooms, as they factored heavily into shooting in Auschwitz and in Prague but I quickly learned that I didn’t actually need to have them with me at all, and that was very surprising to me.

The Waterfront.

Water is very important for me. Yes, yes, I know; water is kind of important in order for organic life to survive, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that I can’t imagine living in a landlocked state or city. In Santa Barbara we’re only 50 paces from the Pacific Ocean. When we lived in France, the Mediterranean was only 30km away and we could reach the Sea in 15 minutes if I hauled ass on the highway. I’m not an avid swimmer or sailor but put my toes in the surf every few days. It’s cathartic for me, and the Barceloneta is one of my favorite features of this city.

I especially appreciated the old locals who would gather to play dominoes and drink sangria in the sun.

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Tourists Go Home!

I never before picked up on just how sick and tired the locals have become of the Hugely Massive Constant Invasion of tourists and we got a taste of that frustration in the form of silent protestors in the Gothic Quarter, and some other not-so-subtle messaging displayed at some of the more heavily-visited tourist destinations such as Park Güell and Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

touristgohome

Pausha shared with me an open letter to all Airbnb customers that someone had posted in Venice, Italy recently and it gave me pause. You can read that open letter here. http://imgur.com/zzZnvFR

This letter itself was inspired by a similar letter posted in the city of New Orleans where locals are having their own Airbnb battle. Read more about that here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/business/airbnb-pits-neighbor-against-neighbor-in-tourist-friendly-new-orleans.html

In summary.

All in all we were in Barcelona for 6 days, and in addition to eating a lot of incredible tapas, our photography playground included:

…and food. Wow, did we really do all of that in 6 days??

We also met a handful of very fun strangers, from the honeymooning Americans for whom I shot some portraits, to Cecil who moved to Barcelona from Canada to start a design business, to Taylor the undergrad who was observing the fish at the harbor. Kazdyn of course was a magnet for folks trying to sell him pot. Go figure.

Speaking of which: Some food recommendations.

My personal restaurant recommendations for anyone traveling to Barcelona are

[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section bg_color=”global-color:4272616e64205365636f6e64617279″ parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 65px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_custom_headline level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false” style=”color: hsl(0, 0%, 100%);”]A Barcelona Image Gallery[/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.[/cs_text][x_raw_content][the_grid name=”Barcelona Favorites”][/x_raw_content][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”12″ ][cs_element_row _id=”13″ ][cs_element_column _id=”14″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”15″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Always Work Your Shot

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Some other guy’s great advice

My favorite author in the extensive Lynda.com training video library (now the “Lynda.com from LinkedIn” library) is Photographer and Educator Ben Long. Ben is unusually articulate and has a knack for explaining some fairly complex concepts in a way that is easily digested and retained (as well as highly entertaining), and there’s one concept that Ben repeats over and again in a few of his titles, including in his excellent weekly series The Practicing Photographer.

That concept is one of “Working the Shot.”

Working the Shot. What does it mean, really?

“Working the Shot” is a pretty straightforward concept. It says that you you shouldn’t just run up to anything that catches your eye, photograph it and call it done. Instead, you should consider staying with whatever it was that caught your eye in the first place, and really explore that situation. Take multiple shots, move about the scene, explore a variety of angles and perspectives, allow something to unfold, and in short, fully document whatever it was that you observed and deemed worthy of committing to film or memory card or what have you.

It’s one thing to hear and understand a concept and yet another thing entirely to really get a concept; to internalize it and shift that concept from being one guy’s good advice to a being worthy tenet that you own as simple fact and incorporate into your approach to your art.

I thought that I had really understood Ben’s advice on working the shot, but I didn’t really understand it. Until recently.

Magnum Contact Sheets

About a year ago I was gifted a copy of the excellent Magnum Contact Sheets hardcover book. It’s a book of, well, contact sheets. But not just any contact sheets.

[x_blockquote type=”left”]From the interior liner notes: …this groundbreaking book presents a remarkable selection of contact sheets and ancillary material, revealing for the first time how the most celebrated Magnum photographers capture and edit the very best shots. Addressing key questions of photographic practice, the book illuminates the creative methods, strategies, and editing processes behind some of the world’s most iconic images.[/x_blockquote]

I found this volume to be incredibly inspiring because it busted a myth that I had about photography, and it’s a myth that seems pervasive in the art world in general. 

It’s such an easy and romantic notion that some wildly famous photographer happened upon a scene, saw something interesting, pulled out their camera, composed and captured a shot, and then walked away into a life of fame and notoriety. But that’s all fantasy, and Magnum Contact Sheets hammers that point home. For every iconic photograph featured in the book, there are dozens of discard images that were taken at the same time. Some of these discard shots are very good and many of them are actually not good at all, but what’s important for me is that my preconception was smashed to bits. The photographers hunted for their images in very much the same way that I do, and in many cases had burned through several rolls of film before finally landing at “the shot.”

