You might have heard the phrase “open source” tossed around. But what does it really mean? To state simply, it is a movement in which individuals wish to provide access to technology or knowledge for free to the masses. A great example of one of the most popular open source platforms in technology is Linux, which is a fully-functional operating system (created to compete with Windows) except that all of its code (as well as the entire software) is open and available to the public for free. In addition to Linux, there is OpenOffice (Microsoft Office alternative), Gimp (Photoshop alternative), as well as a plethora of other software which allows users to have access to software for free.
Piggy-backing off the idea of open source software, I am a huge proponent of “open source photography.” When I refer to photography as open source, I am talking less about the technical aspects and more of the philosophy behind it. In the realm of photography, there can be a lot of elitism amongst photographers who have the latest and most expensive cameras and lenses. This often causes many new photographers (or photographers on a budget) to be intimidated and not delve into photography worrying that their point and shoot cameras are simply not “good enough” and that they can’t get a decent photo without having a thousand dollar+ camera.
One of my visions about photography is to tear down these walls of discrimination and allow photography to be open to all, regardless of the experience, gear, or interests that somebody may have. This passion that I had inside me helped install some of the virtues to “The Photography Club at UCLA,” a photo club that me and two of my friends started. Nearly half of our club was made up of individuals who had point and shoot cameras, and they were able to take photos nearly as great as others in the club who sported DSLR cameras. As the president, I also encountered many fellow students who were interested in joining the club, but always were reluctant to join because they didn’t have a “pro camera.” However I would always encourage them to join regardless of their background with photography. The only thing I told them was required was a passion for photography.
With the boom of the digital age, photography is now much more accessible as the advance of technology has also driven down prices. When point and shoot cameras first came out with less than a megapixel sensor, they cost nearly $500. Nowadays, you could get a camera with a 12+ megapixel camera for around $100-$200 dollars. The same is with DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Refex Cameras—ie. the “pro” cameras). The first DSLR cameras that came out cost thousands of dollars, but now you can obtain a solid starter DSLR for around $500 (still not a small sum of money by any means, but much more accessible). Even for individuals on a budget, purchasing a camera is now affordable.
Getting back to the concept of open source photography, I wish to provide as many of my photographic insights to others for the pure advancement of photography as a whole. This means that I never keep any of my photographic techniques secret. I strive to share with people how I convert my images to black and white. I strive to teach people how to best utilize their cameras. I strive to spread the love of photography for anybody who has the passion for it. Furthermore, I also strive to provide a hub in which photographers from all over can feel free to share their images, their insights, and their techniques on photography as well. Hopefully my photography blog will achieve this in one way or another.
Photography allows anybody to become an artist. Not everybody is gifted with drawing, painting, or designing, but photography makes creating art as simple as clicking a button. Granted that creating a good photograph is more difficult than just clicking a button, the potential of creating a captivating image is indeed that easy. Photography allows the creation of something tangible in mere milliseconds, something that cannot be done in any other form or art. Even children with no formal training in art can pick up a camera and take snapshots of life which can move and impress adults.
I am not quite sure where this journey of mine of promoting open source photography will take me, but I know that my passion for photography is not something I can keep to myself. Help me achieve my vision and promote this idea of making photography available to all—whether it be to your friends, family, or to that nagging little cousin who always tugs at your shoulder, wanting to learn how to take photos. You’ve got nothing to lose—but everything to gain.
Here is an essay that I wrote on Street Photography that I plan on including in the introduction of my Street Photography Book that I plan on publishing. It is a bit long, but I hope you enjoy it:
The Soul of the Street Photographer
I feel that street photography is the most pure out of all the forms of photography. In all other forms of photography, the photographer is always trying to strive to take a photo of something that is out of this world; be it a majestic sunset, a mysterious creature, or a flower so beautiful that we are shocked in awe by it.
However street photography does the exact opposite.
The photographer takes what is in this world, no matter how dull or mundane, and turns it into a piece of art. The man who is sipping a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, or the woman who is carrying her groceries home, or the couple who is sharing an embrace at the corner of a crosswalk. These are all very ordinary events and we all just let it pass by our very eyes. We don’t pay attention to these things, let alone see it as something “beautiful.”
That is where the role of the street photographer comes in. He captures that one instant and makes it immortal and frames it, and allows everyone to actually take a second out of their busy schedules and contemplate on it. Nobody truly notices these moments in their lives, and with the help of the street photographer, these people start cherishing these small yet wonderful things in their lives.
The idea to look at a very ordinary scene and to interpret it in a different way is the most difficult part of a street photographer. By paying special attention to lines, curves, shadows, light, and context, a photographer strives to make this ordinary scene into somewhat of a stage in which he wishes his actors to interact with somehow.
A street photographer has very little control over his images, as he simply tries to capture little bits and pieces of everyday life which are fleeting and once they disappear, they are gone forever. All a street photographer can do is frame his shot, check his camera settings, and click his shutter. He cannot control his environment as his stage is dynamic and constantly changing and evolving. The types of people who are constantly walking in and out or the way they act with the environment or other people are uncontrollable. So to take a truly great street photograph, the street photographer has to have a little bit of luck on his side to have the ideal conditions just when he hits that shutter.
