Captain Shutter

Street Photography by Pete Ansara

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!



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4 thoughts on “Stories Behind Pictures

  1. dawn primus on said:

    Lovely write up Pete no truer words have been spoken you have the qualities, insight, vision, admiration, respect, ability to see things most people wouldn’t even look twice at never lone take a picture.Your images will go down in history I’m sure you are leaving a legacy for Yazzie and all of us you are a true inspiration.I’m so pleased to have met with your acquaintance. Regards Dawn Primus

  2. Rick on said:

    Couldn’t agree more Peter. As Dawn says you are an inspiration. Mono just seems the perfect fit for street photos. Love the one of the mud caked girl. Rick

  3. I’ve found youre article on my iPhone 4 Kopen and i wanna say thanks for it! It’s a nice weblog you have over here! I’ll visit it more in the future! Thanks, Frank

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