Category Archives: Street Photography

Covid-19 … Escape to Sanity … Bringing The Past to the Present

It was 1962 and I was 13 years old. I worked part time with my grandfather, He had a family business doing Hardwood Floors. We were heading to a job near center city Philadelphia. We rode along Market Street from 28th down to 2nd Street. I had never seen Center City before. I was captivated and just observed everything my vision  could digest. It was a visual wonderland for me and I was in love. I learned from a school mate how to get around on PTC the Public Transit Authority. I traveled all around and saw a lot of the city and surrounding regions. I was a real photographer, only thing was, I didn’t have a camera and I didn’t know what photography  was. I damn sure was a street shooter. Yeah baby!

Years would pass by before I knew what photography was but still couldn’t do it. All in due time. As I look back thru my life and the years that melted into the present, I realize that those times forged the path for me to walk now. I had a makeshift darkroom built on a meager budget but it was mine and I learned. I won’t go into many details about that but needless to say, it was a feeling of love I never experienced. I had a friend named David. He was a family friend and taught me and guided me thru this part of the journey. We worked in the darkroom and he would say,  how much time for exposure for the enlarger? I would say, 1:30 1 min 30 seconds. He would smile and then make the exposure as I suggested. We made many prints and I always felt the exposure and that’s what we used. After a brief time David told me I didn’t need him anymore. He said, Donald, there are many millions of people that do photography and they all love it. He continued, you are the only person I ever met that photography loves. Honestly, these words had no meaning for me then.

After Nam I was kinda secluded in my heart and mind. I stayed in my room for a while and didn’t want to leave the comfort and safety of my personal womb. Sometimes during the day in my room, I would have flashbacks. At night almost always nightmares. Inn time I realized these images needed to be dealt with as photos. I started thinking that I needed, wanted to see my beloved Market Street. I grabbed my camera and headed down town. That single event saved my life. I walked all around and compared the now to the past I remembered. I made photos of whatever I was attracted to. The city, buildings and mostly the people living in the poetry of life.

That was 1971 and I haven’t stopped walking Market Street or making photos. Ya gotta love what your doing or how can it love ya back.

Ya gotta watch your life cause no matter how close you are with someone, it’s your duty, just as it’s their duty top watch their own life. I have been told several times that I am too serious with photography. I’m guilty as charged. It’s my life’s work and I can’t feel that it’s a light duty experience. It’s not that I’m special about photography, it’s that photography is special to me.

That shoots me to the present. I think that the camera, any that I have and use, keeps me in the here and now. It becomes an anchor and friend I can work with. It becomes a connection of sorts. If I start to have my mind wander around and pick up thoughts, the camera keeps me on track. That’s why I name my cameras and call them my friends. Because they keep me alive. They are not just objects for me, they are a part of my essence. 

Why am I writing all this? I suppose in a way it’s a ventilation because i’m in lock down since March 11th. I went to the vA Hospital and for about 90 m in, I walked around Market street and made some photos. I can’t tell you the therapeutic value that had on me. My soul woke up and saw the light for a short time. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all. Be Blessed and thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. Shhhhh… I get to the VA again on Tuesday so shortly thereafter, I’ll make another pose.

Covid-19 … Week 9 of Lock Down … Fuji X100V

I ordered a Silver X100V and then I was told that it would be delivered late March and this was mid February.  Well, I was feeling like I don’t even want the darn thing anymore. Then the guy in the camera store tells me he has a black one in stock and I immediately asked to get it. He agreed and the next day it was delivered. The camera was delivered March 20th. I’m glad he shipped it because I could never get out of the house anyway. We started Lock down March 11th. Anyway, I haven’t really had the time with the camera on the street. Oh, before I forget. The Fuji X100V is named Walt after my life long friend that passed a few years ago.  For some reason I was compelled to christian the camera with his name. I been making some shots with Walt the Fuji X100V and just kinda feeling him out. I gotta tellya,, I was less than enthused with this camera.  I had every version of the X100 and my fav was the X100T.  The X100F never hooked me even tho I made many good photos with it. So maybe I came to Walt the Fuji X100V with a poisoned mind. It’s a covid moment to have time to do things, except’n gittin away from da wifey. I know O joke around a lot but gettin away from da wifey is no joke.

I looked at Walt the Fuji X100V and figured it was time to get into him.  Something clicked that was familiar. It was the bonding between the camera and I. I can never actually identify what clicks but i know something did. It felt like anything I wanted to with the camera I knew how to do. So I am starting to find my groove with Walt the Fuji X100V.