This however, doesn’t mean that a street photographer doesn’t have skill and is simply “lucky” when taking images of his photographs. Granted that whatever scene a street photographer comes upon is beyond his control, a street photographer is the one who is able to creatively take with what he has and make it into a story.
If anything, a street photographer shouldn’t even be regarded as a photographer, but rather a storyteller of sorts who is able to capture a certain scene and have the viewer interpret it in a certain way. A true successful street photograph is one that piques the viewer’s interest, and has him or her constantly guessing and interpreting what “is going on” in the photo.
However the street photographer as a storyteller has the most difficult job of them all; to tell a story without having any control over it. Compared to a writer who makes up his own stories, a street photographer must work with what he has to tell a certain story or tale.
To be a successful street photographer, one must have a passion for seeing the world and exploring all the beauties behind it. How can one expect to capture great moments in life without actually going out to the world and seeing all of these things happening? Often individuals look at some of the world’s finest street photographs and mutter to themselves, “I could have taken that photo if I was there.” But the fact is, that the person was not there at that certain moment and if that person could not truly see like a street photographer, that person would have simply let that moment pass by.
If the street photographer is not at a certain place at a certain moment when something fantastic occurs, how can he not expect to capture it? It is metaphysically impossible not to do so.
While taking photographs in the streets, the street photographer is instilled with an incredible sense of freedom. He is like a lion to his jungle and is free to roam wherever he wishes. Nobody can tell him where to go, what to see, or what to do; he simply does as he likes. Only his instinct controls him where to go next.
While roaming around his urban jungle, he almost melds and becomes part of the environment. Although others are aware of his presence, nobody pays special attention to his motives or movements. The street photographer will be able to take multiple photos at incredibly close proximities to people, without having them even notice or without having them even caring. But to walk around and not be given notice to, he must be fluid in his movements and be careful not to disturb any of the life around him.
The street photographer is also adventurous and is willing to take the path less followed with the hopes of finding a moment of serendipity and genius. The street photographer will go down that mysterious alley or up those misleading stairs while others will not. The street photographer wishes to see new things and places and is not content with staying in the same place for much too long. When he finds himself in a foreign and daunting environment, he does not react with fear but rather with a sense of curiosity and is willing to explore.
A street photographer is also more preoccupied with his photographers rather than worrying about his gear. The fallacy of many photographers is that they often chase the newest cameras and lenses hoping that these expensive tools will help their shortcomings as a photographer. Granted that a point-and-shoot camera can have considerable lag when it comes to taking photos which makes it difficult to capture a certain moment in time, a simple DSLR or even film rangefinder can do the trick. The quality of his images are not dependent on how sharp they are, but rather the intrinsic quality of composition, genius, and creativity apparent.
However the only concern a street photographer must have when it comes to the question of camera equipment is by having his trusty primes nearby. Although zoom lenses may be more practical in other types of photography by allowing photographer to use multiple focal lengths, they are not as effective as tools when it comes to street photography. Their smaller aperture and larger size make them too slow for night settings and too conspicuous for street settings.
Prime lenses also help street photographers to be more creative with their work, by further imposing even more limits on what little control they have of their scenes. On top of not having control of the people around them, they are restricted to only a certain focal length which may invite them to think of more creative ways of capturing a certain scene which may have not been thought of before with a zoom lens. For example, if a street photographer had a zoom lens and saw something interesting in the distance, he may be simply tempted to zoom into the scene which disconnects him from the environment. However if a street photographer chose to use a wide-angle lens, it may invite him to become “part of the scene” and get closer to get stronger images which really put the viewers into the shoes of the photographer.
However all-in-all, a street photographer is a lover of life. He does not discriminate and sees all people as beautiful in their own inherent ways. He constantly pushes himself to immerse himself amongst people, and not only be a voyeur but a full-on participant. A street photographer cherishes every moment that he experiences and lives, and most importantly, strives to share those little slices of life with others.
In order to see more of your guys’ amazing photography, I decided to run a mini-competition for about a week (until Saturday) for people to contribute their images, which will get featured on this blog!
Hey guys, In lieu of my popular post on the “100 Things I Have Learned about Photography,” I originally planned on writing a “100 things I have learned about traveling in Europe” post as well. However this time around, I decided to embellish more on each of the points that I presented. Therefore, I realized that I would cut my list short to “25 things I have learned while traveling in Europe.” Furthermore, I also have had a few friends asking me for pointers or tips for backpacking in Europe. So hopefully in the near future, I will be able to write (to the best of my knowledge) a comprehensive guide for students trying to backpack in Europe (on a limited budget). So until then, please read my post and feel free to share this list with anybody you want via Facebook, Twitter, Email, or IM. Also please leave me a comment below as I always love hearing feedback! :)
25 Things I Have Learned while Traveling in Europe
Pack lightly. There is no worse feeling than lugging around a bag of bricks on your back when you are trying to enjoy yourself.
Be frugal, but enjoy yourself. You don’t want to blow away $20 every meal that you are eating when on the road, but at the same time you want to enjoy the local cuisine.
