Kenneth Tanaka: Blog http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Kenneth Tanaka kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:09:00 GMT Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:09:00 GMT http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/img/s3/v23/u1033079452-o321356322-50.jpg Kenneth Tanaka: Blog http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog 94 120 Essay: Laughing Stock http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/8/essay-laughing-stock There's no question that a good sense of humor is one of the healthiest attributes you can have.  I don't recall who said, "A good dose of humor is the most effective antidote to daily life.", but it was sage advice, indeed.  (Maybe it was me?)  When it comes to sharing humor it has long seemed to me that a funny photograph has a much longer effective life than a spoken joke or funny story.   For examples, I've never tired of seeing Elliot Erwitt's wonderfully witty snaps or Joel Meyorowitz's similarly humorous oddities captured from the streets of New York.  They always make me smile.  But long-familiar spoken jokes or over-told stories usually lose their bite quickly.

Unfortunately, capturing humorous scenes candidly with a camera is maddeningly difficult, which may explain why we see so few good humorous images.  I certainly cannot claim to be expert at capturing such images, or in the larger subject of humor.  But I have given the subject a generous amount of examination and can share some observations that might help you to better create and/or see such images for yourself.

One Bad AppleOne Bad Apple

Single Objects That Just Look Funny

"One Bad Apple", at left, would seem to be about as simple of an opportunity as you could hope for.  Surely you might think it must have been no harder than grabbing this tough-looking apple, lighting it and snapping a few shots.

True.  But I had to see it first.  I had to spot the mouth-like shape of that crown, the stem perfectly positioned as a ciggie, the scratches that resemble fight scars on a chin.  I had to envision how it could be photographed to best display those characteristics. How often do you really look closely at, for example, a piece of fruit you're preparing to eat?  Would you spot the opportunity if it was oriented differently?   There's no substitute for basic alertness.

 

 

Context, Proximity, and Gesture

The relationships of multiple elements in a frame offers the broadest range of possibilities for humorous photos.  Photography's intrinsic nature of quoting out of context often inadvertently presents humorous images.  But this is nevertheless the genre of candid humorous image that's most challenging for photographers to create intentionally.

Photographer Jay Maisel is fond of saying, "The more you shoot, the luckier you get.".  That is certainly true for marginally increasing your chances of capturing any type of good images.   Even Google's semi-robotic street cameras manage to find funny scenes.

But Jay's remark is intended to cut to the keener, and more general, suggestion that practice is essential for improving your chances for success in any type of photography.  That is even more true for capturing humorous images.  Many such opportunities are extremely fleeting.  I could not, for example, have ever expected a tired-looking chef to sit next to that "Live Raw" sign in a million years.  He was there and gone in an instant.  The see/shoot cycle was perhaps, at most, 5 seconds.

The other two images, however, were the results of seeing a situation with potential and waiting for something to develop.  Neither required more than a couple of minutes of wait time.  Additionally, neither image represents the result that I had originally anticipated.  For example, I was originally waiting for the Budweiser horse to line-up perfectly with the image on the trailer's side.  But a young girl passing the trailer with her family became startled when the horse moved and snorted, presenting a much richer image than I expected.

Seeing momentarily strong circumstances of context, proximity, and gesture, and having the wherewithal to capture the moment is a wonderful skill that can be developed with time.  But in my opinion learning to foresee potential and waiting for it to develop is even better and more productive.

  Live Raw"Live Raw"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

show of hands

bud

Kyoto, Japan
2011

NEX5N-20111024-1112-1265

 

5D2-20090721-1933-2867

 

Incongruity

Closely related to proximity and context is the impact of incongruity in a scene.  For examples....

The women in Kyoto dressed in traditional geisha attire dating back to the 6th century checking messages on their 21st century cell phones. 

The mother and daughter costumed in dance tutus admiring a police horse while the mounted officer appears to be posing for a portrait. 