Fuji X100V  OOC

Ricoh GRIII  OOC

Let it be known that I am a true Ricoh Lover and have been since long before Digital. Let it also be known that I have used Fuji cameras for decades. So I am not really doing a comparision because there’s 2 shots. The thing is, that the Fuji enlightened me in ways I didn’t wanna be. I had every intention to use the Fuji X100V for a few months and then get back to the Leica and Ricoh.

All this is going on while I am in Lock Down from Covid-19.  It’s terrible to go thru the stripping of energy and right of passage. It cuts the line of inspiration to my eye, heart and mind completely from my soul.

I believe there is a source of images that we draw the energy from. If one is an awake shooter, that shooter is aware of the personal pool of image energy. Maybe this seems mystical or like magic and ya know…it is. I come from a long line of Don’s. Long ago, there lived a Don soaked in the magic of life. He rode a horse with a lance and attacked the Great Windmill Dragons. He is my Don Ancestor and guardian of the magic lance. Today know as the Magic Camera.

When I was a young man, a famous Don summoned me to his presence. I walked into his chamber,  cigar smoke abound. He sat on a throne kinda chair and 4 men sat on his perimeter. He said to me, “Don Shooter, you have a responsibility to the life you live”. He continued by saying, ” Don Shooter, During the course of human history, many Dons have graced the planet. You are a Don and must continue the path of wonder and magic that you travel and love. ” Well, I looked at the 4 men around him and they looked at me and all shrugged.

The man in the throne said…”you are the Don Shooter and you must continue working even thru the Covid-1`9 fiasco. ” The he told me to leave and I asked what this was all about. He said, I dunno, some guy gave me a script to follow but Brando got the role.

So I left Don Vito Knows Nothing and now I’m here with you all.

I’ll hopefully be here another day also….

Be blessed all, stay safe and sane and remember……..hmmm forgot

 

 

Covid-19 … Homework … The Vibe of Life … Truth of My Reality

I

I’m not paranoid in any way, well except for what my shrink tells me I am. I just don’t fathom what the leaders of the country are doing or thinking.  See, we been in lock down about 44 daze and it’s grueling at times.  I miss walking about with a camera. I miss the smell of the streets, the feel of others around me dodging others as they walk to their destination, the vibe of life. I guess that the VIBE of life is essential to making photos and it’s what I long for the most.

About 2 weeks in isolation, I started to go thru my Light Room catalogs. I felt then that it was a good time to re-discover some photos and I was pleasantly excited. I noticed that the photos I selected back then are the same ones I wold select now.  The thing is, as I toured my photos, I started to have a longing again. It became over whelming and made me very uneasy.

Roland Barthes  in his writing of Camera Lucida,  talks about the studium and the punctum. I believe i am allowed to have my own take-away.  Basically I agree with Barthes about this but i feel different and here’s how I think about it.

As a photographer, I am concerned with 2 essential elements in a photographic experience. I see the Studium as the scene in the image. I see the photographer and what he/she adds to the image as the Punctum. Of course, the strength of each set of elements makes or breaks the photo. Of course this is a very basic approach but I want to keep it light so it gets digested easier.

Well, back to the history of my efforts. As I’m looking at photos of sessions past, one thing keeps resonating in my mind. I see the scene as a place of visual energy. I see the punctum as the element in the photo that makes the magic of seeing work within the scene. . The scene is more of a constant in the process and the punctum is more of a pronounced variable. It’s the punchline to the shot.

I am going thru many photos. The ones that have a star don’t interest me too much as they were born already. I was looking for future stars.  In Light Room, I use a single star to mark a shot that is born. after a few days of this I was emotionally fatigued. I mean, I just was saddened by what I was seeing. No, not the actual images, I love all my work and it brings me great pleasure.

I missed not the punch to the photos but the scene. The scenes kept calling to me, were putting pressure on me to walk again, observe again, hold my camera in my hand again, find the next shot again. The photo that have stars don’t do that because they are not virgin images. I saw the places that I awakened to many times, I could smell life again. I longed for the experience of living again and again and again….

The only way to defeat the Covid-19 is to be in isolation. I agree and accept that as a viable solution. It causes much anguish in my life. I can’t go and shoot. I have poisoned my mind by looking at past experiences. They filter in my mind and heart and stir things that can’t happen just yet.