Use the local language. Although you may be worried about butchering the language and that locals will criticize you, the opposite Is more true. People appreciate the fact that foreigners try to embrace their culture and highly appreciate it (regardless of how terrible your accent may be).
Plan, but not too much. When you are traveling, it is nice to have a peace of mind knowing that you will have a place to spend that night. However on the other hand, spontaneity is the most exciting while traveling. When you arrive at your destination, simply get a map and ask the locals for the top sights. Leave the rest to fate.
Don’t be afraid. This is what prevents most people from traveling in the first place. There are a million “what if’s” that cross a person’s mind before deciding to travel. “What if I run out of money?” “What if I get mugged?” “What if I don’t enjoy traveling?” All of these concerns may be legitimate to a certain degree, but most of the terrible stuff you hear happening to travelers are over-blown by the media anyways. Most people die without even leaving their country. Do you want to regret that when you are on your dying bed? Embrace your courage and explore!
Make friends. I recall that while traveling, my fondest memories were not so much shaped by the sights I saw or things that I experienced, but rather the people that I met during my journey. Take the time to know fellow travelers or native locals. It is surprising how much I grew while learning about our differences and our similarities.
It is better to spend more time in fewer places, than see more places in less time. Traveling is incredibly exhausting. When you are on the road, there will be a few moments that you will be able to sit down and rest. So when traveling, it is best to save your energy and allow yourself to let your surroundings soak in, rather than going for the goal of seeing as many places as you can. Doing this will cause you to get burnt out, which will cause traveling to be more of a chore than something you can enjoy.
Get enough rest. If you do not get enough rest while traveling, you will be miserable. It is much better to get a late start on the day and enjoy the fewer things that you may see, rather than getting up extremely early when you barely have enough energy.
Eat up. When you are traveling, you will be a calorie-burning machine. Don’t be shy to fill your stomach while traveling and worrying about stuff like carbs, sugar, fat, etc. Even if you eat a ridiculous amount of food while traveling, you will most likely end up losing more weight than before you started your trip.
Invest in a good backpack. True the nicer backpacks may run you over a hundred dollars, but they are truly worth it. I highly recommend North Face backpacks (I used the North Face Recon Backpack), as they are extremely comfortable and are built super-tough. Furthermore, they are rain-resistant and their zippers won’t break, even if you fill it to the brim. While traveling I used the North Face Recon, which had more than enough space and zippers for everything I needed during my trip. If you just travel with a more generic backpack like a Jansport, your back will hate you.
Take photos, but limit yourself when necessary. If you are a first-time traveler (as was I), you will probably go photo-happy from all of the unique things that you will see during your trip. Although it is great to capture many memories while traveling, it is also important to truly enjoy your trip, rather than trying to document every second of it. I learned this one from my girlfriend Cindy, and it was probably the best travel advice that she ever gave me (even though being a photographer I am naturally inclined to take thousands of photos at a time). Some things are better enjoyed without your camera.
Go alone. People often say that this is the best way to travel. Not only do you have time to get to know yourself better, but you will also be forced to meet other people. Being abroad and having that sense of anonymity is surreal, and it is definitely an experience that everybody should have. I probably had the deepest moments of self-introspection during the few weeks that I traveled alone.
Go with a friend. Although this contradicts the point previous, it is also great to go traveling with a friend (or two). You will be able to create memories together that only you two share, and you can always reminisce after the trip is over. Furthermore, it is also economically sound to pool your resources together when it comes to getting a room together, eating food, or getting other miscellaneous discounts when sightseeing. Also inextricably, you will grow so incredibly close to that person so quickly, and build a life-lasting bond with one another through your experiences.
Keep a journal. This is one of the things that I am glad that I was very religious about while traveling. My girlfriend Cindy told me that it was a great practice to do, and so I did. Although during the trip it was sometimes a chore and difficult to do on the grounds that I was always so tired, being able to open that journal and reminisce on past memories was so precious. Also, there is no better way to unwind from a long day than journaling your thoughts, feelings, and things that you did during the day.
You don’t need to be rich to travel. Although I was a broke college student, I refused to allow my economic situation to prevent me from traveling and seeing the world. To finance my 30-day trip to Europe, I took out a $4,000 student loan from UCLA and bought my plane tickets, hostel-lodging, as well as my travel expenses. Granted that $4,000 isn’t chump change, in my opinion it was a very small cost to fulfill one of my dreams in life, which was to go backpacking through Europe. There are so many people who make excuses from fulfilling their life dreams due to fiscal reasons. However I am a true believer in that if you want something badly enough, you will make it happen.
Museums are physically and mentally draining. Now I am not trying to discourage any of you from visiting museums when abroad in Europe. Europe houses some of the most distinguished museums from around the world which are home to some of the greatest artists from history. However be warned, museum visits take a LOT of your time and energy. Trying to see more than a museum a day is extremely ambitious (it is difficult to even see all the exhibits in one museum in a day). Just a tip.