And how could I possibly have returned empty-handed from an event to set the record for the number of people wearing nose/moustache/glasses disguises? noses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding and capturing candid incongruity, whether humorous or editorial, can be a formidable challenge for any photographer.  But the rewards for success are unique to photography and can last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Keeping It Simple...and Fast

rolleiRolleiflex 2.8 FX I enjoy using all kinds of cameras and lenses.  But when it comes to candid photography I tend to stick with simplicity, speed, and, most of all, familiarity.  (No, while I salute Vivian Maier I do not shoot candids with my Rolleiflex.)  I use a camera familiar enough to me to be a prosthetic extension to my eye.  Being second-nature-reflex comfortable with your camera is of paramount importance for doing your best with all candid work.   As I write this, for example, I find the Sony RX100 II and III advanced point-and-shoot cameras to be just about perfect for such work.  They're small enough to take anywhere, silent, fast, good in low light, and have excellent articulating lcd screens and excellent electronic viewfinders.  Capturing 20+ Mp files also means that they have plenty of resolution for cropping.

But my main point is to use a camera that's fast and extremely comfortable for you, regardless of the camera's coolness or price.

A Perpetual Project

Capturing humor in a photograph is a tough job, especially candidly.  It's a challenge that calls upon every aspect of photography -- from visualization through camera craft -- and can be pursued in every style of photography -- from street to studio.  Capturing humor is a constant goal and subtext in my photography.  If you're looking for a challenging mission to pursue with your camera you couldn't ask for a more difficult, or more rewarding, challenge than hunting humor.  It's a project that can last a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) humor http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/8/essay-laughing-stock Sat, 23 Aug 2014 23:39:42 GMT
About This Image: Summer Girl http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/8/about-this-image-summer-girl It's no secret that I am extremely enthusiastic for the camera's ability to describe subjects in nearly infinite detail.   It gives me a real thrill to capture images such as "Air Show" and "Aqua" that offer ever more information to lingering and repeating viewers.

But I am equally enthusiastic for photographs that are more impressionistic than descriptive.  These are images that immediately and lastingly resonate with personal memories, rather like familiar scents.  They grab you by the eyes and then whisper into your mind's ear.  Strong impressionistic images are harder to create than strong descriptive images, at least for me.  They require plenty of imagination, plenty of introspection, and composition that organizes all the requisite elements into a precise instrument targeted to flip a particular switch in a viewer's mind.  Lots of soft-tech design planning makes this a difficult task.

Or not.

Sometimes my camera is much smarter and more skillful than its owner.  While beach-walking one summer afternoon I spotted a small scene that immediately struck me as a lovely image.  There was no time for great care.  I had only a fraction of a second to raise the camera, frame the scene and push the button.  In the next fraction of a second the scene was gone.  Upon later review I was disappointed that I had missed focus and I nearly deleted the image because of this "flaw".  But something grabbed me about the image and stopped me from sending it to oblivion.

Ten days later I revisited the image.  It grabbed me again, harder this time.  Everything about the image -- the girl's stance, her slight Mona Lisa-like smile, her hat and glasses, that she's holding a camera, the rolling scruffy sand dunes, the late afternoon light -- everything made this seem a perfect "summer" image to me.  The icing on the image was the lens being just slightly out of focus, making the subject impersonal but leaving enough detail to make her familiar. 

When I finally made a print I was completely hooked.  "Summer Girl", as I informally call her, would likely be my top image for the summer of 2014.  I realize that some people find unfocused images hard to love.  But blur can be a terrifically powerful and useful technique when applied thoughtfully and carefully.  Or with just plain good luck.  (Don't tell anyone, ok?)

 

 

 

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) beach blur summer http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/8/about-this-image-summer-girl Fri, 22 Aug 2014 21:56:19 GMT
About This Image: Man on Ice http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/man-on-ice  

One of photography's old chestnuts is that if you stare at something long enough you will eventually see something remarkable.  Maybe it's not such an "old chestnut", after all.