Tanya and I are doing our part in the world. We are together n this experience and it damn sure ain’t easy. I keep seeing and feeling the photos I want to make.

Then, then it seems many do not agree about isolation. They want to open cities and states. Why, MONEY, that’s why. They want the freedom to do as they please at the cost that is yet undefined. So I question their motives and never question the stance Tanya and I take.

What bugs me is, all this time in isolation, I think 44 days already and others are going around in public most without a mask. I feel kinda betrayed because I know that what they do is wrong.

In the Old Testament, Charlton Heston went to the mt to have a chat with GOD. While he was there, the Jews were making false GODS and worshiping them. When him and GOD finished the chat, GOD told Charlton to go to his people cause the need him.

When he got down the mt to his people, he saw them running around without mask, they were not doing social distancing. He was sooo angry, he threw the 10 COMMANDMENTS at all the TV’s and PC’s.

He stated to the crowd, what are you doing? We need to follow instructions. GOD says President Trump is right about social distancing and mask.

Well, that’s how I feel. I can’t go out at all and because I mat infect someone or they infect me. It’s a duty to mankind and I do it as prescribed. I can’t look at mt catalogs because I am at a loss for the reality of my life.

Hope ya ain’t pissed or bored……

Covid-19 … Homework … Efforts To Persevere

…..nay, I’m ok, it’s just a mental thing…you won’t understand. Seen my VA Shrink called to check up on me. I mean he’s a good Doctor and even better cause he kinda understands me. So, he asked me how I was getting along and I told him I’m fine, taking my meds, easy on coffee but my cameras need help. He asked me to explain soooo….see Doc, Covid-19 has me home bound. I’m on lock down. I get out to the backyard and that’s the end of the world for me. My cameras are feeling lock down also.

I have 5 cameras on duty. There are others that are sleeping in their boxes that basically are coffins because I forget about them and that makes them dead. Back to life and the living. The new kid on the block is Walt, the Fuji X100V. New camera and old important name for me. I treat all my cameras as equals because they all have different qualities that support the photography we do together.

Beings a new guy, Walt the Fuji X100V has  ways to attract me and keep me hypnotized to keep using him.. The other cameras tell him about the streets and how they get out   and work. Walt, the Fujix100V has never been off the homeland. Things are so dry here on the Homeland, I’m looking for Carrie.

Part truth is, a committed shooter should be able  to make photos at all times, regardless of a virus etc. I do believe this to be true. I also believe, that the landscape you are in influences the energy you can muster up.

Maybe the thing is, not to feel and live the restrictions we place on ourselves. I don’t know. All I can do is work at home and dream of the streets again. I have always said that street is another term for life. That should mean that you plug your eyes into anything and see photos. I think for the most part that is true. What gets be is the monotony of being in the same space day after day. Funny thing is, I can walk the same streets for years and never feel this way.  I notice many friends out on the street making photos. They post them all the time. I wonder if they feel better about the situation and i wonder if they consider the damage that could be done to others and themselves. I suppose it’s the “to each his/her own” thing. I think about this stuff because we are mostly living it. I get to work a little when I fee so inspired, not very often either.  I been told my many that I should see things as if seeing it for the first time. That’s sooo much bull-dinky, I discount it immediately. What I try to do is, fall in love with my life and all the things that share it with me.

I hope everyone finds the inspiration to carry on the good fight. It’s not about winning or losing but about the battle to survive. 
We should “endeavor to persevere” as Lone Watie taught  Josey Wales.

Stay in, stay safe and love everyone enough to wear a N95 or similar.

The Harmony Of The Image … Love Your History


To live or love, that’s maybe a question. Forget about like. What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, I see it kinda like this. To like something means it’s like ya can do this whatever it is  and maybe not miss it if ya don’t do it. To love something implies that perhaps you could not love it for any reason and then maybe fall out of love and go back again. Lots of variables. At any rate, to love something is a constant with a few variables and outcomes.

To LIVE something. Well it means to me that if you live it, it’s a life force and you breathe it because it’s feeding you life. If something happens and you don’t live it, then death is the alternative. Much different than love.