Flying via Ryanair is one of the best ways to travel through Europe. If you book flights early enough, you could seriously go on flights from Paris to Rome for $3.00 (including tax and misc. costs). How the hell do they do this? Well first of all, these seats are special promotion deals and the times that they offer are very limited (super early in the morning, or super-late at night). Furthermore, if you are limited in terms of what you can bring (only one carry-on baggage, and it costs extra to bring luggage as well). Furthermore, they bombard you with advertising before, during, and after your flight. However if you are smart, you could seriously have your transportation within Europe for nearly nothing! Check out Ryanair.com for their deals!
Do your laundry by hand. You can easily do this while traveling by using a bungee cord and a bar of soap. To do all my laundry when I was in Europe, I simply washed my clothes in the hostel sinks with soap, and hanged it on some impromptu clotheslines which were made out of a bungee cord with hooks on each side. It would usually take 2 days for my clothes to dry fully, which would allow me to always wear clean clothing while traveling even though I only had around 5 pairs of shirts, socks, and boxers with me. This will save you the hassle of wasting all your money on laundry money and also packing fewer clothes while traveling, which equals less weight on your back.
Take the path off the beaten road. Sure the traditional landmarks of Europe may be nice and all, but the most beautiful things that I experienced were not the touristy places, but rather those hidden gems that you fall upon in a moment of serendipity. So do not always feel obliged to see what is popular, but just let your curiosity lead you down mysterious alleys, over gracious bridges, and through unexplored tunnels. Relive the child in yourself.
Feel free to skip what is uninteresting to you. Don’t feel obliged to do things that seem uninteresting to you. For example, if you enter a famous landmark and it simply doesn’t compel you in any certain way, there is nobody forcing you to be there. You can just speed through the place and just leave. What is one man’s treasure may not necessarily be your cup of tea.
Smile. Whether you are talking to the manager of your hostel or to a random vendor on the street, smile as often as you can. Smiling at others instantly makes yourself seem much more welcoming to the other person, which can stir up an interesting conversation or interaction. You will be surprised that how far a smile to a random stranger in the streets can go.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let’s face it, when you traveling you are going to be lost more than once. Rather than being worried of being stigmatized as a “lost tourist,” put away your pride and ask for help. It is amazing how willing people that people can be when helping others. For example, when I was lost in Venice (the most impossible city to get around without getting lost), I asked a man who was speaking Italian to his friend if he knew where X was. He then quickly stopped his conversation, and walked me for nearly 10 minutes to my destination. There was another time when I couldn’t find my bus to take me to the airport, and a complete stranger walked around with me for nearly an hour, talking to other locals to help me find my bus. People are more kind and generous than one realizes.
Don’t be tied to your computer. When I traveled, I bought an Acer Aspire One Netbook to write quick emails, do research, as well upload images to my hard drive while traveling. However I made it a point to stay off my computer as much as I could during my trip. There is nothing easier than getting sucked into using the internet for hours on end, wasting precious time that you have overseas. Rather than unwinding after a long day of traveling by using the computer, use that potential time to journal (do it in a notebook), get to know fellow travelers, or simply reflect on the day. When you are traveling, disconnecting from the internet can be one of the best ways to “detox” from being wired.
The world is a big place. Although I have done a fair share of traveling while growing up (moving around many times in California, moving to New York for 3 years, driving back across to California in a car, going to Canada, and Korea) I now realized that I barely saw anything at all. Once I went to Europe and experienced a totally different culture, it shocked me to realize how small my home (and country) was to the rest of the world. Although Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world, it is nothing but a speck when compared to the rest of the world.
Home is where the heart is. After my 30-day journey of backpacking in Europe, it caused me to appreciate my home so much more. Although I did visit some of the best museums of the world, relished at the antiquity of the cathedrals, and dined on some of the most exotic foods, I came to the realization that all of these things that I experienced while I was abroad was readily available at home as well. I do not say this to discourage anybody from traveling. On the contrary, this is one of the biggest reasons why I advocate people to travel is because when they come back home with a fresh new pair of eyes, they appreciate home so much more. After coming home, make sure to tell all of your friends and family about your wonderful experiences while traveling, and don’t forget to embrace them and also tell them how much you love and appreciate them as well.
I’m going to be going to Chicago for this July 4th weekend to meet up with my girlfriend Cindy as well as heading to the University of Madison, Wisconsin, where we could also hopefully connect with Cydney Alexis! Have a wonderful weekend and see you guys soon :)
“The Decisive Moment” was a term coined by the pioneer of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. During his time, photography was still a relatively new art medium and it wasn’t taken seriously. Furthermore, photographers were often criticized for not having the same discipline and creativity as traditional artists as photographers can create their images in a matter of seconds, not hours.
Anyways, Cartier-Bresson believed that “The Decisive Moment” was that split second of genius and inspiration that a photographer had to capture a certain moment. For example, that half of a second that you have when a man is jumping over a puddle, when a couple embraces for a kiss, or when a person points a finger at another. This moment is fleeting, meaning that once you miss that half of a second to capture that moment, it is gone forever. You can never recreate the same circumstances in terms of location and people.
So an important lesson about “The Decisive Moment” is that the best photo opportunities often flash before our eyes and we must be ready at all times to capture those moments. That means bringing around your camera everywhere you go. Street photography is built on the mundane and ordinary moments, so any moment is a potential for a great photograph. Some of the most disciplined photographers bring their cameras even to places like the bathroom or the grocery market.
