I've posted before about walking along Burnet Rd in Austin at Night. It's not particularly interesting during the day, at least to me. It takes on a different look at night when light is sparse. Things that seem mundane in the daylight become intriguing in the subtle brushes of light from manmade sources. I enjoy the calm and quiet of an evening stroll while observing what the interplay of darkness and light choose to reveal.
There was a time when I would try to coax every last bit of detail out of scene - from the brightest highlights to the darkest shadows. Lacking well lit scenes, I often used to take multiple exposures and mash them together such that you could peer into every nook and cranny if you so desired. It's interesting how things change with one's sense of aesthetics over the years. More often than not these days, when I'm out photographing for myself I'm inclined to seek out a scarcity of light. Those areas of darkness with just enough light to carve out a form. That's when things get interesting lately. It doesn't matter if the rest of the scene falls to blackness - more the better if it does. Maybe I've seen too many washed out black and whites lately. I'm taking things noir. Blacks crushed. Don't be afraid of the dark.
I met up with my good friend Tony for dinner and a few drinks last week. We didn't really plan on taking any photos that night. It was more about hanging out, venting about some things, laughing about others. Being that we are both photographers we just happened to have cameras with us - imagine that. After dinner we took a brief walk down Burnett road. It's not the most exciting bit of Austin. It was dark and quiet - eerily so in some places. We each found a few things of interest on this mundane stretch of road. The search for something interesting in poorly lit ordinary areas like this is challenging and distracting - in a good way. It takes my mind off of my cares and worries. It makes me happy.
Images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens.
I took a stroll down North Lamar in Austin with my good friend Tony a while back. It's not unusual for us to wander the streets of Austin with our cameras. This particular area was a little different though. The challenge was to find interesting subjects in a rather bland looking part of town. Tony and I had done this sort of thing before and we found that while you might have to look a little harder than, say downtown Austin, there were actually plenty of things that drew our individual interests in a seemingly mundane area. As I'm usually inclined on outings like this, I kept things simple. One camera, one lens. I enjoyed some good conversation while wandering about, letting the night and minimal lighting inspire us to take a closer look at those things that we take for granted in daylight.
Fujifilm XT-1 with XF 35mm 1.4 lens, Classic Chrome.
The view through windows, from either side, can be intriguing late at night. My wife and I had just finished dinner at a little Japanese restaurant in the trendy SoCo area of S. Congress in Austin. Our window seat at the restaurant inspired me to to linger at some of the storefront windows on our walk back to the car. I captured these images in black and white with my pocketable Fujifilm XF1, a neat little camera for those nights when photography isn't the main purpose of the outing.
I met my buddy Tony for some dinner and conversation last night. Yes, it was Super Bowl Sunday but I had little interest and catching up with a good friend sounded like a better way to spend the evening. We took a brief stroll after dinner and decided it was a bit chilly for the walk. A hot beverage at a local coffee house sounded like a better idea. It was kind of an eerie neighborhood to walk around anyway.
Images captured with a Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. Classic Chrome simulation in camera, black and white conversions in Lightroom.
I met up with my good friend Tony for a short photo walk right before Christmas. He was flying out on Christmas Day and it was nice to hang out a bit while enjoying a shared favorite activity - walking around the city at night with a single camera and a fast prime lens. We chose a stretch of Burnet road in Austin that has a few interesting businesses and some colorful lights. You gotta have some light coming from somewhere at night after all. It was a fairly calm and quiet night for being just a couple days before Christmas. We walked, chatted, clicked, dined. Due to the holiday business and illness (damned cedar fever!) I just got around to processing and posting these.
Images taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. All are camera JPEGs in the new Classic Chrome film simulation with the exception of the Chinese restaurant, which was converted from raw with Astia simulation in Lightroom.
It is day 2 of my black and white challenge. This image was taken at the same location as my first posting. I couldn't resist because I love both images! I had been walking around downtown Austin with a friend when a rain shower moved over the city. We took shelter under an awning and I realized that the bright light spilling from the windows of the Urban Outfitters store across the street made for a nice background for silhouettes. Since there weren't many people out in the rain I had to patiently wait for a while until this bicyclist rode by and I managed to get a pan of him in focus.