So if we apply this theory to photography, what do we get? I have always lived my work. That means I am accountable for every aspect and image of it.  If that’s the case and it most certainly is, it also means that being aware that forces around can provide either negative or positive energy or worse, no energy. My Grandfather said, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Why am I writing all this stuff and what does it have to do with making photos? Well, it’s great to have conversations after the fact of the photo. It’s exciting to digest everything about it and what others feel and think also.. It’s comforting to feel success, no matter what way it arrives. ….but what about pre-exposure? I don’t mean the technical aspects, but the emotional and ideas and concept of the image.

Perhaps that’s the very essence of the moment. The moment is widely described as being in a single breath with all that you are and feel with the camera. This is a beautiful expression of life with a camera. I guess it’s possible to love this moment without a camera but not if you live it. Without the camera, we are dead.

What is the taste of this moment? For me, it’s the harmony of it all. The moment brings us to a place that we know, live and feel a photo is waiting to share it’s life with us. When all things come together, it’s the moment for sure but it’s the awareness of, everything is illuminated. It’s Harmony.  This Harmony is the flavor of photography and the essence of LIFE.

This is all effected by our history. That history is the past we have stored unfiltered and we call upon it for direction or disregard it to find a new path. It’s all good but we can’t erase our history, even if we knock down statues, ease from our books and try to eliminate from our minds. Some call this history baggage but that’s in correct.

Baggage is what people put in your eye, heart and mind so that it affects what you do or think about doing. Baggage is other people’s bull crap that will pollute your life. History, ahhh the beautiful history, that’s your doing and we need to love that history if we ever want to move forward.

When your out with your camera, maybe when you see a photo coming and the moment developing, maybe just maybe, your history is with you and that baggage….leave it at the counter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lesson, Edmund Bacon

 

This series of post is about rethinking, re-feeling past experiences. We all have past experiences and many are notable. Just like photos, they are memories of past experiences. It seems to me that experiences of both photos and thoughts are similar but very different. Not easy to conjure up past experiences and yet a photo easily exposes the detail of the moment.

Anyway. I met Edmund Bacon from the AIA.  American Institute of Architecture. I was working on a series of portraits of American Artist. After a short time, it became evident that we connected in a most beautiful manner.

We would walk around and he would tell me so many things I really didn’t know. One day on our walk a bout, Ed stopped at a Liberty Tower and leaned against it, putting his ear to a wall. For the life of me, I hadn’t a clue what he was doing. Then he called me over and said, do as I am doing. I looked around and saw people watching us and I felt awkward. I’m used to being the observer not the observed.

Ed saw I was kinda self conscious and started to talk with me. Don, there’s an interaction in every breath in life and with what you do with that breath.  Your photography is excellent and your dedicated to the art. I am a lover of space and buildings. Many here know me and they communicate with me. When you had your ear to the wall, what did you hear? I had a dazzled look on my face and he pulled me to the wall again.. Put your ear to the wall and cover the other ear. Now put a hand on the wall near your ear. Ed did the same thing with opposite ears and hand and looked right in my heart.

Ed said, do you hear those sounds? Can you hear the difference? What do you feel?  He said there’s a steady heartbeat and that’s the pendulum. That sound is the buildings heart. Do you hear a creaking sound? That the materials holding it all together. Can you feel a vibration and have it inside you? He pulled me away and we walked more and I made photos as he directed.

Ed said, that building is the equivalent of your photos.  The bid difference Don is, with City Planning, I am at one with the world. My wife Ruth understood and supported me best she could. out photography is your life’s effort and needs to be as strong as any building. Your photos are the summation of man and the environment. They are separate and yet many times, they become one. Ed and I made a dummy book and I still have it. I suppose no one will ever publish it because he wasn’t a cowboy with a white hat. He was an opinionated strong man. He stood for his believes at all cost. Some of you reading this understand.

My Edmund Bacon take a way is … It is all the oneness, what makes the difference is not in what you see or frame but how and why you do it.

 

 

Life Lesson, Winogrand

My last workshop was during the summer of 2019. I always kept things loose and open. So I had no agenda to pass on or follow. I just answered questions to the best of my ability and also, answered questions that may not have been on the session we were in.

I never thought of myself as a teacher and I was told I was a mentor.  Titles always seem to push preconceptions in life and the photo.

Speaking of preconceptions and the picture…..I’ve made countless shots of this stairway to the underground. For me it’s the man made environment gobbling up it’s creator. We all find it so easy to be lost in the crowd, It’s not just about photography but more about life, kinda like street shooting and it’s relationship with breathing. it becomes so natural to find our subject matter amongst the ruins of time and seeing the decay of the human condition. Hark! Be aware, maybe the world is all beautiful and everything like a dream but there is still the element of you in that dream.

