Captain Shutter

Street Photography by Pete Ansara

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Photographing Street Performers

Just your average day…

We have all have seen niffty images of street performers. Seattle is an excellent place to see some of the best performers in action. The City of Seattle regulates street performers. You are free to perform so long as you have a permit. Given this, I believe it provides for an orderly and fair system. It weeds out bad actors and provides a safe place to visitors. If you want to shoot street performers, Pikes Place Market is no doubt the place to go!

In previous blog entries, I have expressed on more than one occasion that the equipment does not matter when you are expressing yourself through street photography. More and more I am seeing folks walk around with an iPad mostly shooting movies. Most folks now that one of the downsides to the iPad and iPod is that photo resolution down right SUCKS! Does this mean you still can’t have fun with iy…no! It just means that you can’t blow up billboard size images. My iPad and I presume all iPads come loaded with the app Photo Booth. If you have an iPad and have used it you know that you are in for some of the most hilarious moments of your life. This app unfortunately is not available on the iPhone or iPod. I wish it was.

So, yesterday, I set out on a journey with iPad in tow to focus solely on taking images of street performers. I have taken 100s of street performer images but, after a while they all look the same…yep that guy singing with his guitar and his mouth wide open…sure its expressive but whether you’re in London, Boston or Seattle, they all look the same! So, how can you make it different? How can your images stand out? How can you make these performers look like real super stars? Simple…use your iPad…I hope you like them!

Soulful Singer


Ya’ll Come Back Now!


F for Facebook…A for Apple

Know Your Alphabet

F is for….

F for what and A for what? Alright, I could not resist. I anticipated correctly that the Facebook IPO release would be a failure. Why do I think that? Because! Just think about it, the FB model is to sell advertising. Advertising on FB is doomed for failure. Yeah I have a FB account…only because my wife and son forced me into it. I am trying desperately to introduce myself through FB through my photography. Thus far its been a big fn dud! Yeah, I have a couple oh hundred friends. My son got almost all of the for me. I see all the click advertising on the right. I haven’t clicked once, nor do I have a desire to do so. I see ads for an Alaskan Cruise and Boston Celtic attire. There is no way I am clicking…there is no way that most of you are clicking. GM and other big advertisers have already bailed. They bailed on the eve of the IPO release. Smart move. Dumb asses on Wall Street created a bunch of hype. What they created was mass foolery. They faked people into thinking that FB is the next Google. Well it’s not. FB will die just like My Space and we will all be looking for the next social bug.

A is for….

Apple on the other hand is doing well. I have no iPhone but I have an iPad and iPod. They make me happy. The stock is good and solid and it does not show me drama like my daughters FB page. I went to the fair not long ago equipped with only my iPod…no DSLR, no point and shoot…just my simple iPod loaded with crazy photo apps. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and remember the old instamatic camera, Polaroid, the 110, the 126, etc. iTunes has all my childhood memories  from free to $1.99.  For $1.99 I purchased my Hipstamatic and a variety of films. It also comes with a few lenses. There is the John S, lens, the Jimmy, and Kaimal Mark II lenses that come standard. You can purchase others too. I purchased all  the films: Blanko, Ina’s 1969, Kodot Verichrome, Blackeys B+W, Blackeys Super Grain and a few others. Off I went to the fair to take a few snaps with my trusty iPod at the Puyallup Fair:


Weight Restriction

Baby on Board


Wax on Wax off

I didn’t do it

Coke Meets Hardrock

Batman Jr.

Dippitty Doo

My Finger Got in the Way

Cotton Candy Man

Cotton Candy Lady


Hammer Down


What you looking at?


Step Right Up


Go west my young man….


Flower Child



Look Up


Baby Boots

Taking it in…

The Wheel

A Dream You Had

Hoop Shots

Coaster, et. al.

Space Oddysey

Ying and Yang



Kentucky Derby

Brokeback Mountain





So, how do we end this…Use what works…have fun doing it…blurry is OK…iPod today…something else tomorrow…Facebook dies…Apple lives…Get rid of the hoodie Zuckerberg…Ok, you finish it the way you want…



Street Photography…A Few Tips for the Photographer in Training (PIT)

Starting out in street photography for most is a difficult proposition. Let’s face it shooting bugs and flowers is a much easier task that dealing head on with a 300 pound guy in the middle of your lens. Bugs and flowers don’t talk back. On occasion people do. So, here are a few tips:

1. Get a simple camera

You do not need some big fancy DSLR with a 200 mm zoom! Start with a simple point and shoot or an old film camera with a fixed lens or even your iPhone or camera phone. This will force you to engage Shooting people from 1 block away is not street photography. You need to get up close and personal with your subject.  Standing in front of a crowd with a big camera and lens will give you away. You will stand out like a big dork wearing pink undies on the 50 yard line at a football game. Small, compact and simple is the key!