You must constantly be looking for moments to capture, so be sure to always keep your eyes and camera ready. Have you ever seen a photo opportunity but you didn’t have your camera on hand and deeply regretted it afterwards? This happens very often, because the greatest photographs can be captured at the most unexpected times.
Also when capturing a “Decisive Moment,” timing is crucial. Capturing an image half a second too late or early can greatly influence the outcome of an image. In many of my images, I take photographs of advertisements which look like they are interacting with people on the street. So if I want it to appear if a woman in an advertisement is staring at a man walking by, I must pull the trigger at the exact moment when eye contact becomes apparent. Half a second too early or late can kill the effect of the image.
So always be quick and never miss those “Kodak Moments.” Once that moment is gone, it is gone forever.
One of the questions that I am asked quite often is, “How did you get over your fear of shooting in public?” To answer that question, I got over it by simply going out and constantly shooting in public. However it definitely does take a lot of practice and effort to build up that courage of shooting in the streets without feeling like a “creeper” or out-of-place.
For those of you who may not know, I recently graduated UCLA with a B.A. in Sociology. Therefore when it comes to photography, a lot of my sociological thoughts get intertwined as well. In many introduction sociology classes, teachers often assign students “breaching experiments,” which involve doing things which violate certain “social norms” which may make you and others feel uncomfortable. However I have found that by realizing that these social norms which govern everyday life are not concrete and can be bent to our whim, I quickly got over my fear of shooting in public.
Therefore these are some sociology breaching experiments that I have put together which could help you first get over your fear of looking “strange” or “awkward” in breaking social norms (such as taking photos of strangers in public). Although these may seem quite easy on the surface, doing them in practice is actually quite difficult. I have been making it a point to practice these breaching experiments as often as I could, and I can admit that I still have a long way to go until I could have enough courage like street photographer Bruce Gilden, who is famous of taking really up close and personal images of people. [YouTube].
5 Sociology Breaching Experiments:
Make eye contact with strangers and do not look away. If they stare back, smile and see how they respond.
When entering an elevator, turn the opposite way, even when everyone is facing the “right” way.
When walking down a busy street, suddenly put your things aside and lie on the ground for five seconds. Then stand up and walk away.
Smile and wave at a random stranger. See how they react.
Now take out your camera and take a photo of a random stranger. Observe what happens.
Help get the word out there and share this list with your fellow photographer friends! Post it to Facebook, your blog, or even tweet it!
So if any of you guys are interested in street photography, the question might be on your mind: “Where do I start?”
Well, for starters you need a camera. The most important step is actually going out and taking photos . If you are new to photography, all you might have is a point-and-shoot (a regular digital camera). This is great when it comes to street photography, because street photography doesn’t require extremely complicated nor expensive gear. A point and shoot can actually be better than DSLRs in many ways because of the discrete body and almost silent shutter. If you have a DSLR or anything else that’s great. As long as you have something to shoot with.
So once you got your camera, you need to go out and start shooting. This is the phase in which the majority of budding photographers fail. People will always find excuses NOT to take photos rather than finding excuses TO take photos. The most popular ones I hear are: “I don’t have an expensive camera,” “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m intimidated.” Don’t think so much about the details– just go out and do it.
The example I always use to counter the “I don’t have an expensive camera” argument is by telling them how much more convenient and effective even the point and shoots are today. The average Canon Powershot gives great image quality as well as giving instant results… and compare that with a film camera that has a steep learning curve and the inconvenience as well. Furthermore, most modern digital point and shoots have image sensors with such great image quality it is difficult to discern them from DSLR images under normal shooting conditions (during the day).
People will say “I don’t have enough time.” That is never an excuse because the beauty of street photography is that you can take great images of ordinary events, no matter where you are. So if you just carry around your camera with you everywhere you go, you can easily take photos while walking across the street, in a café, or even while walking to class. And I am also a firm believer in the idea that you can always find time for something you are truly passionate about, no matter how busy you are.
The last excuse I hear is that “I’m intimidated, and I don’t know where to start.” I have no idea what people can possibly be intimidated by. Unless you have someone peering over your shoulder every time you are taking a photo, you have nothing to worry about. And to simply start, you just go outside and start taking photos. It’s really that easy.
After a long hard week of work, I thought that I’d do something that I have been meaning to do for nearly a year but never went through with it: spend an entire day in Hollywood, just roaming the streets and taking photos. I never know why I never was able to find the time to do so when I was in school. Perhaps I was too busy with my clubs, work, research, and tests. But anyways on Friday night, I decided that on Saturday (today) I was going to go out and go exploring in Hollywood.
But before I went to go explore in Hollywood– of course I had to watch the Korea vs Uruguay game, so I headed over to my friend Jun’s place. After a painful 2-1 loss (we choked twice during the game during goal-scoring opportunities), I had some breakfast with my friend Kay-Won at Jack in the Box and then went home to pack my things.