While daunting and eye-opening, I have found this knowledge to be of enormous encouragement and I have retrained myself to Work the Shot. And why not? Digital is free, storage is cheap, and the output is always worth the effort.

A Real World Example.

Take this shot, which I call The Princess and the King. I took this at the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice parade on 25 June 2016.

Santa Barbara, CA, USA

I often find that the most interesting things to capture during a parade are the things happening along the periphery, at the margins. I’d noticed this Elvis impersonator wandering about the edges before and here was my moment. He was framed up in the crosswalk in an interesting way and so I started shooting him as I approached.

Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, this little girl appeared, so I worked the shot further, changing my composition and allowing their engagement to unfold.

I took 15 shots over the course of 40 seconds and only one of those 15 images speaks to me. In slide #13 the focus and composition is right, but more importantly, their engagement has reached its focal point. She’s observing his hand with caution and she’s keeping her distance. To her he must seem strange, apart from being a stranger; all sequined and flamboyant. And here she is, fixated on her pearls, taking it all in. She’s rejected his offer of a fist bump and she’s getting ready to run. All in all, it’s a decisive moment.

In the past, I’d have maybe shot 1-3 images and I’d have called that done. I would not have gotten to #13. This is one that I’ll print and frame, and possibly show, because it’s good and because I worked it.

In conclusion, what we have here is a good example of some guy’s great advice made manifest. I’ll never go back to casual shooting, not after seeing this scenario unfold over and over again in my own work. So take it from Ben Long, or take it from me, when you’re out in the world making photos, it’s important that you really Work the Shot.

It’s the difference between having a picture and having a story.

Thanks for reading!

Chris[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_element_section _id=”5″ ][cs_element_row _id=”6″ ][cs_element_column _id=”7″ ][cs_element_global_block _id=”8″ ][/cs_element_column][/cs_element_row][/cs_element_section][/cs_content]

Europe 2016 – Après nous le déluge

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” separator_top_type=”none” separator_top_height=”50px” separator_top_inset=”0px” separator_top_angle_point=”50″ separator_bottom_type=”none” separator_bottom_height=”50px” separator_bottom_inset=”0px” separator_bottom_angle_point=”50″ style=”margin: 0px;padding: 0px 0px 45px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_alert heading=”Episode 2 : Après nous le déluge” type=”danger” close=”false”]This is the second post in a series that I’ll be writing to chronicle my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic over 3 weeks in the spring of 2016.
Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series.[/cs_alert][cs_text]

This trip has gone a bit differently than I had expected it to.

Kazdyn and I have participated in what was essentially a 19-day photography expedition. For me, a photo-walk normally runs 2-3 hours unless I travel 90 minutes to LA or some such place. In those cases, there will be a 90-minute drive, 3-4 hours of wandering around 2 or 3 locations, and then a 90-minute drive home with lunch or dinner thrown in there somewhere.

Over the past three weeks, we were out of the flat by 9am and hit the town for 12 to 14 hours every day, returning at 10pm or later. We’d crash and get up the next morning to do it all over again.

This was a very intense experience, and has made a significant impact on my photography; my eye, my instinct, and my confidence. I’ll write more about this later in this series.

I expected to come home in the evenings and blog about that day, and it just didn’t happen, and I think that it’s better to have waited on the blogging. I’m just now catching up on fleshing my notes out into articles and uncovering a thematic core from which to tell the story of the trip. I’ve also got something close to 7,000 images still to sort through, pulling picks and processing some highlight images.

I’ll also build some gallery pages to display some of my favorite images from each location. I’ll also be preparing some images that I shot specifically for prints, and I’ll be updating the store in the following weeks.

Here are the major categories:

  1. Barcelona
  2. France – Céret
  3. Poland – Katowice
  4. Poland – Auschwitz
  5. Poland – Ogrodzieniec Castle ruins
  6. Poland – Kraków
  7. Czech Republic – Prague
  8. Candid/Street Photography

Barcelona and Prague will be broken up into sub-categories, such as Old Town Square, The Charles Bridge, Barceloneta, la Boqueria, etc.

Lastly, and just for fun:

I have gathered enough images at this point to publish books on the following three themes:

  • Selfie Sticks and the People Who Love Them
  • iPad as Travel Camera: Civil Disobedience for the 21st Century
  • #asiantourists: Unleashed. Retired. On Tour in the Old World

Bonus supplements:

  • Sir, you can put your GoPro Where the Sun Don’t Shine

and the ever popular

  • Screw You and the Segway You Rode In On

Seriously, I have never seen a city so infested with Segway tours as Prague. It’s truly incredible.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

Chris

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