Man on IceMan on IceChicago
February, 2014

About This Image

XE2-20140226-1630-1491

I have been staring at Lake Michigan and, particularly, Chicago's Monroe Harbor for nearly thirty years, year in and year out.  I never tire of looking at it.  The scene is always changing but never more so than in winter when freezing and precipitation often produce amazing scenes of abstractive  beauty. 

I was photographing just such a scene one afternoon in late February (2014) as the harbor's surface was re-freezing following a brief thaw.  Suddenly I saw something remarkable in my viewfinder: a man walking across the thin ice!  Was this real?  Where had he come from?  That ice is only a couple of days old. Is he crazy?  My jaw dropped and took my gut with it as I was certain I was seeing the final moments of someone's life.  Falling into that water at this time of the year would certainly kill anyone within a few minutes as it already had elsewhere along the Chicago lakefront during this winter.  Nevertheless the man appeared to be walking completely nonchalantly, slightly under-dressed for the 10F weather.  Was he suicidal, I wondered?

At my first sight there was no evidence of any reaction to this stunt.  There was nobody on shore, no emergency personnel as this fellow strolled across the harbor ice, apparently trying to reach the breakwater that forms the harbor.  I was certain that each step would be his last and that we would soon helplessly watch him sink into the icy water.  As my wife was ready to call 911 we were relieved to hear sirens heading toward the harbor.  At about this same time the "man on ice" seemed to encounter ice that rattled his nerves enough to force a retreat.  I captured this image as he turned and walked, again nonchalantly, back toward shore where a group of fire/rescue personnel and police officers anxiously awaited him.

I'm happy to report that the man safely returned to shore, apparently perfectly dry, and greeted his prospective rescuers with what appeared from my distant vantage to be a "Gee, what's the fuss?" attitude.  Police and fire personnel spoke with him for a few minutes and then loaded him into a waiting ambulance, even though he seemed in fine condition.

And that's the last I heard of this stunt.  No news coverage whatsoever.

In my years watching the lake and harbor I have never seen anyone try such a stunt.  And of course I certainly would never encourage anyone to try it.  But it sure made for a wonderful, rather surreal late afternoon image, didn't it?

p.s.  I realize that there are likely to be a few readers/viewers who may be suspicious that I've created the "Man on Ice" with Photoshop.  For them I add the following image showing the fellow as he reached shore.

Supplement to "Water Walker"
Chicago
February, 2014

A7R-20140226-1631-2096

 

p.p.s.  A good friend and art museum curator remarked that the image looks equally fascinating when inverted, since it does not show a horizon and the walker is so cleanly reflected.  I agree!

Ice on ManIce on ManXE2-20140226-1630-1491

- Ken Tanaka -

March, 2014

 

 

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) Chicago Lake Michigan Man on Ice Monroe Harbor aerial crazy winter http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/3/man-on-ice Wed, 05 Mar 2014 22:04:17 GMT
About This Collection: Urban Glyphs & Cold Bones http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/8/about-this-collection-glyphs-bones Glyph 1Chicken

Loosen up and look around!

That's what "Urban Glyphs" is all about.  Our minds are continuously trying to make sense of what our eyes see.  Most of the time, thankfully, a healthy mind draws the correct associations.  Bird seen = bird recognized.  Car seen = car recognized.  

But sometimes if the image is not obvious the association can be fanciful.  That's the game I played with my own mind one cold, gray winter day while walking through a park. The pavement was old and in poor condition.  It had been patched for many years but the patches were themselves disintegrating.  Stained by salts and moisture their crazing began to form abstract representations of familiar things in my straining mind.  After studying a few memo images taken with a small camera I decided to return with a better camera and make this an afternoon project.

glyph 2Camel Identifying and making these images made for a thoroughly enjoyable day project.  Even today, several years later, I enjoy looking through these fanciful images and try to re-interpret them.

By the way, these images are no longer possible to create, as the pavement has been removed as part of a park renovation project.