I remember a lifetime ago being on a walk with Garry Winogrand. I asked him what drawed him to subject matter. I suppose I was looking for the magic key to his triggers. He said, you will never make photos of anything but yourself.  It’s all a portrait of you.

Then he asked me about Vietnam again and was like a reporter trying to find what clicks in me. I was open with him and we talked about heavy stuff. We hit 34th street and I said i need to get back to Philly. He looked at me and said, Don, I hope you find peace in your life, and always have your camera ready. Those words were the nicest words anyone ever said to me. I was moved. We went out own ways and I turned once and saw Garry and he waved to me. That was the last time i ever heard from or saw Garry. To this day, to every vet I ever met, I always say… I hope you find peace in your life.

There are many lessons in ones life. We get to remember some and maybe, just maybe we can apply a life lesson into our photography.   Some tell me that experience is equal to a lesson. I certainly disagree. We have experiences and not necessarily learn from them. A life lesson last with us as long as we stay true to ourselves.

Garry was right, it’s all a portrait of ourselves.

I hope you all find peace in your lives.

January 9th, 2020 …Maintaining a Persistence of Vision … Insanity … The Exception To The Rule

It is widely known and accepted to think…. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity. For me, doing the same thing over and over and accepting the same or similar results, that’s insanity. Actually it’s complacent insanity. I think some of the beauty in art and photography is the uncertain outcome. I mean, we take our camera out and search for our photos. When a trigger happens, we release the shutter and from that point on, we have an uncertain outcome.

If we worked and had a clear concept of the final image maybe that would be death to the explored creativity. Look, if you actually could see in the future, why waste that on making photos, see the lottery numbers for the next day. Trust me, that would be exciting and beneficial to all aspects of your being. So the idea of Ansel’s pre-visualization only goes so far.

Making photos is about selective input, processed and then output. During the course of each photo comes a certain methodology that each of us applies to our image creativity.  It usually is not in question because most people don’t care about how you did something but rather why you did it, at least that’s how it should be. Why is the key to interpretation and the subject of conversation. Unfortunately the root of the photo mostly lives within us and once presented to observers, the only control we have is the photo itself. Even that relinquishes our control to the observer. They decide what and why you made the photo.

So why is this important? Well, I was hoping youse could tell me why. Many times I might hear or see a comment that states, you’re doing the same thing over and over. This is probably true and the reason or partly the reason for this post. I assume accountability for my work and methods and intent. What about the viewer. What is the accountability of the viewer? Perhaps they are equally at fault for seeing and thinking the work is similar. They have conditioned themselves to see and judge in a certain way.

Decades ago, Ding and I would talk about this very subject. I told him I felt that the viewer is fixed in a state of comfort and it’s very difficult to move outside of the comfort zone. So, then when the viewer says that the work is all similar, it also means they see with the similar standards they establish for themselves. I did an experiment  a while ago. Not your concern how long ago, it’s relevant and always will be. I had a friend over and we would check out each others work. We did this a lot. it was entertaining but for me educational. I would show W some photos and without a doubt, he would say they are good. I know where this was oh and ye these are similar like in a series. I say nothing. I listened and I watched the process of how he addressed the photo.

So it was obvious to me that my work was being judged by someone that had tainted eyes. Not saying it was bad but he came loaded to the gills with pre-judgemental comments. Then, I asked him what he thought was similar or the common denominator of the photos. He stated the they were all with a Leica and the distance and angle of capture was similar. The subject matter was all related in a undefined manner. Actually he was very right on and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I told W, “I’m not trying to set the world on fire but I damn sure wanna be there with my camera when it does. ”

I had made some very nice nudes of my wife. They were and still are very marketable. I traded 7 prints with Clarence John Laughlin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_John_Laughlin

Anyway, I asked W to check these photos out. He had no idea of the success of the photos. He looked at them slowly and intently. Of course my wife was stunning and very sensual. That combined with my passion of photography was a combination that surpassed my expectations. Well, as I figured, W viewed the photos He spent a long time on each. I realized that the choice of subject matter that is different than my usual choice can have a profound effect on the viewer.

