#notmypresidentsday Protest

Today, at around 9:30am a few hundred people gathered in front of the steps of the Salt Lake City and County Building in Washington Square to protest the current administration. Armed with homemade signs and rigorous chants the crowd rallied around a message of unity pushing back against the President’s recent actions which include: Attempting to ban Muslims from entering the US, The announcement of a wall along the border of Mexico, and The reinstatement of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The March began at 9:00am sharp in front of the Wallace Bennett Federal Building, as protests walked from there to Washington Square to the chant of “This is what Democracy looks like”. While the initial crowd seemed small, dozens of protesters joined along the way to amass a sizable crowd.

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The top image is of one of the main protest organizers rallying the audience prior to the march. I selected the other two as an interesting feature hopefully to push the idea that the ability to march, while a protected right under the Constitution, is also a privilege not afforded to all of us. While some Utahan’s march through the streets to express their concerns and angst against what will likely be one of our worst President’s, there are others who struggle simply to get from one day to the next. Let us not forget them as we make our stand for equal treatments and progressive values.

Once the crowd had arrived at Washington square the group was greeted in an opening statement/prayer by local Native American, who asked for Trump to see the error of his ways:

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The crowd cheered off and on as the young man discussed the current situation at Standing Rock and called for everyone to consider lending them their support in any way they can. In addition to the opening speaker, the protesters heard talks by a handful of other Utahans’ which included a trans-gendered individual who spoke about the need to rally against oppression and fear-mongering.

Another speaker, a young black man, stood up in front of the audience and spoke of his extensive education and how little it matters to some people who see him only as a black man, or worse an ape.

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He was eloquent and vicious, and he spoke about not letting fear dictate our decisions or interactions with one another. He also had one of the best one-liners of the day when he told the crowd he was “An ape who could solve differential equations.” I had a good chuckle at both the line, and how uncomfortable his adjectives were making those who listened. There is most assuredly an issue or disconnect, especially here in Northern Utah where diversity is not what it could be to say the least. Having to see a well educated and well spoken man, discuss how his skin color has an effect on the way he is treated tends to make the exceptionally white people around here somewhat skittish. However, in his speech he called on the group to stand as one people, as brothers and sisters, not divided by any sort of contingent characteristics but as those who share a progressive value set. Of the handful or so speakers, I felt that his speech was by far the most impassioned and powerful.

In addition to the fiery speeches and cheering hoard, there was (as there always are with such public gatherings) some people whose method of speech stood out to me more than others:

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In addition, there were of course the rabble-rousers who slinked about the outer edges of the protest chanting pro trump slogans such as “Trump for a second term” or “Illegal immigrants are criminals”:

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I have to admit I was surprised there was only the two of them. I would have expected the basement dwelling trolls to be out in a stronger force. It’s as though these two were simply walking by on their way to do something else and decided to just hang out and yell stupid shit for a few minutes.

Last but not least, Capitalism at its finest! I mean, what good is a protest if you can’t find a way to turn a quick buck off it?

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All in all, it was good morning full of civic engagement with a couple of solid photo-ops. I do plan on making it out to more of these and hopefully even getting some more politically charged studio work in here in the near future. So stay tuned for that. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!

P.S. In relation to my previous post, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts here’s the number to the helpline: 1-800-273-8255 or you can text “CONNECT” to 741741. This will likely be a common addition to my posts for the next little while. So keep sharing and keep the conversation open. Remember, you are loved.

Accidental Winners: Sometimes your best photo is unintentional

Saturday was an awesome and busy day for photo taking. One of the photography groups I am involved with here locally called “Ogden Wide” put together a fun 25 point photo scavenger hunt during the farmer’s market in downtown Ogden. I figured, given the size of the list, I wouldn’t get all of the images, so instead I would focus on getting a couple of really good shots instead. I’m delighted by both the quantity and quality of the shots that were taken by everyone who participated (which you can check out on Instagram by searching the hashtag #ogdenwide). Even better, one of my photos was selected as “Most Creative” even though my intentions for the photo were not at all what people were taking from it. But, I’ll come back to that later.

Of the 25 options I only shot about 8-10 (double dipping on a couple of the points) and snapped the following images:

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This was one of the first pictures I took in the morning. I set off from the booth after helping with the setup and within twenty feet or so of the #OgdenWide booth was this crazy looking chicken statue made of Hay and who knows what else. It was so weird and out of place from everything else at that booth I had to snap a photo.

The double dip: An Unusual Perspective/A Statue on 25th Street

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So here’s the photo I won a prize for and the root of some of my agony. But first, a quick backstory:

When I was in college studying Philosophy, I was a part of the club called Sophia. We’d have meet-ups every few weeks in which a student would get up and present a paper or thesis they were working on and the rest of us would attack it like a pack of ravenous dogs. The purpose being to provide heated and valuable discussion on the merits of the work. You never saw anyone attack the person, or something petty like grammar or syntax (unless the paper was related to those topics) but always the underlying theory. So anyways, in one of the first meetings a guy named Vincent got up and presented a defense of Leo Tolstoy’s theory of Art. You can read more about it here. It stuck with me as a solid way of separating “art” from “not art” and has been something I’ve used in whole or in part for most of my life since.

