When you're in Asheville, you usually don't have to look to long to find a situation like this. The woman on the left is a fortune teller or psychic (allegedly). Note the tools of her trade on the table in the foreground. The street is her office. The woman on the right is seeking her advice, although while I was there, she was doing most of the talking. I was about ten feet away, sitting on another bench facing them, with my camera on my lap. I kept looking around, and occasionally looked at my watch to give the impression that I was waiting to meet someone, oblivious to their presence and conversation.
So with the camera on my lap, I tried to capture this interesting scene. With not being able to look at the LCD on the back of the camera, it was very difficult to frame my subjects. There were many, many misses! But with a small, silent camera I was able to make enough exposures to get one decent one without either woman being aware. (Gee, you think a psychic would have known!)
Is this type of surreptitious photography a little creepy? Well, in the 1950s Walker Evans made portraits of New Yorkers on the subway with a camera hidden inside his coat. Many of those photos wound up in an exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. So I would say, "No, it's not creepy, it's documentation; in some cases, maybe even art." Legally, the answer is also no. The courts have ruled that people in public spaces can have no expectation of privacy. In other words, they're fair game as long as they're in a public space, and the photographer remains on public space while he makes the photo. Besides, it's a fun way to kill a little time on an October afternoon.
I love to people watch. Last week while I was off from work, I spent an afternoon roaming around downtown Asheville with my camera, people watching. I made this photo sitting on a bench at the corner of Biltmore and Patton, one of the busiest intersections in Asheville. There was a constant flow of people heading in every direction. Each cycle of the traffic light brought a new group crossing the street, each with their own plans and destinations. It's some of the most interesting entertainment available at any price.
My little Lumix camera is perfect for this kind of photography. When I used to shoot street photography with a big, black DSLR with a big, black lens, it was like waving a red flag every time I raised it to my eye. It was almost impossible to remain inconspicuous and get natural looking photos. Now with a little camera, no one pays attention. I'm just some old guy, probably a tourist, taking snapshots with his little "point and shoot" camera. They can remain in their thoughts while I get my photo.
Over the years of posting on this blog I think I have been very open about the fact that, "Yes, I manipulate." The photos you see posted here are never straight out of the camera. There is always some, and in some cases extensive post-processing. I think it was photographer Alain Briot who once said, "You don't see what I saw, you see what I want you to see", or something like that. Is that being dishonest or deceptive? I don't think so. Artists through the ages have always given us their view, which is often a little different than straight reality. Photojournalists and insurance photographers have an obligation to be real; I don't.
I have caught this magical landscape, and it is the enchantment of it that I am so
keen to render. Of course, many people will protest that it is quite unreal, but that is just too bad.
- Claude Monet
Tell 'em, Claude!
So today, I will do something I seldom do, show a "straight out of the camera" photo. Then I'll give you a peak behind the curtain and reveal a little about how I got to the finished version. I think you'll agree that straight from the camera, this photo is a yawner and needs some help:
Original, unedited version
The fall colors are just beginning to show in this forest, but it's mostly still green with some pale yellows starting to show. In 4-5 days it could be really pretty, but I can't wait that long. Today, this shot needs some tweaking.
Into the digital darkroom we go. First, a little tighter crop. Then I adjust the exposure, and bump up the contrast a bit. Now to do something about those colors, or rather, lack of it. In a program called Virtual Photographer, I was able to punch up the reds and oranges to give what it might look like in a few days. The trick is not to get carried away so the photo doesn't look like a bad LSD trip. Real? No. Realistic? That's what I'm shooting for. And 10 - 15 minutes later I end up with a much more interesting photo, I hope.
We're still mostly green at the lower elevations, but a little higher up we're starting to see some color. These ferns have evidently already had a visit from Jack Frost, and have lost their lush green color earlier than most of the trees in their neighborhood.
As I wrote in a previous post, it looks like the fall color show will be a little late this year. Don't worry, however, it's coming! There are splashes of color - a tree here, a branch there. There's enough to give we who love fall some encouragement that we won't have to wait too much longer.
Because I love fall, I always take the 3rd week of October off from work to enjoy the beauty of our mountains. We're still quite a way from peak, but I think there will be enough color next week to keep me and my camera busy. The transition has already begun!
Autumn is usually associated with color photography for obvious reasons. In my area, we had an extremely warm September, and only in the last week or so have we begun to experience more fall-like temperatures. Our trees are still mostly green, with only a hint of color here and there. The fall leaf show is still a couple of weeks away.
Maybe that's why I've been in more of a black and white mood lately. I know the explosion of color is soon to come, and maybe, subconsciously, I don't want to burn out on color too early. When I saw these very green ferns growing out of a stone wall, I immediately started thinking of how this shot would look in black and white. Don't ask me why. Earlier in the summer I probably would have been thinking color. Who can explain our moods?
My oldest daughter, Heather, ran in her first half marathon yesterday morning. She just got interested in running again less than a year ago, so I was a little surprised that she was ready to take on an event like this so soon. "13.1 miles over hilly terrain! Is she nuts?"
The weather Saturday morning was cool and rainy. On top of that, Heather was beginning to experience the symptoms of a head cold. It would have been easy for her to find an excuse to bail out and attempt this another time, but Heather was determined to compete and finish the event. And she did. She finished with a time of 2:10:09. I was proud of her determination, and impressed with her athletic accomplishment.
Of course, I brought my camera to the race. I got some of the standard shots before, during, and after the event, but I wanted to create something more than just a snapshot of Heather running. I wanted to depict her determination, her resolve to complete the course. I chose to work with this one of her running alone, continuing on, fueled by her own tenacity. Yeah, you could say I'm a proud Dad.
Once again, I got hung up on a title. On most of the photos I post, a title seems to suggest itself fairly quickly. On a few, like the photo above, nothing usable comes to mind. The few titles that did pop into my head seemed trite or corny; I'd rather just leave it untitled. Who decreed that a photo had to have a title anyway?