If you say “no” often enough…

Ever stop and realise that you haven’t seen someone you would normally call a “friend” for a long time. Suddenly, the realisation crashes into you that you have completely lost track of what they are doing and where they are at. They are not really a friend anymore, just somebody you used to know.

Usually, it is not anywhere near as dramatic as Gotye described it… You just kinda see them a bit less, and a bit less, and then it just fades into black.

If you say “no” often enough to a friendship or hobby – it just fades away.

Development in intellectual, artistic, and physical pursuits require habit. Without regular participation and cultivation, the skills and capability you have developed wilts and disappears. I like running – it was a great way to shed some extra weight that I had collected over a lifetime of indifference. The habit of running at least 3 – 4 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes is hard won, and easily lost. The seductive path to think that you will “make it up” next week only leads to losing the habit. Almost 3 years after starting running, I have to jealously guard the habit and run – rain, hail, shine, or even in another city.

I came to the realisation this week, that what I had been describing as a creative “hiatus” from street photography had become a complete absence. All the signs were there…

  1. I didn’t really get into a “groove” whilst in Japan for two weeks in November. Last time I was in Japan I shot close to a 100 rolls of 35mm and 120mm film combined. Since returning, I had just 8 rolls of 35mm to develop and some limited digital shots.
  2. I haven’t posted much interesting stuff on this blog over the last six months. One of my core reasons for creating the blog was to keep me thinking and growing, creatively.
  3. My last roll of film before today was shot back in May…

It completely blindsided me. It has been six months since I have been out, seriously shooting. Something was bothering me in Japan – I just couldn’t seem to get “going”. I know how it feels when a shoot is going well. Even before I check the LCD or develop the film, I can “see” some of the images that I have captured using my imagination. I can see more details and potential images as I walk. It is kind of like a fugue state – where I am both super aware of some of what is going on around me, but completely oblivious to things that are of no interest.

I did not once feel that way in Japan. Whilst I have a few images I am happy with, I did not wake every morning, anxious and excited to get out and start shooting. Thinking about it more deeply, it became clear that I have been experience the same lack of motivation in Melbourne as well.

So, what to do about it? I like to often work backwards. Start with the end in mind and then find a path to get there. Start simple and focus on the behaviours that will deliver results – don’t sweat the reasons behind the issue, just “fake it until you make it” was the strategy…

As usual, I set up my thoughts in my notebook for the day :

I set four goals :

  1. Commit to a time – wake up, shower, pack and head out. The shoot was going to be my first and foremost priority today, just like it used to be.
  2. Commit to walking at least 3km through the CBD – I put on my GPS watch to be sure!
  3. Commit to shooting at least 3 x 35mm rolls through my favourite camera. Learn to love the sound of the shutter firing once more.
  4. No self critiquing or judging – just commit to the images.

From a technique perspective, I kept it simple…

  • Less is more
  • Find natural frames
  • Simplify compositions, and remove visual clutter
  • Find interesting angles

And the review from the day?

Sitting at Melbourne Central, waiting for a train home, I made the following notes.

  • The Leica M7 (camera of choice for the day) can be a petty bitch to load with film at times. One roll mis-fed and crumpled against the shutter. Once it wouldn’t wind on, I just cut my losses and chucked the roll.

Post Script – the new roll I loaded mis-fed as well. I am not sure how it happened, but it seems to have wound backwards. Bizarre. Leicas are beautiful objects, but the film loading system is overly twitchy sometimes… All I got was a roll of nothing.

  • Found some great new locations, all as a result of going to new places, and committing to walking a long way. I ended up doing almost 5km around the city vs a target of 3km. The more places you explore, the more likely you are to “get lucky”. I still believe a fair proportion of Vivian Maier’s work was combination of a great eye, with her constantly being out with her camera. Gary Winogrand was similar – constantly shooting will always give you a better chance of getting “the one” rather than sitting at home…
  • Arriving at 8am in the city on boxing day, I was surprised how vacant it was. Whilst there were a few people milling about the sales, the streets were quite deserted outside of the shopping areas. There were plenty of great new locations I spotted today around RMIT, but needed some human interest.
  • Watch the light. Kicking off with iso 400 TMax was a mistake. Switching to shooting it at iso 800 fixed most of the exposure issues.
  • After working with the Sony RX1Rii a fair bit lately, it was refreshing to get back to a rangefinder. Setting it up at around F8 for hyperfocal distance – everything past about 2.5m in front of the camera was in focus – made life a lot easier than waiting for the autofocus to hunt around.

My final note was “Focus on completing the gratification loop to maintain momentum. Develop, scan, critique, and post on MSP.com.”

Results?

Well, I only ended up with one roll after the Leica debacle.

My comments and thoughts are with each shot.

161226-roll-458-m7-tmax4863

I don’t normally shoot people on their phones unless there is something special happening in the frame. I was hoping for this particular shot to have a nice subtle light transition around the subject on his phone. It was a nice try, but doesn’t quite work – the subejct needed to be a little further to the left of frame, in the light.

161226-roll-458-m7-tmax4868

A simple, still life. Nothing special on my part. I like the discarded flowers in amongst the visual clutter of the lane.

 

The image on the left is straight out of the camera. A pretty good opportunity, well spotted. If your images are no good, then you are not close enough – is a bit of guidance that is ringing in my ears, looking at this image. Cropping to square format gives an insight into what it could have been, if I had’ve simply walked over and taken the shot much closer. The subject looking at the deliciousness in the window, combined with the subject at the counter, visible through the door works well for me.

161226-roll-458-m7-tmax4871

Again, not close enough. Thought the juxtaposition of the cricket fans with the alt hair cut of the subject to the right of frame would be more interesting. There was a shot there, I just wasn’t able to adapt quickly enough to capture it.

It is an interesting challenge to take a “new” image of degraves st. My two attempts today weren’t awful. There was an idea there with the pavement numbers, visible due to the lack of customers. The menu idea was interesting, but might have worked better without the clutter of the subjects in the immediate background?

161226-roll-458-m7-tmax4889

Great subject matter – Nuns visiting the Christmas windows at Myer! Again, a bit frustrated I didn’t quite get something I was super happy with. I popped in this photo to discuss a point of etiquette though – fully accepting that my point of view is just that. Not necessarily right or wrong, just how I feel.

I have no issue with taking a shot – the Nuns are in public. But I do feel there is a line somewhere. I took three quick shots, and moved on. I am pretty sure I did not disrupt the subjects, nor creep them out.

They did have a stalker though – a GWC (guy with camera) followed them through the whole sequence of windows. I actually watched, uncomfortable. He was not known to them, but this didn’t stop him tracking them with not one, but two DSLR cameras – one loaded up with a 70 – 200 bazooka, and another pro body with some clunky, expensive piece of glass. He was not subtle, and would have bothered me if I was one of the Nuns.

People who belong to religious orders etc are fair game, but to stalk them for hundred meters just felt a bit over the top to me. Street subjects are not there to provide amusement for photographers. Take your shot and move on.

Maybe I am being overly sensitive?

161226-roll-458-m7-tmax4894

Just some simple, natural framing. Was nice to think this one through a bit.

A final image to share. Got in close? Check. Got two layers of interest and contrast? Check. (There is the subject close to the camera on the left, and a busker setting up on the right of frame, but down at street level.)

The stars did not align for this image to work, but I am pleased that I spotted it, and executed as best I could. After taking the two shots, I needed to keep moving.

Conclusion.

I need to start saying “yes” to getting out with my camera.

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