This exploration was in the late 70’s. I had an exhibition at a local gallery with a good following. Opening night there were many people and i sold 3 prints I seem to remember. This was a Friday evening. I was excited and was looking forward to the exposure. The director asked me to sit in and talk with people as they come in and out of the gallery.  I thought this was great. I sat in the gallery and for 4 days about 15 ppl came in. It was kinda disenhearting. I was feeling bad and almost depressed and then a woman entered the gallery. She stopped at the door and looked around. She was tall, around 5’11”. Dressed in clothes that only wealthy woman wear. I immediately stood and greeted her and welcomed her in. She walked around and studied the prints carefully. I watched as she kinda swayed standing in front of the photos. after about 20 minutes, she called for me to join her and asked if the photographer was available. I looked her right in the eyes and told her I was accountable for the work as I was the photographer. She smiled and told me she related to the heart of the images and now to me. I felt a stirring in my body, no guys not that stirring but the kind that emanates from the heart.

This feeling was equal or above what I felt from Ding. She told me Diana was her name. We exchanged graces and I was honored that she liked my work. She told me she was a prominent collector of fine art and was local and that a mutual friend suggested her to visit my exhibition. She didn’t tell me who the mutual friend was. She invited me to lunch and of course I accepted. We left the gallery and there was a cab waiting. We arrived at the Bellevue and was seated in a small corner. She asked if i had any questions and that opened the door. Diana, what is it in my photos that attracted you? She replied, above all, your heart shines thru most of the images.

She stated that there are many kinds of photographers. Many want to be rich and famous and some are. Many just want to make a living with a camera. Don, you make photos because you love photography and you love the photos you make. I was flattered and surprised that she understood me so well. Thanks Diana but it might be nice to make some money along with the photos. She actually laff’d.

I smiled and she said. Don, that’s why we are here right now. Diana said that she will be a collector of my work until the end. She will contact me from time to time and order prints. I think this was like 1981. Diana is older than me but still my number 1 collector. I’ll be 70 and she is 83. Sometimes we meet and have lunch or coffee and we talk about life. She is always probing my mind and then explaining why.

I remember that she used to like that I was consistent in my vision. We started talking about artist and their insanities.

I will fire the blog up now and hopefully I didn’t lose anyone along the wa….♥

August 3rd, 2019 …Circumnavigating Photos and Then Some

Ya know one of the best things about getting old, ya can say crazy things and most will accept it from you. If you try it when you’re younger, well they have places for you where others say things like that and ya fit in. so Suzanne and I went to get sushi and talk photography. You know me, I’ mall in for being seen in public with her. Got Ding the Leica M9 on my neck and Suzanne on my arm. Dat’s right G, I be da man. So we walk and finally get to the sushi shop on Walnut near 7th. We go in and like 5 people come to her and say high in Japanese. Then they say hi to me in Philly English. I didn’t expect a group and she never mentioned this to me. So they all sit and I seat Suzanna and slide her and her chair to the table. A few of the ladies there looked with a kind longing approval. I mean obviously I’m the only gentleman in the group and unfortunately, probably all around. They all start talking Japanese and Suzanne puts her hands to her ears and says, Don. Now the language switches to English and I kind have that down some. maybe not perfect but good enough. I didn’t know why I was here and would have appreciated Suzanne letting me in on things  but I just went with the flow.

So Suzannz tells everyone to start asking questions. If it was anyone else, I would have been offended but Suzanne, I’d fight my way back from hell for her. So a guy ask me, “How do you maintain the visual quality and continuity in your photos thru all the years? The great thing about questions and answers especially is, not to have canned answers. I like to open me poor brain and my warriors heart sand construct an answer that fits me.

It’s not the easiest thing to do. You need to have the knowledge and the means of presentation to make it work. I like to get an answer started with a thought train and then quickly open the valve from the heart and then answer. In the old daze, we called it winging it but now I am much more sophisticated and more a proper adult so I like things to work for the questionnaire. So I started talking and first things first, I said. Plan your work and work your plan and don’t be afraid to improvise along the way. There are different starting points to a photo but mostly, all will go thru this cycle.

Example: An idea for a photo forms in your brain and or mind. You can kinda visualize it but no clarity. Then go out to make photos and breathe in the light and the scenes and people. Take them to your heart and mind. Keep reflecting on the image planted in your idea. Don’t be afraid to let someone or something distract you. Go for it but try to come back to your initial idea. Of course your camera is your partner and friend and you have no issues because you are on the same train together. In time hopefully you will see something that stirs up the thoughts, ideas, emotions of the idea and now you just frame and wait for the trigger. Then, CLICK.

