Posts Tagged ‘photo


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:


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.


In the moment…

My Soviet reenacting unit dissolved last weekend at a private event (called a “tactical” in the hobby) that one of our members was hosting.  I heard about it second-hand, as I wasn’t there (being, you know, in Korea), but it was about what I expected would happen.  The unit had been having some problems with one of the members, who was, to put it lightly, “not a team player”.  Marc and I had discussed this with both the unit commander and other members on several occasions, but there was at no point any particularly good time to actually bring it up with the guy, and nobody else wanted to rock the boat.  Those of you who know me know that rocking the boat is a favourite pastime of mine, so I decided to attempt to get the ball rolling.  I won’t go into details, but some well-timed emails and discussions seemed to do the trick, clearly.  The unit almost immediately has re-formed without the offending member and with a slight change in name, from the Russian for “Second Company” to the Russian for “Third Company”.  As a hobby, reenacting has a strong tendency toward drama, as one will find in any hobby where you get together a bunch of very passionate, very obsessive people.  So, I was glad to see that this issue was resolved with a minimum of fuss.  I have seen other groups completely fall apart in similar situations, and I’m glad to see that ours is stronger than that.

Marc has a description of the event up over at his own blog, if you want to get a feel for what a small (20-25 person), private WWII event can be like.  Private events are probably my favourite in reenacting.  I will gladly state that escapism is one of my main reasons behind reenacting, and private events are meant to be as immersive as possible.  We eat period rations from cans with period labels, we sleep in foxholes or drafty barracks, we have sentries.  These efforts are what enable us to have what reenactors call a “magic moment”; a moment when we forget where we are, who we are, and most importantly, when we are.  Marc forgets about the work he needs to do on my thesis, I forget about my lack of a job, another member forgets about his frustrations of being in the Marines, another about his financial woes.

I’ve had a few of these moments, over the course of my years as a reenactor, and I consider myself lucky for it.  At an event last January, I had one.  They usually are the result of intense moments that require you to really think like the soldier you are portraying, and that moment was certainly intense.  I was hiding in a dry creek-bed as members of my unit shot at a group of advancing Germans.  The man nearest to me went down, and as the medic, I crawled over to him to see if he was dead or just injured.  

He was injured, but in the middle of bandaging him, I noticed a German, laying on the ground, taking aim at another member of my unit, no more than 15 feet away, more like 10.  I picked up my patient’s rifle and shot him.  As I did, it attracted the attention of the Germans who had been advancing, and one of them ran toward me, his rifle raised.  But, before he could fire, I had re-cocked the gun and shot him, and he fell forward.  The rest of his group didn’t notice me, and so I continued to bandage my patient.  After a moment, Marc yelled to me and I noticed that he had snuck up to the base of a bunker, but was being pinned down by the German behind it.  The soldier was standing up, and so I crawled a little closer, took aim, and just as he saw me and started to turn, I got him and he fell forward, allowing Marc to crawl into the bunker.  A moment later, our position was overrun by the Germans, and we were all shot.  The whole moment, which probably lasted no more than a minute, was incredible, and I found myself having almost to “snap out of it”.  It gave me a good perspective on what it must have been like, at times.  You just pick the gun up and shoot first, think later.  It was a creepy realization to come to, but an important one, I think, in understanding what a soldier must have gone through.

So, that’s just one story, to provide some insight into what it can be like to be a reenactor.  It’s one of those things that really, you just have to experience yourself to truly understand, but I hope that that little interlude gave you some idea of the better moments.


Portrait of the Author

I realized that 1. I have not posted photos to this blog yet (though, considering the number that get posted to my other blogs, and the fact that I have two photoblogs, I think this one should be left mostly for writing) and 2. that most of you have no idea what I look like.  So, I figured that I should post a recent shot of myself.  This isn’t *recent*, but it was taken back in February, so it’s recent enough to serve, and I have always liked the shot:

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