Watching Me Watching You
The title comes from Sweet Caroline the Neil Diamond classic. It fits as the majority of the images are of people looking at art in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Which I can happily report is one of the most photographer friendly places I have been to in a long time. The only thing they asked of me was to move my bag to front of my body so I didn’t accidently bump anything. No bag search, no freaking about my tripod, no nothing. I only got told not to photograph an area once and it was my fault for missing the sign that said no photographs. The guard was very polite and I apologized for my mistake. So two thumbs up and I highly recommend a trip there. Lots of stuff to see and you can kill a good 3 or 4 hours in there.
One of the questions I was asked recently is why don’t I describe what I was going for when I shoot this stuff and what type of photographer am I. Well, I’m mainly a landscape and travel photographer. I like it because I can setup on a tripod and happily putter around doing my thing. I’m not big into photographing people but you can tell by this post that I will do it. While I don’t like being sneaky about it I prefer my shots to be natural instead of posed. One of my best used images is a corporate headshot of someone and I got it while he was laughing at some sarcastic remark I made. It was spontaneous and not fake. So when I do take people shots I tend to do it on the sly and then ask for permission/forgiveness after the fact. If they ask me to delete it fair enough. If they ask me why I tell them I thought they looked cool. Most people say okay and if they want a copy of the image I hand a business card to them and say write me if you want it. No license. No nothing. Its their face so they deserve the image.
As for why I don’t go with some thought on what is in my mind when I take these images. I rarely set out with a plan. I like to go some place and see what there is to see and go from there. Depends on my mood. I had no real idea what I was going to take when I went to the National Portrait Gallery. When I started taking pictures of people looking at pictures it just went from there. I figured I could get a series out of it. As for mood/tension/pretentious art stuff it’s not my thing. I don’t get all excited about art. I can look at an image and go it’s nice and move on. You like it or you don’t. So why should I tell someone what to think with my images? It’s your brain, draw your own conclusions. You don’t need me to tell.
Moving on to the technical side of photographer and the alternate title it would be An Exercise in Masochism. This was my first real attempt at shooting with the Nikon D810 and while I understood the camera the issue of me not using an optical viewfinder for 3 years and not being 100% sure on how it did metering posed a few issues. Still the images were usable even if shot at ISO 1600. The edits are subtle and very discreet. Mostly having to do with bringing out details in people so they didn’t block up on the blacks. Then for the downsized images I had to select a different algorithm so it didn’t sharpen the images because it would introduce more noise into the images. Of course this wasn’t thought of until 4 images in so I had to go back to the full resolution and then resize with the correct algorithm. Plus I tried to force a few images until I realized they weren’t going to cut it so I just deleted them and moved on.
The Nikon D810 isn’t a forgiving camera. If you make a mistake in shooting it’s going to let you know about it in post processing. It’s going to be a steep learning curve with this camera. Still, I am loving it and what it can do.
PS – There are rumors my reflection is in one of these images. I despise having my picture taken even if I am the one inadvertently doing it.