Keep working but you will feel a kinda excitement because you know your satisfying the inner thoughts and idea of your photography. At this point it’s time to see what you captured. When you get into Lightroom, the image should spark excitement, questions and answers and generally you want to work on it. Start processing the photo and keep an open mind but recall the initial idea and emotions. You do not have to stick with that but you absolutely need to know where you started so you can venture into the unknown. Now you hopefully can look at the photo and have a mental map of where you started and now where you are.

This is circumnavigating a photo. We go around the world of the photo and then of course photography and always remember and apply, the heart as the compass. So the guy asked me, “do you do this all the time?” I answered, how else would I do this, I don’t know another way I can live with and there ain’t a better way to die.

They all but one had Leica’s. The one not Leica was a Fuji XT-30. So the questions turned to gear and settings and all the stuff that feeds the emptiness of creativity. We are drinking Saki @ 105f and sushi and maki, just a great meal. S Suzanne ask me, when do my private workshops start again? Yes, when they said. Hmmm me thinks, that M10p is looking real nice… nah not me at all. Anyway, they as a group want to do sessions. I really ain’t feeling it and the Suzanne says, “I will let you know when Don will start”. Wwe all get up and Suzanne and I leave and start walking uptown to Center City. The as she has our arms linked, says… I forgot here.. she hands me a white envelope and I look in it and there’s $500.00 cash. What’s this and she says, the first session. I told her I didn’t want the money and she said they would all be deeply offended and feel they are not worthy. They may all commit hari kari.  Ya know, I adore this woman but sometimes she’s full of craap and this is one of those times.

So I will start a series of sessions and Suzanne will be my trusty assistant. The sushi and saki were great, The company of her 5 friends was enlightening. Suzanne has my heart and is my angel of love and mercy and acceptance of an old warrior.

ya know, the $500.00 was a welcome gift I never thought about. Be blessed all and remember this….. wait.. dang it… I forgot

July 17th, 2019 … The Mind of a Streetshooter … Some Tips For Working

When I was doing my workshops, there were certain things that were asked and these things carried on for many years. There are things to know and there are things to just Breathe. It’s great to adopt a system to work and breathe in but it’s crucial to understand the mechanics of the language of the street.

First off, do not let anyone rattle your cage. There are many methods to work but they should just be a part of what you do.  watch out for the purist. I do believe here in Philly, they have given up the quest to take over people minds and have them do things right according to their standards.

I remember decades ago I dreamt of auto ISO before it was employed in cameras. I didn’t think about Auto ISA but I knew that shooting a film rated at 400 like Tri’ was limiting in very low light. I thought about if a film could change ASA, then it would simplify changing film. In a way, I did just that but in my darkroom. I got Tri-X to be at ASA 640 as my base ASA.  I used it for 250-800. The results were ok but not ideal. My Leica’s didn’t have a meter in them back then. I didn’t use a light meter unless it was a money shoot or something. Decades passes and cameras had M Mode and well… jump forward some, Auto ISO was installed. Of course, I fell in love with this technology. Many told me I was not true Manual because I let the camera set the ISO.

The argument is, to be true Manual mode, you set the ISO, the Aperture and the Shutter Speed.  This is the Triad of Exposure. So, on the street, we need to be more reactive and pay attention to the subject matter and or scene more than the camera. Wouldn’t be easy to do that when you lock yourself into using a single ISO. Any change in light value requires a change in one of the three parts of the triad. So why go out and spend time walking around, seeking your next photo and being plagued by the traditional Manual Exposure Thought train. There’s the shot, set f5.6. 125/sec and the now the ISO, no… not 250, hmm maybe 400.. sets 400, looks up and the world has changed. It’s ok, even tho NG would have paid $5000.00 for that shot, no matter.

There’s a reason for tradition and a reason to break tradition. Ok, looks around. I’m going to tell you about a feature that is extremely effective. Takes a deep breath. Ok, this is a feature that most people haven’t discovered. Yes, it’s a secret and I will tell you about it now. It’s called the Exposure Value or EV. Don’t let this rattle your cage. EV is a feature on all my cameras and I never use it. For real, all it does on some cameras is change accidentally and upset me. I know many shooters that use this all the time.

The argument for M Mode continues but I gave up the battle to defend using Auto ISA.  The jury is in for me. I have my way of working and that’s that. There’s another feature that gets a lot of chatter. That is Focus.