Camera:  Canon 5D

 

 

Here's another example of one of my day-projects, this time from the dead of a winter several years ago.    An unusual snow-freeze-thaw-freeze cycle had enabled snow and ice to thaw, slump, and then re-freeze on a sloping surface.  This created some truly remarkable forms reminiscent, at least to me, of partially unearthed bones in an archeological dig site. Cold Bones 1 So I spent a delightful, but very cold, afternoon finding spots at this site that really made the imagination romp in such a direction.

Cold Bones 2 You can find the full set of these images in my "Cold Bones" gallery.

Camera:  Canon 5D Mark II

My closing suggestion is that you abandon chasing "decisive moments" and photographic greatness every so often to simply let your mind wander with your camera.  If you're able to genuinely set yourself free of ambition and camera tech concerns I think you'll find such exercises to be remarkably relaxing and, over time, quite enriching for your creative eye. 

- Ken Tanaka -

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Collection abstract http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/8/about-this-collection-glyphs-bones Fri, 02 Aug 2013 17:21:55 GMT
About This Image: "The Finisher" (untitled) http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-the-finisher The Finisher

 

This piece features another image from the project I introduced in my July 21, 2013 article titled "To Build".  Here we see a fellow finishing (washing) the corrugated concrete walls of an intricate ramped walkway.  This is one of those scenes I dream of encountering, especially in the context of this project.  Here we have this man floating in this wild field of angular geometry with gashes of natural color slicing around him.  It's as close to a natural surreal fantasy as I've seen.

Referring back to my July 21 article, this scene also has all three basic composition factors working well:  elements, relationships and gesture.  The elements, of course, are the corrugated walls and the colored equipment, as well as the man.  Their relationships in the frame are just about as good as I could imagine, leaning into each other and leading your eye up the frame.  And, as with my "To Build" image, the man here provides the interesting gesture that really makes the frame sing. 

Several of the nearly 20 images I captured of this scene had strong potential to be winners.  Each of the two images below, for example, has very good bones and is engaging.  The man's body position in the image on the left has a strong relationship to the angles that surround him.  Squatting in the image on the right delays his initial discovery by sublimating his figure among the other elements in the frame, particularly because he's wearing a white hard hat.

Finisher - alternate 1 Finisher - alternate 2

 

Which brings me to a closing point.  The true qualities of pictures -- photos, paintings, drawings -- can take a while to discover.  In fact in my experience they're rarely immediately apparent.  As with people, superficial prettiness is immediately apparent but deeper and more substantial qualities emerge slowly.  That's why I generally take two measures before passing judgement on most* of my own images.  First, after a cursory review I walk away from them for at least six months, preferably a year.  The immediate memory of capturing an image can often sway my objectivity.

Second, usually following that dark period, I print images that most interest me and tack them on the walls of my office.  That's where I will spend time just living with them for weeks or months, sometimes studying them deeply, more routinely glancing at them in passing.   I've found this to be the only sure-fire way to make objective judgements about my images and decisions regarding their finishing treatments.   Try it for yourself.  I think you'll also find it to be an effective methodology.

(* Excepting those which have freshness or use-by limitations.)

 

- Ken Tanaka -

Camera:  Canon 1Ds Mark III

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image To Build construction http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-the-finisher Tue, 23 Jul 2013 17:27:11 GMT
About This Image: To Build http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-to-build

To BuildTo Build

This is the title image of a personal project that I began sometime in 2006.  My "To Build" project is devoted to capturing large construction projects from an artful, rather than documentary, perspective.  I'll offer much more about the project later this year when I plan to open a gallery of the project's images here.  Right now I want to look just at the title image (which I've temporarily posted in the "As Seen" gallery).

First, a (mercifully) brief micro-essay on my thoughts on composition.  Amateur photography how-to libraries are awash in "composition" guidance, most of which is devoted towards mechanical rules of organization.  But making pictures  -- photos, drawings, paintings, etc. -- that communicate your intentions distills to coordinating and manipulating just three factors.  The organization of the final image generally becomes a natural resultant of attending to these three factors independent of template rules.