I then went to my place and took my trusty messenger bag and packed the following things: my camera, my 35mm f/2 and 24mm f/2.8 lenses, a bottle of water, a peanut butter sandwich, my netbook, and some change for the bus. After waiting at the bus-stop for nearly an hour, I finally got on the bus and after a windy trip down Sunset Blvd, I got off the stop and started to explore.
Click on the link below to see the rest of the story….
So once I got off the bus and started to wander around, I honestly had no idea what I was going to do today. All I know is that I wanted to see the “You are the Star” mural on Wilcox and Hollywood Blvd (which I did end up seeing and took a photo of). Therefore I walked a few blocks north to hit Hollywood blvd and I started to make my way walking down East.
I finally got on Hollywood Blvd and passed by all the typical touristy stuff (The Wax Museum, the Chinese Theater, Hooters), etc. I then started to walk around, looking for great photo ops. The first one came to me. I saw this very fashionable guy (who looks pretty metro) casually standing in front of an American Apparel store. Low and behold, there was a mannequin almost mimicking his pose, but opposite. I also was attracted by the colorful swimsuits in the top-left corner. Therefore without any hesitation, I casually stepped back and shot this image with my 24mm (I was standing on the curb…but my wide-angle helped me capture this image).
After walking a few steps down, I saw another photo op. I got really close to this lady who was nicely juxtaposed against this sign, and snapped a photo. Nobody noticed me as all.
Walking down a bit more, I saw this dad patting his son’s head. Thought it was pretty cute.
After walking down a bit, I saw another photo op. The guy on the bottom right was actually smoking, and I wanted to grab an image of him. However once I picked up my camera, he immediately put his cigarette down. Photo fail.
Walking down a bit, I stepped into this little bar. They happened to be showing the USA vs Ghana game, so I sat down and watched a bit. However after feeling a bit antsy of wanting to take photos, I got up and continued my journey.
When I continued to walk down Hollywood blvd, I saw this picture of a woman eating (tofu?) super seductively with a pair of chopsticks, with red all throughout. Like a giddy schoolboy, I was fascinated by this image and rushed across the street, seeing that this woman (my perfect model) was about to pass through. I quickly rushed in front of her, and snapped a few photos, this one being my best one. I think it came out quite nicely–considering the awkward angle I had to shoot with my wide-angle.
I then crossed the street again, saw this awesome mural and snapped an image of it. Too bad I couldn’t get any interesting people in it.
I then see this woman, shooting a photo of a star. Man I gotta get this photo. Click.
I then continued to walk down, and suddenly a small gallery caught my eye. I entered in, and was first caught off-guard by this awesome mural on the wall. I talked to one of the ladies in front and she explained to me that this gallery was called “LACE“, which stands for Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. It has been around for nearly 30 years, and was founded for artists to have a public space to show their work. Admission was free, and it was completely open to the public. They even sold sweet swag in the front as well.
I then stepped into the next exhibit, and out of nowhere I see this HUGE Hello Kitty outline on the wall. I wondered what the hell this was about, and one of the people sitting around told me that it was an exhibition in which the viewer was encouraged to participate. She then read me some “instructions” which were on the table. They went something like this: 1) Sit down 2) Listen to the headphones 3) Listen to what is being said, and trace it inside a hello kitty template (which was provided). Seemed simple enough. I then started to listen, and to my surprise, it was a chapter out of a Holocaust book. It described in detail how Jews were forced out of their homes and into concentration camps. Actually writing the words of the story inside the hello-kitty template made the words stick much more to me, and in this I was able to see the true irony that the author was trying to promote. Contrasting something so horrible as the Holocaust, while writing the words inside of something as innocent as Hello Kitty. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit.
After I was done, I slowly put away the headphones and stood up. I then saw a girl (who was watching over the room) sit alone in a chair in a corner of the room, obviously looking quite lonely. I then decided to talk to her, and introduced myself as a recent graduate from UCLA. To my surprise, she also happened to be from UCLA as well. She introduced herself as Mallory Venema, which I commented was an awesome name. She told me that she had often gotten comments that people made fun of her last name for sounding like “Venom”– but I assured her that it was something more mysterious and unique than negative. Mallory then told me that she was an Art-History major, and she was part of the Art-History Club on campus (which featured an exhibition I was featured in titled: “Lost Angeles”). I then yelled out “NO WAY!” and told her I was featured in it. She then realized that I was “The Eric Kim” whose photos everybody enjoyed. I felt quite flattered by this and then we got into a conversation which encompassed her deciding to teach English in France, my Sociology of Facebook class, as well as how I got into photography.
Somewhere along our conversation, Mallory also told me a bit about the exhibition. She described that the entire theme for the month was based on “Participation”– which I found fascinating. The exhibit (shown below) she described as an artist discussing the BP Oil Spill (or as I like to call it–the Oil Geyser–for reasons I will describe later). She told me about how people from the public were encouraged to take some chalk and write what they felt. Looking at the wall, there were some insightful stuff–while some others wrote irrelevant stuff like “Legalize Marijuana” and “420.” I then decided to participate and took a piece of chalk and wrote how I felt: “Fuck BP” as well as writing: “Oil Spill Geyser!” which is a better word to describe how thousands of barrels of oil is constantly erupting from the bottom of the ocean into the Gulf of Mexico everyday.
