The above pieces have been selected for the NIGHT show, going up at Provence in Hillsboro in mid-April. Please stop by and let me know what you think!
It is true that if you walk around any populated area at night with a camera you will come away with something worthwhile. Yet, some places open themselves up for treasure more readily than others. And one of those places is New Orleans.
Let’s be clear — there is more to New Orleans than Bourbon St, more than the Quarter, more than the Saints and the beignets and Mardi Gras. But let’s also be honest — without that culture, New Orleans would more likely be a sweltering river port, one with tourism built more on fishing and bird watching than revelry and football. And while I love the rest of New Orleans (try the fries at The Delachaise), when I can walk to the Quarter camera in-hand I’ll always try to give it some time.
In September 2013 I was in the area presenting on Gluster with some fortunate hours to spare. I’d been wanting to test the Fuji x100’s lowlight color abilities so this was a perfect fit. If you’ve never been on Bourbon St at night, it is worth a trip at least once. There is the debauchery but there are also the restaurants and bars, the musicians and staff, and the lights that keep it all visible.
Before walking, I setup the camera for 1/125 second, f/2.8 at 3200 ISO. It seemed a good mix where it wasn’t a terribly slow shutter speed, and with the lens stopped down just a bit I could still get some good low light work. The 3200 ISO is a bit of a stretch, but shooting RAW gave me some quality results regardless of the highÂ setting. With all of that preset, all that remained was to find the shots. You can see more of the work here.
Somewhere along the street is this store. Which is very similar to the one across the street, and one around the corner. And down the way. New Orleans has bead and shirt stores like the Coast has swimsuit and sunblock stores. Only you don’t have to walk into a plaster shark head. I’ve never understood how these places don’t get items stolen constantly — maybe there is someone watching the front at all times via CCTV? No idea. Regardless, they are guaranteed good shots for saturated color and throngs of items. I love the variety — where did the Arizona Cardinal banner come from? How many combinations of drinking puns are there in the world? Thing 1 & 2, Drunk 1 & 2, Trouble 1 & 2 side by side with lingerie and costumes. Beads galore. All of it mixed up like a dish of hoppin’ john.
But what really made the image for me is the figure walking by. I don’t think quite drunk, maybe not even tipsy. She walked more with a goal than a meander. Certainly dressed up enough to have gone out (or be going out) but I don’t think her destination had bar stools. A figure of calm, moving deliberately among theÂ menagerie.
New Orleans, September 2013. Fuji x100.
Read a Photo Exploration here.
Canon A‑1, 50mm. Kodak Gold 200 35mm.
There is making photography in a controlled studio, then there is open air street photography, and there is standing in line waiting to get food with a number of other hangry* people and trying to get a photo without (a) holding up the line and (b) being awfully conspicuous. The piece in this post was taken in Central Grocery, on Decatur in New Orleans. I know there are less touristy places, with possibly tastier muffuletta’s, than Central Grocery — but when you are in the Quarter anyway and hungry, there is nothing better.
I wanted to make a photo of the scene at the counter. The stacks and stacks of oils, meats, labels, and signage was incredibly attractive for a composition. So how to do it? Points in my favor — it was daylight, so I could shoot with a decent depth of field without having to shoot totally wide open. The line moved horizontally with the subject matter, so I was staying at roughly the same distance away from the scene (instead of a line that went straight up to the counter), and the counter was constantly abuzz with people and conversation. Points against — the line moved quickly, so not much time for fiddling with settings. It was crowded, so I had to make the photo while possibly being jostled and bumped.
First, deciding what lens to use. I was using my Canon A‑1, carrying my 50mm f/1.8 and 28mm f/2.8 lenses. I tried the 28, but it was too wide for the area — it felt distorted and possibly would have lost the feeling of a tight, integrated space. So with the 50mm, I was able to narrow the scene a little more selectively. Next step: metering! I tried Av mode and made a guess of f/5.6, which metered at 1/60 of a second. Good, but not quite good enough — when people are involved in a live scene, I generally want 1/100 or higher. So f/4 and 1/125sec was set manually. The last step was focusing. As mentioned, I was able to go on and focus before hand since the line was moving parallel to the counter. I focused on the big MUFFULETTA sign, and as I moved through the line, waited to be right in front of the cashier. Once there, I framed the image, waited a moment for the composition to come through and triggered the frame.
If the scene hadn’t appeared for me, I probably would have tried again when the next customers went up. If that still didn’t work, I would have gone for as bare a scene as possible. Maybe with just the cashier waiting on the next customer. I don’t know — hard to say what I would have done. But I knew from when I entered the Grocery (and was immediately in line) that I wanted to make a photo, and spending thirty seconds setting up the camera gave me the space to consider the composition.
The moral, if there is one here, is that IF you think a photo might be possible, you MUST be setup. For some cameras, that simply means taking off the lens cap. For others, it is a bit more work. Regardless, be prepared and be alert. It’s a beautiful world out there ready to be photographed, but only if you are ready.