Elements  What's actually in the picture?  Is anything missing?  Is anything distracting or extraneous?  Everything in a picture matters to some degree.

Relationships  What are the relationships between these elements?  Everything in a picture is related to everything else in the picture, if only by virtue of inclusion in the frame.  Size, tone/color, relative position, visual/correspondent lines establish relationships that either congeal the elements into a cohesive whole or produce incoherency.

Gesture  This is the secret sauce of pictures and the least understood outside the art world.  Every picture can feature gesture even if it's a picture of rocks.  If elements and their relationships represent the basic ingredients of your message gesture is the power tool for accenting and emphasizing message.  The tools and methods of establishing gesture in a picture are varied.  In a portrait they might be body position, eyes and brows, hand positions, etc.  In a landscape it might be how the relationships of elements are organized to induce an impression or recollection from the viewer.

These are the three factors to which I pay most attention while making photographs.  Review some of your favorite pictures with these three factors in mind and I guarantee that you will gain a much better, and very practical, understanding of how pictures of all kinds communicate messages.

Realistically, however, few candid images offer possibilities to capture all three of these factors in as strong of measures as this scene offered.  I had several months to anticipate this scene.  My camera position, a window, was completely static so I could only wait for the scene to literally rise in front of me.  To the contrary of what you might imagine the photo opportunity on such a project from a static position can appear and vanish remarkably quickly, particularly on a steel project such as this.  Installation of columns, beams, and floor decking quickly erase the transparency and potential impact of such a scene forever.  Such is the joy of waiting for just the right moment to make photographs.

The moment had clearly arrived on the day I made this image.  All of the elements were in place and arranged in powerfully expressive relationships to each other.  The massive steel skeleton and crane mostly silhouetted against a white overcast summer sky.  The shimmer of light reflected from an adjacent building relieved the darkness of the steel and gave it a visual materiality for just a brief time.  The tall building in the background suggested the urban legacy of such projects.

But without gesture, especially as expressed by human scale, the scene would never rise above static and mildly interesting.   Fortunately after a long wait I was able to capture this one ironworker in the perfect position and in the perfect gesture to give the image the heroicism and scale that I had originally envisioned, making this one of the very few of my images that I would consider as close to perfect as I'm likely to get.

 

- Ken Tanaka -

 

Camera:  Canon 1Ds Mark III

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image To Build construction ironworker steel http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-to-build Sun, 21 Jul 2013 21:25:26 GMT
About This Image: Van Buren http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-van-buren Van BurenVan Buren

How do you maintain your sense of focus, your spirits, and your sense of self amidst the cacophony of daily urban life?  The answer that many, perhaps most, of us would offer is that we find and create bubbles of peaceful sanctuary that we visit throughout the day.

I suspect that's exactly what this lady was doing when I took this image.

It was nearing 5pm on a beautiful mid-June day. I was out for a walk with a very small camera.  As I approached Van Buren street in Chicago's south loop I looked up and saw this lovely lady waiting for an elevated train all alone on the platform, gazing up Clark street as if hovering in her own bubble of peace.  Perhaps she'd had a hectic day working at one of the nearby financial exchanges or at the Metropolitan Correction Center (a prison) which looms in the background.  Whatever the case, there she was in one of densest and busiest parts of the city surrounded by lights, security cameras, and transit technology...yet on a private island.

One of the tests of an image's quality, for me, is how I react to seeing it years after capturing (or first seeing) it.  This is one that I always welcome seeing again and again.

 

- Ken Tanaka -

Camera:  Panasonic DMC-LX5

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image Van Buren el street urban http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-this-image-van-buren Thu, 18 Jul 2013 16:30:39 GMT
About This Image: One Way, San Francisco and Daley Plaza 2/3 http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/aboutthisimage-oneway-sanfran-daley2-3 By way of introduction I admit that the work of Magnum photographer Rene Burri has been very influential on my eye.  Burri's ability to see and capture scenes in layers, often rather graphic, with each layer adding more richness to the overall image.  Studying Burri's images has forever tuned my photo eye to spot such opportunities.  Ditto many images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Buce Davidson, and several other great shooters of the 20th century.