Alley Girl

2.  Get in range

What? Get in range? At first, most are trying to overcome the fear of taking a picture of a human on the street at close range. I could tell you that in order to catch the perfect shot you have to be within 6 feet of the subject. At first, try to get within 20 feet of your subject, then 15 and to be the ultimate master of overcoming your fear of entering one’s personal space shoot for 6 feet or less. There are artful ways of doing this which I will discuss later in another post.

Cowboy (6 feet or less)

Pikes Place Market (100 feet away)

3. Don’t worry about assholes…

I think it would be foolish to think  that everyone on the street is a nice guy. From time to time you will get an idiot! How you handle dealing with the idiot is another thing. There are strategies, like ignore him, look the other way, keep walking, tell them that you were taking a picture of something behind them or….whatever fits your fancy. There are no rules on the street. There are no laws here in the US that I know of that say you can’t take a picture on the street. Just be aware of your surroundings. There is no doubt that you will misjudge people. For example, I saw this “Hells Angel” biker sitting on the edge of a park bench in Seattle. I took an image of him from the rear. What appeared to be an elder woman ( I assume his mother) motioned him to say I was taking a picture. He turned around and said “hey!”. I said “WHAT!”. He didn’t say anything in return. I am pretty good on my feet. I am not a meek or small person, so I can get away with a bit of a bark every now and then. The bottom-line is beware!


 4. When in doubt ask…

In open spaces my general rule is “just shoot it”. When in a more intimate space like a walk up window where the guy is selling pastry, ask. It does not have to be candid to be good. I have found that for the most part people like to have their portrait taken. There is a general sense of honor that goes with it. If they say no, just say thanks and move on. I have never had an ugly moment by asking.

Pastry Man

 5.  Have fun…relax

Street photography is a hobby. It is supposed to be fun. Take your time and challenge yourself. For example, stand on a corner and just observe. The fact is that most people are not necessarily aware of what’s around them. They are generally on a mission to get something, buy something, meet somebody, go to a meeting, etc. They have no sense of the baby strolling buy or the pigeon eating crumbs off the ground. When you are aware and observe, you become a better photographer. Pick a location and wait for something to walk into YOUR scene. Get ready, pre focus and shoot at the moment you make it. Patience does pay off!

Miss Daisy

Rocky Balboa and Family

West Bank in Seattle

Snoozing in Seattle

The Look

The Dog

About Pete Ansara: Pete is a world recognized photographer based in Seattle, Washington.

Stories Behind Pictures

If you are a passionate photographic craftsman you understand the urge to shoot. No one but you can make the decision of when, what, where, why and how come to choose what you shoot.  When I go to Pikes Place Market in Seattle, I usually spend three or so hours walking from the entrance of the market on Pike Street and proceed to the other end and across the street to the park. If you have been there you know what I mean. When it is especially sunny like it was today, the challenges of exposure present more challenges. My favorite time to shoot is when it is overcast. The sun just reeks havoc from late morning to early afternoon. Walking to the park from the entrance is perfect because I have the sun behind me. Walking back from the park to the market entrance plays fierce against the lens.

As a street photographer, you are not usually walking around with reflectors strobes and other photographic tools to help you overcome these light issues. It is you and your trusty servant, your camera to over come. I shoot with a range finder. This adds a bit more complexity. Rangefinders are more prone to sun flare. In addition, focussing in direct sunlight can be trying. This is why I do a lot of zone focussing. Many times when you think you were in focus, had the framing perfect, later you will find that you were slight off.

About half of what I shoot is generally focused and the other half has potential treasures. Maybe the image is out of focus. Maybe an element shows up that you did not necessarily see when you took the shot. There are many imperfections about photography. The out put has lots to do about decisions! You make the decisions by thinking and knowing about light and what your camera can do. There is no information about right or wrong. There is no guide that tells you what angle to shoot . Most of everything I know is rooted in 30 plus years of shooting and based a lot on what I think might work! If you stop thinking and stop experimenting then you will  become stagnant! Practice your craft.