Evan Gearing threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to a 5 Day Black and White Challenge - i.e. post a black and white image to my blog every day for 5 days in a row. Apparently this challenge has been making the rounds among blogging photogs but I wasn't aware of it until this morning. Challenge accepted, Evan!
Those who follow me (I think there are one or two) know that I post quite frequently in black and white anyway. Is it that much of a challenge then? Well, yeah it is. Any photographer knows that creating a good black and white image is not trivial. It's quite arguably more difficult than working with color. When you only have grayscale tones to work with, things like composition and the relation of highlights and shadows are so critical. It isn't as simple as clicking one button and getting a black and white conversion. My best efforts always include hand dodging and burning, and often some toning.
The image above was taken a few weeks back. I was roaming around downtown snapping photos in the warehouse district of downtown Austin with my friend John. A welcome rain shower lazily drifted over the city and we took shelter under an awning when the rain began to fall a little heavily. Across the street I noticed the bright light spilling out of the windows of Urban Outfitters. It made a nice background against which I could snap some silhouette shots of folks passing by.
I post images to Flickr fairly frequently, usually a few a week. A lot of the images I share are not necessarily intended to be serious works of art. Some things I post just because I think they are interesting or intriguing (the image above falls into that category.) Sometimes I post something to see how well it is received, a trial run of sorts before posting to my blog or portfolio. Some things are artsy, some things are documentary. Some things are just simple snaps that I decide to share. I like it or I wouldn't post it but I don't always expect others to be wowed by every image that I share on Flickr or anywhere else for that matter.
The truth is that after about 5 years of photography now I'm still not very good at predicting which of my images will be the most popular. I captured and shared the image above because I found the scene interesting, puzzling, and a little bizarre. Headless mannequins are kind of freaky in my book. I liked the scene and the light so I grabbed a shot while walking around south Congress in Austin with my wife one evening. I shared the image a few days later on Flickr and it was quite well received. It even made the mysterious Flickr Explore, a collection of the day's most interesting 500 photos as decided by a highly secretive algorithm that combs through the bazillion or so photos uploaded every day.
What was it that garnered so much attention? Was it the composition, the light, the contrast, the tone...or maybe just the creepy factor? I just knew I liked the scene when I came across it and I'm happy that quite a few folks on the net took a liking to it as well. I think it means I'm doing something right. Maybe that something is simply capturing what is interesting to me, applying my personal touch with a little post processing work and sharing my vision with others. Not everybody will appreciate my images as much as I do. Some times nobody will. It is cool when a few people take notice and like an image. I wouldn't say Flickr's Explore is a reliable gauge of quality photography. However, it always makes me stop and reflect when one of my images is chosen for the daily Explore. It makes me take a more analytic look at the photo and think more about why I liked it to begin with and maybe understand what others might have seen in it that I missed.
I'm not usually much for street photography. It feels...weird to me. Maybe I'll get over that some day. Little outings like I had recently on the pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin seem to encourage me in this area of photography. I was down there to take some shots of the super moon and I decided to linger a bit after darkness set in. There was a bit of activity on the bridge. A drum circle thumped rhythmically, as if in concert with the crickets along the banks of the lake. A couple lingered, intrigued by something on a smart phone. One fellow was walking around on his hands. It was a fun mood and I decided to capture a bit of it. I liked this spot and I think I'll return some other evening. Maybe I'll even take a drum along.
I took this image while on a nighttime photo walk with a couple of friends recently. Near the dark porch of a local business I found this small puppet swinging in the breeze. It was too dark to get an accurate autofocus lock on a moving target. I snapped a few shots anyway and I was intrigued by this one. It is focused just enough to make out the important details. Being out of focus gives a certain hint of mystery to the subject I think.
These days when I read what photographers have to say about their gear there is almost an obsession with sharpness. I've been there myself, fretting over the most minute details in my images. Lately though I find myself more attracted to images such as this. The subject out of sharp focus but something endearing is there nevertheless. Critical focus is indeed overrated or at least optional in some cases.