The images below represent a sampling of my current efforts to capture such scenes and are presented here primarily to potentially give others ideas for their own work.

One WayOne Way

One Way

I had just passed the fellow with the signs and the attention-seeking whistle.  I turned to get a shot of him as I reached the middle of the crosswalk when a bicycle messenger rolled into the scene.  The signs, the people, the buildings all together make this an almost comical compression of the routine daily activities and special interests that rub shoulders in every big city's nexus.

In an ideal situation I would have captured a slightly wider scene, particularly on the left.  Even so, I was pleased to have captured the essence of the scene.

Camera: Olympus OMD E-M5

San Francisco

"San Francisco" (untitled)

I came upon this scene while walking in the Union Square area of San Francisco.  It nearly took my breath away.  What a compression of the urban experience!  The dense promotional signage, the pedestrians, the construction equipment, the wild geometric orgy created by the equipment, windows, and shadows.

Interestingly, the image did not come together until the crane operator apparently became warm and opened his door.

I have not yet tired of looking at this image.

Camera: Canon S95

Daley Plaza 2

"Daley Plaza 2" (untitled)

It's a late afternoon in mid-summer on the eastern edge of Chicago's Daley Plaza.  The full hustle of rush hour hasn't yet begun.  The sun is setting behind the camera but the glass facade in front of us is acting like an enormous mirror creating duplicate shadows and creating unusual fill light.

In many respects this image is very kindred to "35 W. Madison".  In fact I captured them within a month of each other and with the same camera.  The difference, admittedly subtle, is layering.  There are actually six layers in the image.  (Pigeons, near pedestrians, street traffic, far pedestrians, building, and reflections.)    If you're like most viewers you notice the closest layer, the pigeons, much later.  The bald fellow in the brown shirt steals the initial attention and your eyes move up from there.  Good lesson in cognitive processes.

 

Camera: Fujifilm X100

Daley Plaza 3

"Daley Plaza 3" (untitled)

Same location and orientation as "Daley Plaza 2", one year later.  This is a location I most enjoy visiting in the late afternoon during summer and early autumn.  Like a good fishing spot it's usually rich with possibilities and, at the very least, is generally entertaining.

Here, instead of layers we have separate scenes and a bit of whimsical mystery.  The woman in the foreground seems to have had a good day.  The guys across the street in the tree shadows seem engrossed in conversation.  The woman behind them seems engrossed in herself and is accompanied by her shadow.  The video board above her head, run by a local television station, shows rather whimsical snippets from closed captions of the station's news broadcast.

 

Camera:  Olympus OMD E-M5

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image Chicago Daley Plaza birds layers street urban http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/aboutthisimage-oneway-sanfran-daley2-3 Wed, 17 Jul 2013 16:20:28 GMT
About This Image: Air Show http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-the-image-air-show Air ShowAir Show I admit it: I have become somewhat of a nut for images thick with details.  Whether it's an intricate Albrecht Durer etching or a dense photograph, I find images that cannot be fully absorbed in a single viewing, or two, or three, to be immensely rewarding.   

In 2012 I decided to actively pursue capturing such images across all genres.  "Air Show" is a good example of my early efforts.

The scene is Navy Pier during Chicago's annual Air and Water Show.  As the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team roars overhead I work the crowd.  It's one of those rare moments in which I'm invisible even though I'm standing just a few feet in front of the crowd.  Everyone is looking skyward.  Nobody's looking at me. Rare, indeed.

Let me start by considering that images such as this must work as a whole.  That is, the details must coagulate to produce a compelling overall scene, otherwise nobody will look at it twice.    "Air Show" came together very nicely in the span of just seconds.

 

Here is the frame I shot immediately before the one I chose.  You can see it's close but not nearly as coherent as the other image.  The left side is coming together but the right side is still incoherent.  The lady in blue and her daughter had yet to lean toward each other and the two guys and gal were still too loose.  And, of course, the baby on her mother's shoulder at the center of the frame had not yet pointed skyward.  When I saw her point I knew I had something good.  Click!