Why all that is relevant, is mostly because when I took the photo I had a distinct “feeling” I was intending to transfer to the viewer with this shot. There was this awesome moment in which the little boy in green wanted to play the piano so badly, and even though the parents were trying to get on their way, the dad stopped and helped him up to reach, knowing that inspiring a sense of art and music is worth the 15 second delay in their day. From the angle of the photo, I wanted to show the statue as a silent witness to what is likely one of hundreds of times when something similar had happened. Because of the placement of the statue and the piano, the little wheelbarrow boy (which is what the statue is called, I believe) often gets to see the foundations of what may, later in life, become a healthy obsession with art. I was hoping for a feeling of hope or excitement about the future. What most people saw when looking at it, was a statue “checking out a guys butt”. That one stings a little, not gonna lie. Nonetheless, I am still happy I won a prize and that people enjoyed the image. I suppose to some degree, a “feeling” was transmitted to the viewer, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted. So by good ol’ Leo’s standard, I still made me some art.

Aside from all that bananas, after the farmer’s market, I went down to the “City Creek” shopping center in Salt Lake to shoot some street photography with another buddy of mine. I had a goal in mind of finding a stationary person and getting a long exposure of them with blurred people all around. What happened was a couple of shots that ended up working well.

The first, was lucky as there was a younger couple who was sitting on the bridge between the two halves of the center comfortably talking for about five minutes. This let me snap off a few dozen frames trying to get the perfect one. I ended up with two good shots, each one with one of the two people in focus. So I merged them together and got this:

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I also like that because of the position of the sun, there was a harsher light on the back of the couple which made for a lot more dramatic shot.

The next one was pure happenstance. I had moved spots after the couple got up and wandered off and was just shooting for the motion itself with no real purpose in mind. Then, a cute little girl wandered into the frame while I was talking to my buddy and stopped to look for her dad sitting on a nearby bench. What I caught with the camera was this:

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The shot just has so much going for it. If only I was talented enough to catch these things on purpose!

After that we figured we’d gotten lucky enough for one day and opted to stop at the capital building on the way out of town as I had never stopped by it before. I managed to get a couple of frames in HDR that worked out alright, although I’m not nearly as happy with them as I am the motion blurs.

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The shot feels good and all, if not a little generic. The crop could stand to be fiddled with, but I’m not happy enough with it to put forth the effort.

So if there is any single take-away from this whole spiel, it’s basically: Better lucky than good.

As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

A busy week of decent shots

Last week the kiddo got the chance to spend some time with her Great Grand Parents which meant I had some free time to get out and shoot some photos and my wife got some time to relax by herself. All good things.

The week in question started last Saturday when my buddy Collin and I decided to try and go shoot some wildlife at one of the various birding spots. Unfortunately, they had decided to close and lock the gates early, so we had ended up driving there for nothing. After some humming and hawing, we ran a few errands and then I got convinced to do a midnight hike up Adams Canyon. Normally, I really enjoy the hike as it’s quite scenic and the stream is a great relaxer. However, it was dark and I was in flip-flops. Thusly, I was not in any way ready for this. In hindsight I’m glad he talked me into it as we got to the top and shot some long exposures of the waterfall with the stars in the background. Here’s the shot I ended up with:

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I tried fidgeting with it to see if I could post in a Milky Way trail behind the waterfall, but none of those images looked very good so I decided to stick with the original.

On Wednesday, I was invited out for an impromptu photo walk as a buddy of mine Zach Leroy (IG: @zacharyleroy) was wanting to get some iconic Ogden shots for his upcoming gallery for next month’s FFAS (First Friday Art Stroll). I always enjoy following him around as he has an extremely unusual perspective by which he sees normal or boring things. I’d recommend check out his Instagram as there is a real sense of art in the mundane objects he shoots. I do think these excursions make me a substantially better photographer. Of course the trip wasn’t just watching someone else snap pictures, I managed to get a few myself. I was pretty happy with most of the keepers. Since I have been trying to work on my HDR skills a little more, I opted to shoot things that would push me more that way. My favorite shot of the evening ended up being the little coffee stop on the corner of Washington and 25th:

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I also managed to get a few decent shots around sunset (which was the entire point of the trip) one of which had a funky painted van, and the other a nice shot of the Well’s Fargo building:

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Aside from those, we stopped on 24th to snap a couple of pictures and swap IG follows with a few kids who were out skateboarding in the area. I’ve always liked snapping photos of skateboarding as the action shots are always super dramatic. If you catch someone mid trick (whether they land it or not) they always look like a bad-ass. Example:

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The week wrapped up yesterday as Collin and I went out to snatch some more sunset shots from a place I visited a few years ago by accident with my buddy Trevor. Unfortunately, the mountains ran in such a way that we didn’t get the sunset hitting the valley we were in like I was hoping. We did however get to pet a couple of beautiful and sweet horses, which was nice.