I then thanked Mallory for her little tour, and continued on my journey.
I then continued to walk down Hollywood Blvd for quite a bit, and finally found the mural I was dying to see! “You are the Star” I found this mural pure genius in the sense that the mural really makes you feel like you are on the stage, while also putting the interesting twist of having all the celebrities look at YOU for the change, not the other way around. In the mural there were many famous celebrities (I could only name a few). However I was a bit sad to see that Marilyn Monroe was graffitied over “Love Me.” Clever–kinda, but more vandalism than being artistic. Why would somebody deface such a beautiful piece like this? Quite a shame.
Check out the full-resolution version here! See all the stars you can spot, and leave a comment!
After admiring the fine mural, I then decided to continue on my Hollywood journey.
I then kept on walking and then saw an image that made me almost as excited as that previous “lustful image.” A flower painted on a wall out of nowhere? Perfect photo opp.
I then stuck around for a bit, waiting for interesting people to pass through. This one definitely has to be the best. A guy riding through on a pretty small bike… with a cowboy hat on. The image doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but the tension between the star, the man on the bike, and the flower interest me.
As I continued to walk down I saw a ton of soccer fans dressed in American apparel. I asked one of the bystanders if the US won. They told me that unfortunately they lost, 2-1 to Ghana. There were a ton of people just milling around, and I thought I would join the fun.
Walking and wandering a bit more, I came upon this crimson-red building. On the top I noticed it said, “Home is where the heart is,” which struck a personal chord with me. After backpacking and traveling through Europe, that was the one quote that stuck with me. Putting it on top of a apartment complex? Genius.
I then continued to walk around, and saw where all of the US soccer fans came out of, which was a huge sports bar/pub named “Dillon’s Irish Pub.” Simply curious, I stepped inside the door and observed the place. Tons of fans, beer, and TV screens. Sweet. They even had an upstairs! I hurried up the stairs and started to snap a few photos, when I saw a waitress walking up. Still using my wide-angle, she nearly bumped into my camera when taking this image below. Quite possibly my favorite photo I took all day.
I then left, and continued my journey. Saw some sweet double-decker parking action.
I then came upon a man on a ladder, putting up the letters for a premiere. I had never actually encountered anyone actually in the process of doing this, so I took a moment to simply stand and stare at this man do his job. Him, noticing me, yelled out to me, “How are you doing?” I replied that I was doing fine, and we struck up a conversation. He told me about some of the strategies that he used when centering the text, by calculating how many spaces were on the bottom vs on the top. He also told me that it was difficult to spell out the words, because he had to write the words “backwards” to get it to show up correctly. I also told him that it was interesting how he did everything by hand– something that looked almost like an art. He then commented and told me that some other people just stand on the bottom with a pole and hook and put up the letters like that, but he felt that it wasn’t as nearly personal as doing it by hand. He also commented that in putting that “personal touch” it ended up looking better anyways. I agreed and told him that it looked great.
He then realized that he was missing a few letters and quickly descended his ladder and went inside to fetch them. He wanted to continue our conversation, so he told me to “…just wait right there.” I stood around for about a minute, shifting my feet while looking at some of the posters outside. He then quickly hurried outside and we continued our conversation. Standing next to him, I was impressed by the strength that exhumed him. First of all, he was physically built. Huge bulging biceps, solid and protruding chest, as well as a square-chin which made him look like Rocky. However at the same time his old age peeked through, which was apparent through the few grey hairs peeking out of his jet-black hair, as well as the sun damage in his skin. However, he still permeated youth, as he was quick on his feet and ascended the ladder again quickly. I continued to talk to him for a bit, and then told him that I would be going on my way. He wished me the best, and I continued my journey.
I wish this journey was longer, but it soon ended afterward. I was quite tired, and hungry, and figured I had enough pictures and story to share. I walked back unto Sunset and started to wander around, looking for the bus back home. I ended up eating a hot pastrami sandwich at Togo’s before heading back to the bus stop.
If you read all of this and looked at all of these images, I congratulate you. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think! Also if you liked this, feel free to “retweet”, “share on Facebook,” or “like” this!
Another huge obstacle you will face as a street photographer (and a general photographer) is that at times you are not going to feel a lack of inspiration to go out and take photos and let your camera collect dust on your shelf. Although it can be healthy to put down your camera at times and not to feel compelled to take images, I would say it is very detrimental to your photography if you go for around a month without taking any images.
Street photography is all about capturing the beauty in the mundane, which is every-day life. The ability to take a slice of life and capture it in an image. By not taking photographs for an extended period of time, you almost lose a part of yourself. I consider my camera an extension of my body, a 6th sense in which I am able to connect and interact with the world. It is as important as an appendage to my body as my arms or my eyes.
Imagine not using your arms for an entire month. Just visualize them losing strength and muscle as well as the ability to make precise movements. And after a month of not using your arms, they may feel foreign and unknown to you. But you soon realize how much you have been missing out in life without them; the inability to write, the inability to embrace others, and the inability to itch your face at will. Suddenly a surge of empowerment rushes through your body, and you swear to yourself that you will never live without your arms again.