The delights of this image, however, really lie in the embedded scenes some of which could make for good images on their own.  The pointing baby is arguably the centerpiece of the scene.  Although it's small and not in the foreground it really holds the image together.

Air Show Detail 2

The cluster of five people on the right side came together very well.  They tightened as a group and their body positions and facial gestures made for an excellent collage of emotion.  It's hard to imagine how they might have been better arranged or directed.

Air Show Detail 3

As you look deeper into the scene, perhaps on a later viewing, you begin to spot still other sub-scenes, such as this group anchored by the boy in his white-rimmed sunglasses.

Air Show detail 4

And the cute little girl with her water bottle at the far left of the frame.  She seems like the only person in the scene not looking skyward.  Perhaps she was watching me?

Today's digital cameras, even modestly-priced models, are exquisitely adept at capturing extraordinary details in a scene.  But capturing candid images that use this detail to great advantage is extraordinarily challenging. There are just too many variables that need to cooperate to make such images commonplace.  My personal goal is to get four such good images each year, about the pace I've been maintaining.  I'll share notes about several other such images here soon.

 

- Ken Tanaka -

Camera:  Olympus OMD E-M5

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image air show urban http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/about-the-image-air-show Sun, 14 Jul 2013 18:18:29 GMT
About This Image: 35 W. Madison, Chicago http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/35WMadisonChicago

35 W. Madison

A general aesthetic goal for my "Metropolitan" series is to depict today's urban environment contextually.  To this end I often prefer to take rich, wide-angle views of city scenes.  Such images tell future viewers something of how urban life felt in our times.  This image is a good example of my efforts towards this end.  Here's why.

Light-fall, shadows, and light tonality are essential elements for this type of urban photography.  The right light has a magical way of turning otherwise dull, flat street scenes into scenes that have tremendous expression and 3-dimensional volume.  Chicago's Loop, the central downtown area, is organized on an orthogonal grid of streets oriented closely to the compass points.  So the impact of the sun's path is quite nicely predictable.

Unfortunately there are only about two weeks from late July to early August, when the light in this image is possible.  The afternoon light that makes this image work simply does no happen at other times of the year.

Capturing this image took two years (two seasons) of attempts.  In fact, this final image was nearly accidental as I was not hunting specifically for it on this day.

Two specific features are worth noting as part of this explanatory discussion.

Pedestrian parade

The pedestrian parade is an essential element of many of my "Metropolitan" series images.  It's a feature that I find fascinating as a time capsule in much celebrated street and documentary photography of the 20th century  so I try to incorporate a good life slice into my images.

But getting a good parade can be a formidable challenge of chance particularly if you're chasing fleeting light conditions as I was here.  A "good parade", for me, means a scene not dominated by phone talkers or smokers, ideally none of either.  It's a parade of people who may be in personal bubbles but appear to be engaged with their environment.

This is an acceptable parade, not the best but the best I captured at this scene on this day.  Here, the boy carrying the bag over his head becomes the centerpiece.  The energetic young boy at far left is also a good element.  The right side is a bit dull.  In candid photography perfection is deliciously elusive.

The sense of spaciousness of the scene is greatly enhanced by the subtle transparency of the Inland Steel Building in the background.  It is only at this time of the year when the late afternoon sun streams into the building's west curtain wall and the building appears to glow for short time.  The textures created by the internal lighting also add to the image's richness.  A large print of the image reveals people and furnishings in the office spaces.

Yes, this is an image best viewed as a large print.  Failing that, viewing it at full screen size will certainly give you the intended impression.

 

Camera:  Fujifilm X100

 

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kentanakaphoto@me.com (Kenneth Tanaka) About This Image architecture cityscape street urban http://kentanaka.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/7/35WMadisonChicago Fri, 12 Jul 2013 16:02:00 GMT