Travel photography

It's all about the light

Sometimes you find the light, and sometimes the light finds you. Be ready. 

During an eight-day shoot in Italy, we stopped one afternoon in Siena. My knees were hurting, the mid-day light was bright and contrasty, and so I wasn't feeling it, but after a bit of mumbling and grumbling I trecked on. And wow, I'm happy I did! 

Walking through the narrow streets of this ancient city I discovered one visual surprise after another. The light bounced and reflected off surfaces as I had never seen before. Shadows cast with sharp definition and contrast formed complex compositions. Because of the orange tones of the buildings, all light in the open shade tunnel of the streets were void of the usual blue cast. It was bright, warm and soft light all at the same time.

Just when I thought it couldn't get better, serendipity stepped in for a grand surprise. We saw two women coming down the street, and my traveling companion recognized one of them as his cousin! What were the chances? Add to that the women stopped to greet us right in front of this fantastic reflection of light. Sometimes, the light finds you. Chiao!

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The Traveler

As photographers, we write with light. It's the essence of what we do. 

Light shapes, sculpts and envelopes who we photograph. Every form of it has a different effect and sends a distinctive message. With light, you can make your subject appear soft and inviting or harsh and threatening. You can add drama or mystery. Shape it, bend it, diffuse it, reflect it or channel it any way you want to convey the feeling and narrative you desire. 

With light, there is always darkness, the shadow. The two opposites, yin, and yang work together or tear apart depending on your intent.  

In "The Traveler" the daylight is sharp, and the shadow is heavy. Because of the angle of the sun, it appears she's moving in that direction, into the light while the shadow feels heavy, weighing her down. Variations of gray on the wall and the diagonal line from the shadow further enhance the illusion of movement. Questions abound. Why is she traveling? Where is she going? Is she afraid or looking forward to the journey. The two other subject shadows stretching toward her adds another layer of mystery and suspense. Are they merely fellow travelers, protectors or antagonists? 

Success or failure of a photograph depends on many factors. The viewer's interpretation weighs heavy on that decision. But, each person decides for themselves drawing from their life experience and tastes. No one person is correct or wrong. Hence the old saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the end, it's up to you, the creator, to decide if the story you told by writing with light was a tale worth telling. 

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The Cat's Meow

What happens on Bourbon Street, stays on Bourbon Street! 

You can have the Vegas strip, for me, nothing beats New Orleans for street photography. Any day of the year you can find pictures ranging from dramatic to outrageous. You just have to be there, be ready and shoot. 

Wandering around one night, I found these two at the Cat’s Meow. Just two overzealous patrons who got on stage to dance, sing and shout. A small crowd gathered on the sidewalk to watch the impromptu show. I framed my shot between two onlookers to provide context and eliminate distraction at the edge of the frame. Then it was just a matter of catching the right moment. 

Technically there was nothing fancy about the photo. I was carrying a Leica M6 and 50mm lens on the camera with a 35mm in my pocket along with a few extra rolls of film. No flash needed or wanted, I had to stay as stealthy as possible to avoid any potential confrontation. On Bourbon Street, you’re dealing with a lot of drunken people. It can be an unpredictable situation so travel as light as possible. And remember, what happens on Bourbon Street, stays on Bourbon Street, except for the pictures.

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