Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life's little surprises

Why do I like this picture? The staring bulbous eyes, the straight face coming through the clown's make-up, the sharp lines made by the pole and, finally, the little drawing on the pole that looks a bit like him.

Along with the shots you hope to get while out on the street shooting, there are always the surprises that await you around every corner. That is the great thing about street photography. It helps to keep your eyes open and looking around (and not always pinned to the little display on the camera!). I'll repeat a few rules here for up-and-coming street photographers:
1. Keep your camera on. Carry an extra battery pack.
2. Keep your lens cap off. A lens hood will protect your camera nearly as well as the cap.
3. Notice what's going on around you so that you can anticipate the action and be prepared for it.
4. Keep your camera's ISO speed high if you want to capture the action (and not just the blur).

 At a small Carnival parade in Forsbach outside of Cologne, I got this shot because I noticed the Red Cross jackets gathered just off the main route. For me, this sums up the parade atmosphere perfectly. The drummer has a bad cut on his hand and will have to be sewn up. The first-aid worker is calling in the information but still holding onto the bag of candy which she has caught during the parade.

Near the Rhine this couple was sitting and talking about something apparently fairly serious. The expression on the man's face is priceless. The various patterns make for an interesting photo.

A shot for background fans: I waited for a couple of costumed people to walk in front of the House of Cologne's Artisanry. The annual parade is an important part of the city's trade status.

Here I was shooting for the spots of color within this frame. "Toi, toi" means "good luck" to Germans in certain situations. Here it means "porta-potty".

Friday, March 9, 2012

Capturing the essence

On Rosenmontag (the Monday before Mardi Gras), there is a huge parade in Cologne, rivaled perhaps only by the parades in Rio de Janiero or New Orleans. This year as last, I went into the city to get a feel for the day and make some pictures that exemplified it.
This man seems to have just stuck on a red nose in order to watch the parade from the grandstand. He's wearing a very modest costume: red jacket and nose, little black feather hat and a colorful scarf. The red nose and the cathedral in the background - along with a hint of a costumed friend near him - tell us where we are and what day of the year it is.

Once again I chose the cathedral as a backdrop for this couple who were having a very nice time up in the bleachers.

As I walked past these two lovers, I took several shots of their long kiss, my 100-300mm lens pushing the low end of its reach.

This group of teenagers seems to have had enough already - and it was only 3:30 p.m.

Another tell-all picture: I like the way the vertical lines of the cathedral's facade are repeated in those of the grandstand.

I love the way this woman has to concentrate on drinking her beer because of the big nose she's plopped onto her face.

I love the light and the expressions on these faces. I couldn't have gotten a better picture of them if I had had them in a studio for an hour! This is the type of facial gesture you can't get by saying, "Now pose for me!"

Here is the Deutzer Brücke from the other side.

After the party is before the (next) party for these two couples.

This man is wearing a hat typical of the people who go to the Sitzungen where political jokes are made for hours at a time. He seems to have caught many "Strüßje" (flowers) at the parade.

This may be my favorite shot of the day. I like the way the telephoto lens seems to make the cathedral appear close to the people on the steps. As tempting as it is to process this one in B/W to make them all blend in better, I like the colors too much to do away with them here.

I waited to take a picture of this "king" until I could get the umbrella in the background, too. I just now saw the lipstick left from the kiss on his cheek.

I followed these two lions along the Rhine for a while until they were aligned with the two spires of the cathedral came behind them. When I pointed that fact out to my son, he said, "Yeah, and the apartment house has two peaks and so does that round building." What an eye!

In the train station, the sunlight was streaming in nicely after 5 p.m. I think that's Justin Bieber (in the background!).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Got it!

Sometimes when I'm out on the street photographing the world as it goes by, I get a shot and think to myself, That was the shot of the day! That's going to be a good one!
A few weeks back I was in the Rhineland for the Carnival parades and had that feeling on several occasions. Here are those photos and my thoughts on them after the post-processing.
First to catch my eye was the guy in the lion costume in Forsbach. The parade had not even begun, but he looked as if he had already had enough.

In Cologne on Monday I saw this sign ("Repent") with a witch standing in front of it. I got into position and waited for her to turn around (as I knew she eventually would), then got three quick shots of her with the poster behind her. I couldn't have wished for a better expression from her.

Last year before I drove up to the Rhineland for Carnival, I was in the LUMAS photo gallery with my friend Jim Palik. We were talking with the gallery's director, Ursula Moll, who is from the Rhineland. When I told her where I was headed, she asked me to bring her back "a good picture of the Deutzer Brücke with all the locks on it." I didn't manage to get a good one last year, but the picture below is framed and ready to be delivered to her at the Brisky gallery in Esslingen. I took it while travelling into town on the train. The light was great and the charm of the love locks, put there by couples to acknowledge their bond, was emphasized by the kissing couple and the other costumed pedestrians.

Another shot I got on the way in was this one which somehow reminded me of a scene from a World War II movie. In order to concentrate more on the light and composition (and not only on the colorful costumes), I had set my camera on B/W, so this is what I saw. The dark clouds, the hot-air balloons and the overhead power cables appeared to be from a different era.

By the way, you can set your camera to B/W to help you concentrate on lines, light and shadows, too. If you are shooting in RAW, the images will appear B/W on your camera display but will be in full color once you process them on the computer.