I read many photo blogs…al types of blogs…Leica blogs, HDR blogs, landscape blogs and so on. Many of them are informative. Many of them are entertaining. Some make me scratch my head. We live in an age that load websites full of what the next step is. You’re not going to carry a blog or a 10 pound instruction manual with you. You are going to carry your brain! Use it…experiment with it! If you have to wait for an answer you will never get the shot off.

There are more than ample subjects on the street to shoot. You will always take more photos that you will use. It is your responsibility to select the ones to show. You may think you are doing a service to an audience if you show all your images. You risk turning them off. YOU have the vision and the final decision in bringing the best ones out. So, take lots and show few!

When editing, think about what you will crop, where you will crop it and how you will present it. Color? Black and white? You can ask someone. This may not be a bad idea. I have made the mistake of changing my mind. You are the photographer…the artist…the conductor…and the genius behind your talent. In the end, you pick what you know worked.

I was asked once to exhibit some of my work at a local art fest. I presented about 15 or so images. They were all framed and displayed in gallery fashion in a nice jewelry store. I noticed that people would get very close to inspect many of the images. I used a process called High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) to process my work. I noted that many people would say things like (without them knowing I was the artist) “is that real”, “that looks just like a painting” or “do you see that” or “that is amazing”…and so on. Many said, “your camera takes great pictures”! Don’t you just love that line?  This experience taught me some valuable lessons. Among many things, it showed an appreciation for my work and that I made some good decisions on what to show and how to present it!

So, what is the story behind the picture? Images have a unique, strange and powerful way of shaping the way people see the world. Photographs shape and influence perceptions of reality. How you tell the story in the picture is up to you!

I leave you with a few photographs. Here, I share a picture of an experience…not the experience. What do you like? Why? Just shoot it!


A Tale of Two Cities

Uke Man

No I am not speaking of  the novel A Tale of Two Cities written Charles Dickens in 1859, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. I am speaking of Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California.

I had the liberty of shooting each of these cities a few days a part. By way of location, Seattle is about 30 minutes from my front door. LA/Burbank on the other hand is a quick 2-3 hour flight away. I visited my son, his girlfriend and her family while in LA. Because we were so busy I did not have the ability to do any street shooting until about 6 hours before my flight left. I ended up shooting on Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. If you ever want to go there, I would fly into Burbank airport and not LA. I would stay near Universal Studio (recommend the Hilton). Located directly down the hill from the Hilton is the  Los Angeles County Metro Rail system. It is an underground system that is surprisingly, clean, safe and cheaply priced. In 2 stops or less than 5 minutes you can be in on Hollywood Blvd. using this system.

So here is my take on both cities:

1. Hollywood

Back in  the late 80s and early 90s I was stationed at Norton, AFB in San Bernardino, CA, less that an hour from Hollywood. I visited often on the weekend with my son and daughter and friends. There was always something to do and things to see. We always topped of the night with a slice and a coke. I found a quote on a travel blog that said, “The boulevard was originally a seedy area in the 1980’s (tourist just posed pictures at Grauman’s Theater and Roosevelt Hotel and Walk of Fame and just leave) but a gentrification campaign was done in the 90’s and today it has a number of attractions.” Okay, yes it has attractions but not sure about being something different from when it was when I last visited. The same attraction that were there in 1992 remain there today with a couple of additions:

Bob Hope Square (Hollywood and Vine) (2003)
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre
El Capitan Theatre
Hollywood Sign
Frederick’s of Hollywood
Hollywood and Highland
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Wax Museum
Janes House
Kodak Theatre
Masonic Temple Home of Jimmy Kimmel Live (2003 for Kimmel)
Musso & Frank Grill
Pantages Theatre
Pig ‘n Whistle
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium
Capitol Records Tower

The texture, sound and smell of Hollywood is the same. It hasn’t changed! It is still the same old dirty place I have always known. The boulevard is still filled with aggressive suited up Batman’s, Elvis’ and other super hero’s that demand you hand over some payola for a picture. Snap and don’t pay and ye shall receive free of charge a bit of attitude, a snide comment or an “F” bomb because you wear a Boston Red Sox hat. I received the ultimate high-five from Bat Woman or Cat Nip Woman or something below.