Photography is very much the same thing. If you quit taking photographs and using your camera for a month, it might feel awkward and foreign to you. You try taking photos again, but they lose that precision and touch that you used to have. But once you start taking photos again and get in the groove, you realize how much you have been missing out on life. Those little slices of life that you were unable to capture such as the man waiting at the bus stop, the woman walking with her child, or the two elderly men playing chess in the park. Suddenly a huge sense of inspiration rushes through your body and you vow to yourself that you will never live without your camera again.
You don’t have to go to the most exotic places to take great photos. Often when it comes to street photography, we think of the masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who shot in the streets of Paris or hardcore street photographers such as Bruce Gilden in New York. However just because you do not live in a huge city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London doesn’t mean that you can’t take great photos. Sure you might not see as many people in the streets, but that is hardly an excuse.
I know a street photographer by the name of Tom Kaszuba who lives in a very small city in Norwich Connecticut where there are barely any people roaming the streets. Although it does make the process more difficult to find more people, it doesn’t deter him from still getting breathtaking images that convey the beauty of every-day life. He would go to street fairs or any other events in which had a large gathering of individuals and would take amazing candid portraits of individuals walking around the streets. His subjects come in all different colors, sexes, and sizes. Although he may not live in New York City or Los Angeles, his vision and determination to photography has helped him create memorable images of a seemingly “unmemorable” town.
So these are some presets that I made in Adobe Lightroom 3 and frequently use when converting my images into color or black and white. Granted that I will still do some fine-tweaking to each image after applying these presets, they are a great starting point for the starting Lightroom 3 user. Also make sure that your images in RAW when applying these presets, or they will come out really funky! Enjoy!
So the other day when I stepped out of my office on 3rd street to go take some photos during my lunch break, I was spotted by a group of Christian missionaries handing out fake one-million dollar bills to passer-by’s. They had interesting caricatures of what I perceive to be famous celebrities in place of some of our beloved presidents. As they noticed at me gazing at them, one of their representatives walked up to me and asked me, “If you were going to die tomorrow, would you definitely be sure that you would be in heaven?” Wow–what a loaded question. I then casually responded, “Of course not.” The man then asked me for 2 of my minutes and during that split-second decision I thought to myself, “Sure, why the hell not.”
From my friend Roseann Marquez’s Facebook account. Link to her twitter.
Makes me think of one of my favorite quotes: “It is better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” That is one of the few things that I have learned in life, which is that people are always so afraid of the negative consequences that they rarely think of the positive outcomes that could come out of breaking out of one’s shell. Fear is one of the things that prevents men (and women alike) from truly achieving what they are capable of. Is failure what scares people, or the fear of failure? Although failing is a disheartening feeling, it does not kill the individual. Rather, it empowers the individual to continue to strive for greatness until it is actually achieved.
So never fall into complacency. Strive for greatness. And like Nike famously puts it, “Just do it.”
For the last year or so, I have actually been working on a “Street Photography 101” book that I plan on publishing into an ebook. However, considering that I don’t know how long it will take before I have a finished product, I plan on posting several bits and pieces of it into this blog for your critique and reading pleasure. First part of this series, a quick intro into Street Photography 101.
What is Street Photography?
There is not one definition which defines street photography. Depending on who you ask or where you find your information, you will come upon conflicting responses. Some street photographers will say that it is about capturing the emotion and expressions of people, while others may put a higher emphasis on the urban environment. However I believe that the most effective street photographs are the ones that synthesize both the human element as well as the urban environment. To capture a moment in which a person is interacting with the environment or in which the environment is interacting with the person is a true mark of a skilled street photographer.
But when it comes down to it, it is basically taking photos on the streets. So instead of chasing sunsets and exotic creatures, you look for ordinary places and ordinary people and creatively compose them in a clever way. Anybody can take a good picture of a sunset. Although there are many technical details which go into capturing a perfect sunset, anybody can simply point their camera and capture a sunset which is inspiring. But when it comes to street photography, you must constantly be looking for either contrasting elements in an environment which make a photograph interesting.
Simply put, the main focus of street photography is taking the everyday and the mundane and making it into something unique and beautiful.
So at the online advertising agency that I work (AKMG), the CEO there has a real great taste in art. He owns several Todd White pieces, who according to his website claims himself as the “critically acclaimed modern master and
portrait painter for the 21st century.”
This piece actually hangs in the bathroom, which is quite funny as some of my female co-workers have complained to him that is creepy that it looks like a bunch of photographers are taking photos of them while they use the bathroom. I, however, found it a quite fascinating piece (being a photographer and all). This image says a great deal about society and celebrity-worship, as the piece puts you in the shoes of a celebrity and shows you how it feels like to have all those cameras pointing at you. It definitely does make you feel a bit unnerved and uncomfortable, as the images of the photographers are abstract enough to actually portray face-less photographers. However as a photographer, I feel completely comfortable in front of a camera (as I am the one usually wielding it).
Hey guys, so this is going to be my new blog in which I will post photos, essays, tips, and insights about street photography and more. Don’t worry– erickimphotography.com will still be alive and well. Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of the new look and what suggestions you think I could incorporate!