The banks of the river Seine are lined with fold-up vendors (les bouquinistes) selling classic prints and old postcards. Thousands of people jostle by on their way to Notre Dame. Along with all the other tourists, I took the requisite (but boring) photos of the cathedral. I also took shots of these iconic stalls.
Later that day I processed the photos and found a gem of a montage. Mixed in with the prints of Chat Noir and Moulin Rouge were photos of two saucy ladies from the 1920’s.
The Mona Lisa is placed right beside them. If you look closely, you can see her rolling her eyes.
Paris, France. 2018
I may be addicted.
Lately I’ve been spending too much time huddled over my phone, checking status, entering challenges, voting and topping up my exposures. I’ve been playing Gurushots, a real-time online photo competition system.
It works by entering challenges and accumulating votes to achieve levels. The levels tip to points and the points tip to ranks. The more you vote, the more exposure your photo entries get for voting. There is no limit to the number of challenges you can enter. And that’s a problem.
At one point I had ten challenges going. I was constantly checking on my exposure meter and submitting votes to bump it up. Problem is that voting involves paging through hundreds of photos, some good, some not so good and some downright puzzling. It all depends on the wording of the challenge. Sometimes, the guidance is too vague.
Take for instance the “Starts with a K” challenge. The description was too vague. It should have qualified the language. I paged through
hundreds thousands of Kittens, Keys and Kiwis. (Question: How many interesting angles are there to a Kiwi? Answer: None. I’ve seen them all.) But then I started seeing Cakes, Coffee and Corn. Someone couldn’t spell. Wait … maybe they could spell but it was in German. Kuchen, Kaffee and Korn.
Another fun challenge was “Face in the Crowd”. There were lots of pictures of crowds but no distinctive single face. Other pictures were classic single person portraits; you had to imagine the crowd. One remarkable shot was taken on stage, of the back of a band performing to a crowd. No faces seen but they were facing the crowd. Ha ha! That one got my vote.
Anyways here are a few of my photos in recent Gurushot challenges.
Toronto, Canada. 2018
In the East there is an ancient man made reservoir called Srah Srang. It was built in the 10th century by the Khmer civilization in the kingdom of Angkor. For over a thousand years people have used this place for religious rituals, communal baths and water collection.
On this early morning, as dawn broke across a cloudy eastern sky, a lady collects water for another day.
In the West coast of Canada, the rain forests meet the Pacific and the sun sets in a blaze of glory.
A hoodie shrouded man walks along a jetty after bidding the day good bye.
Two worlds. One day. Twelve thousand kilometers apart. The sun rises and sets on both.
I learned a harsh lesson in portraiture this week: Digital is not the same as Print.
It’s a surprising realization that after four years of photography I’ve never actually printed my pictures. I’ve been satisfied with sharing them here, on Flickr and other social media. That changed when I committed to mailing prints back to the folks in Cuba.
But let’s rewind a bit.
The highlight of my recent trip was the opportunity to take pictures of people. I met members of the Chivirico community and with their gracious consent, took some wonderful portraits. As an additional bonus, on the last day our group had a full day model shoot with a troupe of professional dancers. It was an chance for composed shots with enthusiastic and ‘malleable’ subjects. As a gesture of appreciation I agreed to send printed pictures back to the community.
And here is where reality bites.
Portraits that looked perfectly fine on screen showed up harsh and unflattering in print. So many of these folks had been charming in person; I hated sending back ugly photos. I hastily adjusted the images, dialing back on clarity to soften the details and smoothe out natural skin imperfections. Softer, toned down images resulted with improved print quality. On screen the visual effect was almost as dramatic.
My lesson learned? For close up portraits, particularly those slated for print and people you’d rather not hate you, hold back on the clarity.
On the other hand, for my model pictures I allowed for more dramatic license. There were some pictures where I’d scaled back on the clarity, reprinted the image and then decided that I preferred the original.
For example this portrait of Graciano. I think the hard lights on his face adds a gritty edginess to the picture. It elevates it from being a nice shot to being an interesting one.
Or so I think. What about you?
Photos taken Cuba. March 2018