california

Little Tokyo and the Challenges of Street Photography by Christopher Myers

I've always been a big fan of street photography; seeing people in their natural environment. However, it's more than just going out and pointing a camera at people. It's taking everything in, finding similarities between cultures, classes, and individuals. Often the pictures themselves can act as a kind of metaphor for life. The expressions on peoples face when they don't know they're being watched sometimes says it all. These simple observations, to anyone that's keenly aware, echo the state of the world we live in. 

If there’s one thing to remember from this post it is this: only shoot in the morning and evening when the sun is directional.
— -Me, CKM

Here I took an evening trip to Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles and aimed my lens at the populace. Here are some things to think about when you're walking about:

Subjects

I know some people like to go out and just photograph one thing: people, doors, signs, dogs, etc., but I personally like to capture the "feel" of the place. To me, this means capturing a speckling of all of it and then selecting what stood out in my mind. It's basically what I see when I'm trying to recount the place to someone who hasn't been. 

Lighting

Mid day is horrible. Horrible for everything outside of a controlled studio. If there's one thing to remember from this post it is this: only shoot in the morning and evening when the sun is directional. I'm going to go as far as saying this will instantly make your images much more professional. Don't argue with me here. Just do it and then send me thank you pictures. What more can be done is deciding how you want to utilize that directional light. Do you want to back light your subjects? Do you want to front fill them? Find places in the environment where the light is beautiful and then wait like a deadly assassin for your targets to come into view. 

Focal Length and Approach

There's a great deal of photographers who's approach is to really get in their subjects faces, and I wholly encourage you to do so. It's very nerve racking, especially if you're a shy person like myself, but this challenge will only make you a stronger person. You'll make enemies, and you'll gain friends. Just do it. Shyness aside, I still like the sniper shots. I don't care what anyone says. The fact that the person has no clue that I'm observing them means I get honest expression and moments you don't capture by getting in close (I mean you can but you better do it quick while they don't know what's happening). Plus, for me, I love compression. Something these street photographs hate for some reason. Personally, I stick with my 70-200mm, and if I'm feeling sassy, my 50mm. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to carry that 105 for better bokeh as well. The director of the Palm Springs Photo Festival swears that a 20mm prime is his go to street photography lens. Guess it depends on your personal aesthetic. 

 

The images below could use a whole lot more dodge and burn, but hell, I have a million photos I have to get through and I was just having fun with this. I'll get around to it and submit to a gallery at some point. I'll be sure to let you guys know. In the meantime, get that camera, get out there, shoot, shoot, shoot, and let me see what you guys got. 

One last thing. For more inspiration, you should definitely see the works of Bruce Gilden, who's just one of the funniest, craziest photographers out there. The reserved, Josef Koudelka. And the ever renown Ralph Gibson. 

 

MARA DEL ROSE and NIGHT PORTRAITS by Christopher Myers

One of my favorite things to do these days is take a model around the city to shoot in available light. This particular night I took Mara Del Rose around Old Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles for some noir photo action. 

everything is a light source, so keep your eyes peeled when you’re out in the field.

In the past, doing this kind of photography was virtually unachievable without a great deal of special equipment and skill, but thanks to my Nikon D810, shooting in low light now only requires me to identify my light sources (virtually all modern DSLRs are holding up great in low light situations). Among my circle of friends I often hear them joke about amateur photographers stating that they can forgo pro lighting for ambient, but armed with the right knowledge I feel like there could be some merit to that. Naturally, when it comes to a professional shoot, you have to consider quality and client expectations, but if your aim is at interesting content for social media or fine art, it's really a lot of fun and you should give it a try! 

With it's Chinese architecture, lanterns, and neon lights, Old Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles is a great place to shoot at night. It also helps that after the sun goes down and the shops close, not many people other then the adventurous tourist or bar hoping hipster, hangs out in the area. Street parking also becomes readily available; a constant battle in downtown. The first building that caught our eye was the Royal Pagoda Motel with it's incredible red neon lights running along the side. For my shooting purposes though, the neon red lights were too distant to actually light my model. I needed something bigger and I found it across the street at a bus stop. Some bus stops downtown have illuminated advertising kiosks which I used to light my main subject while keeping those red neon lights in the background to give a sense of place. As I learned from Nels Israelson, everything is a light source, so keep your eyes peeled when you're out in the field. Lucky for you, when you shoot at night, the light sources are much easier to identify.

To speak a bit about my thought process when shooting models at night, I'm looking for flattering light sources for the subject. Often I will see a beautiful light but, it's just pointed in the wrong direction or maybe it's just a little too overhead and gives terrible shadows under the eyes. For women, shadows under the eyes is a terrible pet peeve of mine. Flood lights often give great harsh light to shoot in, but if your model has bad skin then you'll be spending a lot of time in post, at which point maybe you can find a light source that's softer and better for your model. I'm also looking for interesting background lights and scenes, keeping in mind how bokeh is going to look around the subject. Finally, I'm looking at light temperatures and how I can adjust them in camera and in post. Here's a great trick I find people don't often think about: put your camera in live view, if it has it, and then cycle through the custom white balance temperatures. It's a simple way to save yourself some time in post by getting it closer to the color you want before you take any captures. You can also play around with the tint option in the custom settings of your camera (be sure to check the Manuel for your camera to see if these are options for you).

The following are the results of my night with Mara Del Rose. As always, let me know what you think, are there any other tips you care to share? Link to your night photography and I'll give you a free critique. 

 

Juliana by Christopher Myers

Months and months and months ago.

Although it was her first time, she wasn't nervous (I was, I always am). We took to the streets of Long Beach and found a nice spot. I squinted against the late afternoon sun embossing everything with an angelic halo and she stepped in front of the lens. Everything was magic. Working with Juliana was pure and simple. A lot of the so called "professionals" I work with aren't as fun to work with either. Maybe it's because of her background as a classical dancer, who knows, but shooting that day couldn't have been any more easy. It's people like this that make photography a worth while endeavor. Expect more from this one in the future.

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