This is a more touchy subject than M Mode. Basically, we have,  Auto Focus and Manual Focus. My way to work kinda varies with the camera I use. Let’s face it, we all want the fastest AF we can get. What can be faster working than AF? Nothing right? I beg to differ. I will explain about the M Leica and not trying to sell anything, just explaining how it works for me. The M has Auto Focus but by a different concept. What happens is this. I go out and then focus the camera with the rangefinder. Whoa, I see something different and I Automatically Focus on the new subject. So, that’s Auto Focus in a New Concept.

It’s called humor and I know youse get it. At this point, I urge you to use The DOF Master. It’s been a lifesaver for me since it was released many years ago.

Hyperfocal Distance VS Zone Focus. 

The thing is, to understand your photos and how and why you make them. Then to understand your camera and to be friends with it. What focus distances do you really need to have in the photo? Hyperfocal Distance is the most widely accepted way to work on the street. I’ll give an example in a wee bit. You’ll see it down there. The other way is Zone Focus. They are different and we need to understand the difference.

On my M9 with a 35mm lens, @ f8 the Hyperfocal Distance is 16.9′ That means from about 8 1/2′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus. When you change f/stops, the HD changes also. If you use f5.6 then the HD is 23.8′. That gives you about 12′ to Infinity. The key to this is, Infinity is always on the far end of the Hyper Focal Distance. What changes is not Infinity but the near distance? So, you set the f/stop accordingly to the near distance you desire. You need to remember that when you change f/stop the shutter speed or ISO needs to be changed also… Nah…, anyone that knows me, of course, uses Auto ISO so change f/stops, keep your shutter speed and your camera will work with you to change ISO to meet the exposure you use.  I used 1/125 f/11 on my cameras for a very long time and many times I still do.

Well me starting thinking, I’m not always wanting infinity in focus. I mean if I’m like 8′ to infinity, man that’s a long way. That means I can have someone about 8′ from me in focus and then Giovanni in focus in Italy. Oh yeah, that’s theoretically Infinity. Maybe I don’t want that much in focus. Hmmm, must be another way. Lemme think, I mean it’s on my tung I just need a min to find it… YES. By Jove I got it mate.

Maybe, just maybe, Zone Focus can solve the dilemma. If we think about compression in a different light, we can grasp Zone Focus. Years ago the kit for high-end fashion shooters was a Nikon F,2,3 and the 200mm f4.  Moving in kinda close made a very compressed photo. It was more than DOF it was the way the lens compressed the image. I remember thinking back then, I like the way the subject and foreground and background were compressed. this is like 1981 and forward. I thought I wanted that compression but in the background and foreground. I mean, the foreground and background were soft or out of focus. The subject and a set amount of front and back were in focus. Not Hyper Focus because that moves out to infinity. I wanted infinity soft. So one day I had a revelation about zone focus.

 

The most important element for a camera is to be fast in operations. Next probably is how easy and how fast we can change our way of thinking and how the camera supports that. As far as focusing, the element that will change most is the foreground distance. With Hyperfocal Distance the foreground changes distance and the Infinity is a constant. So, you set the f/stop so that your subject falls in the range you desire.  Now you need to be aware of the close end of Depth of Field to make sure you have acceptable focus.

Here’s where Zone Focus is similar to Hyperfocal Distance. It’s about feeling the distances you are working with

What I do a lot is, Leica M, 35mm lens, at f/5.6 the HD is 28.8′. Everything from about 12′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus.  I set the lens to 10′ and then my zone of acceptable focus is 7.06′ – 17.2′. If I want a fatter zone, I would use f/f8.0 The range now is 6.29′ – 24.4′. That’s a very handsome range. If I went to f/11 I would use HD and that is 12′.

The important thing to remember is that the sharpest point is always where the lens is actually focused. So, the foreground distance and the background distance have a falloff. It’s not like the acceptable distance is sharp and then in front of that completely out of focus. It is a gradual falloff.  The smart shooter realizes that and uses that to create contrast or a focus juxtaposition.

This can all be performed on any camera that has manual focus and or manual exposure. It’s just not as easy or intuitive as a Leiva M. If you understand the process then maybe you can find a way to implement in your work. I know most of you know this stuff but my dear woman advisor Suzanne, wants me to spread the knowledge around.

Have a blessed week and I’ll be back soon with more stuff.   ….. shooter out …..