High Five

So does this mean that Hollywood is not a good place for street photography? Heck no, just be prepared for the ultimate in verbal exchanges and straight forward harassment. And do not be naive. The bottom-line is that there is a certain level of “street” that goes into LA or most big cities. There are lots of opinions on how to approach certain street situations and certain circumstances. Just don’t be an idiot. Be calm, cool and collected. Have some class and swagger about you. In the end, the best advice is use your judgment. The likes of Bruce Gilden, street photographer extraordinaire and others have opinions about this. Many people disagree with them. I would strongly recommend you check out Bruce at

2. Seattle

I have live about 30 minutes or so just south of Seattle for the past 13 years or so. I know Seattle well. I know the streets well and what generally to expect at any given moment. Just like Hollywood, the sights, smells, sounds and textures remain the same year after year. What changes are the scenes and the people who are random moments captured in time once you push the shutter button. What you see and capture is a moment of an experience. You can never bring anyone the experience, you can only show the experience in a picture. I generally shoot in an around Pikes Place Market. Just like Hollywood Boulevard it has lots of people and things going on. A couple of distinguishing traits between the two are:

a. A noticeably big difference in the presence of law enforcement. Noticeable in Seattle are bike, foot and horse patrols. In Hollywood, I can only recall one Sheriff’s car parked around the 6000 block in the 5 hours I was there.

b. No money, no picture!. If you frequent Seattle you would generally see the same street performers. My all time fav is a group called “A Moment In Time”. You can see them in front of the first Starbucks, rain or shine every weekend. You can see them in brief right here: There is never any outright badgering for money, by any street performer in Seattle! In Hollywood, it is a way of life.

c. A sense of community and safety! Seattle has it!

d. Cleanliness. Seattle has it!

e. Fresh air…need I say?

I am not here to bag on Hollywood. The facts are the facts. Sure you can disagree. I have no problem with that. You are what you believe! The whole point of this blog is to share a bit of perspective, share a few photos and maybe provide a few tips. So for those of you interested in street photography here are a few pointers:

Generally, I say Get up close and personal. If you are the introverted type you can overcome your fears of shooting on the street without a bazooka lens held 5 blocks away.  The more you shoot, the more you will overcome your shyness. A lot of getting a good shot is luck and being in the right place at the right time. Every once in a blue moon I get someone who has an issue and has something to say. I haven’t been hit yet. You can always say something, like, “I’m sorry”, or “I was taking a picture of the apple tree behind you.” or something like that. Just be ready and shoot it!

If the light blinds you, shift directions. Normally, if you are shooting something with the sun in front of you are destined for some crappy pictures. If the light isn’t right it isn’t to be…plain and simple. Look for light play on shadows off of people, buildings, fixed objects like bicycles tied up on a parking meter or other fixed object. If it recently rained, look for puddles and reflections. Change your body angle, up and down and side ways. Look at the puddle or something that will give a reflection from a distance or up close and personal. Always be thinking! Remember that the right garbage can in the right light with the right reflection can be a cool image.

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Remember that things do not always have to be perfect! The image does not have to meet certain rules to provoke thought and a wow moment. The scene can be out of focus or have some movement in it maybe because you forgot to put your camera on the right settings. This just makes you more aware and a means to improve you picture-taking. KISS also means that you do not need necessarily a gee golly whiz camera with all sorts of bells and whistles that you have no clue about. Try your camera phone, or a simple point and shoot or even dust off the old 35 mm film camera you have in a box in the attic! Yep, they still develop film. And if you use C41 processing, no matter if it is color or black and white, Costco will develop a 36 exposure roll for and unbelievable price of around $5 scanned to a disc!

Step right up and line it up! Lining things up when your just starting out can be a challenge. Read books, check out websites and blogs on basic composition. Look at the masters, Robert Doisneau or Henri Cartier-Bresson. Study them. Look at their images. Take something from them and feel the emotion when you hit the streets. In the end, I say the best way to line and frame things up is by using the edges in your frame, like a building or something else in the background.

In the end, remember what comes out of your camera, comes out of your soul! There is no how to book on street photography. The best advice I can give anyone is to study others both good and bad. Take the points and tips that help you. Live on the edge a bit. Come out of your skin. Be soulful about what you shoot. Shoot first to please yourself…it will patch the hole in the heart if you have one. Remember that people have opinions. If you show your images, people will have opinions. Take the good with the bad, whatever that may be. In the end, you are who you are! Remember Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s famous words…“ Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Just shoot it!

I will leave it to you to tell yourself which photo’s are from Seattle and which from Hollywood.

Suits Walking

A Moment In Time



Darth Vader

Decisive Moment

Space and Time



Nice Tats

My Pup

You Name It

Go Mom!

Bald Eagle

Come On Boy




What you lookin at…Willis?



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