Posts Tagged ‘journalism

06
Dec
08

An Explanation

Many of my friends often tell me, in regards to my photography, that I seem to always be in the right place at the right time, as if it were completely random.  Now, that does sometimes happen, but usually I have help.

You see, part of being a good photographer is knowing where “the right place” is, and when “the right time” is.  Predicting this kind of future can be a bit like playing darts while blindfolded.  It’s difficult, but if you do it long enough, your darts do start hitting closer to the center.

Take this photo, for instance:

Envy?

This shot of a homeless man with his cup outstretched to the man covered with shopping bags on the most expensive street in Boston is one of my favourites.  Sadly, it could be composed a little better, but I literally had a split-second to get the shot, and I didn’t have enough time for fine-tuning.  I was walking down Newbury street, when about 200 feet ahead of me I saw this man and his two daughters (in the blue jackets ahead of him), and then about another 50 feet ahead of *them* I saw the homeless man.  I knew that this meant they would have to walk past him, and I was almost positive that there was the opportunity for a good shot.  Despite the sidewalk being relatively crowded, I started running down the street, and right as the man passed him, I fell down to one knee and clicked off a shot.  While the shot is far from perfect, I was definitely rewarded for my running.

For another example, take this photo:

Jindo Island Beauty

Now, my desk is positioned in front of my huge window in my apartment, and while it’s partly so that I have a nice view, it is also so that I can keep an eye on the light.  There’s both buildings and mountains in my panoramic view, and that gives me a decent idea of what the light conditions will be on different parts of the island.  If certain atmospheric conditions seem like they might be good soon, I head down and get on my bike.  Now, sometimes after work, I ride a little randomly around the island, looking for potential future shots.  When I head down to get on my bike, I start trying to remember those spots, and think about what the light will probably look like in 10/20/30 minutes, and think about where I can get to in that time.  In this case, I noticed that the sky was particularly blue, the sun was not yet setting but was low enough on the horizon to create nice shadows and add dimension to the clouds, and I knew that I could probably get a reflection off the river just outside of town.  So, I drove over there, walked about 200 yards, and took this shot, when I saw the farmer and his cow.  I used my flash with a hand-held bounce card to create some fill so as to get the flowers in the foreground properly exposed in addition to everything farther away, but that was about it, and I always carry an index card (for bouncing) in my bag, so it wasn’t something I prepared specially for that trip.

For one last example, I’ll give you my favourite reenacting shot:

Looks so real...

I took this shot at a private WWII reenactment in Kentucky that my Soviet unit attended.  We were under attack and I, being the medic, was not attacking, and instead was laying down in a gully.  Since I was not shooting with a gun, I decided that I should probably be shooting with my camera, and I turned towards the friend in front of me.  He was crouched down a few feet in front of me, ready to shoot at the approaching Germans.  I figured he would do *something* interesting soon, and I trained my camera on him, focused it, and waited with my finger holding the button half-depressed (so that the reaction time of my finger would be even faster).  About 5-8 seconds later, he jumped up to take a shot, and I clicked the button.  It was a little dark in the forest, which meant that my shutter was slower, creating the slight motion blue that I feel really makes this photo look like an original, rather than something taken a year ago.

So, there you have it.  That’s my take on being “in the right place at the right time”.  It is partially coincidental; I did not place the shopper or the homeless man on the street, I have no control over the weather, and I did not know if the enemy would get close enough for my friend to attempt to take a shot.  But, the key here is that I was paying attention to my surroundings, was thinking ahead of time (by anywhere between a few seconds to half an hour) to try and make an educated guess as to what shot I could potentially get, and then attempted to put myself in what I felt was the best position for a good shot.  Those three things really are at least half, in my opinion, of what goes into creating a good photo.

27
Nov
08

A Book List and a Note about North Korea

So, since I spend a lot of time on buses, there is a good online used bookstore here in Korea, and Marc left me some of the books he brought with him during his visit in July, I have accumulated a decent number of books while here in Korea.  Here is the list (ones I have completed are crossed out, those I am close to finishing are in italics):

I prefer to read two books at once (keeps me from getting burned out by a book), and I think that my next two will be Frontsoldaten and North Korea: Another Country.  I need to read a German memoir or two from WWII before I go portray one at the reenactment I have in February, and Frontsoldaten seems to be one of the better ones.  As for North Korea: Another Country, well, given that the collapse of North Korea seems on the horizon, I figured I should learn a little bit more about that last relic of Soviet times.

On that note:  Last week, the Chinese moved an invasion force to the North Korean border that is slightly larger than the force that the US sent to invade Iraq.  My friends in the military (including those who are serving here) say this is very significant, if that wasn’t obvious enough already.  It has been almost confirmed that Kim Jung Il is very sick, and possibly already dead and replaced by a double, and the country seems to be destabilizing.  The reason the Chinese movement is doubly significant is that while South Korea has spies in North Korea, China actually has ties with North Korea, and they communicate regularly.  If anyone knows what’s up, it’s the Chinese.  So, the fact that they have seen fit to make such a large and sudden troop movement should be taken as a rather important sign.

On one hand, that scares the bejesus out of me.  On the other, I’m a photojournalist and an opportunist, and if shit goes down, it could be a boon to my career.  If there’s one truism about us press folks, it’s that our priorities are royally screwed up, and I am certainly no exception.




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