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Unlike with most photos where I really waver back and forth on whether or not to go black and white, this one was obvious from the start. Going Monochrome here just adds so much more texture and drama. I really loved this shot (even if it kind of looks like there’s a horse-centipede going on in the back).

Since we knew early on the valley was going to be a bust, we moved on as quick as we could in hopes to catch a sunset. The sky was cloudy and it was raining in various parts of the Wasatch front so we figured the sky would be exploding with color if we could just get high enough on the mountain to look out west. We ended up missing it by about 10-15 minutes, but we know where to head to next time. I did manage to get one more pretty solid HDR shots, and a couple mediocre ones. Here’s how those came out:

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I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep the bottom two in color. I’m not even entirely sure how much I like them. But, I figure I’d post them here and see what everyone else though and if they stink I can always dump them later.

It felt really good to be able to get out and shoot more this last week as prior to this, the last time I got to take a photo of something was around the 4th of July, and that is much too long to go without being outside and roaming about. I think that will do it for this one. As always, until next time– Thanks for reading!
-D

Me Time + Charity Work = Awesomest Week Ever!

This last week managed to be eventful for a couple of reasons. Monday I called into work and opted to take a personal day so I could get out and have some much needed nature time. For the last month or so the weather has been sunny and 60+ degrees during the week and cold, windy, and rainy on the weekends. Knowing full well that Monday was going to be beautiful and it really was. I opted then, after a short search, to find a new hike to take since I had plenty of time to do so. After grabbing some breakfast and moseying about, I left for the Hidden Valley.

I had read online that the trail was pretty well hidden and that there weren’t markers to tell you when to turn off. Since the Hidden Valley hike is connected Indian Head Trail, I manged to accidentally hike about 2/3rd’s of the trail before doubling back and finding the right turnoff. On the bright side though, I happened to detour off to a small rock outcropping and get a decent shot of the Ogden Canyon:

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Once I got back to the right turnoff, I was fortunate enough to run into a group of other hikers who were headed to the same place. It was kind of nice having some people to chat with along the way as the hike up was grueling and long. It was however, totally worth it. I managed a few pretty cool shots along the trail including this one:

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Once I got to the top of the mountain range, there is a short drop back down into a gorgeous wooded valley that sits between the front and back peaks of the Wasatch. Also the payoff at the end is not only a view of the mountain that was peeking out through the trees, but some really neat rock stacking piles that hikers have added to over the years.

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The stack in the top photo is about five and a half feet tall whereas the bottom one is about three feet tall. Of course, like a good hiker and art lover I made sure to add a rock to each pile, snap a few more photos and head out. I would have likely stayed a little longer, but it was starting to rain, and I was in shorts and a t-shirt and thusly not prepared for that. I stopped for one more photo op on the way down to catch a shot of the storm rolling into Ogden from the mountains:

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After recovering from a small cold I caught and pushing through a long week of work, I got to participate in my second adventure of the week: The Utah Firefighters Calendar!

This is exactly what you think it is, and it’s entirely a volunteer based project. My buddy Ben Sant, who also shot last years calendar invited me along to assist him and learn some lighting as well as how to pose models, who were in this case, shredded shirtless Firefighters. The project, which will put out the calendar later this year was done through donations of time and labor, and the sale of the calendars goes to the American Cancer Society. For those who know me, I’m a sucker for a good cause and love the opportunity to give back to a community anyway I can. While I can’t post any full on shots of the gentlemen who are in the calendar I am able to show off a few behind the scenes photos of the shoot, which will hopefully tease you all enough to go out and buy one! If you’re interested in learning more about the project you can check the facebook page here, or if you want to buy one of last years calendars now (and a new one later this year), you can order those through the website Here! You can also search the hashtags ‪#‎fightcanerwithmuscle‬ ‪#‎utahfirefightercalendar

Now for a couple shots:

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On a final note for this post, I finally got around to uploading a few more things into the store front, so If you’d like to order some prints (I can assure you I’d love you forever if you did!), be sure to click the image in the top right corner of the page! Also, I added some more shots to my 500px portfolio which you can see here. If you want to order a print that isn’t in the store, shoot me a message on any of my various networks and let me know, and I’ll get it uploaded for you.

Well that’s all for this one. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Not All Drama is Bad: Learning to Find & Create the Good Kind!

This last week has been reasonably productive for photo taking. On Tuesday I got down to Layton for a short hands on seminar in model lighting. It was a pretty cool event in which they wrangled together about a half dozen models and few different light setups to teach us about how to shoot portraits. Unfortunately I missed the lecture due to spacing the time, and by the time I got in everyone was working with someone else. So, much like everything else, I grabbed one of the setups and decided to teach myself. It went alright for the most part. I am fairly surprised by the level of care and concern it requires to set up a single shot (or series thereof). Between the lights, diffusers, models, and background elements, you could spend ten minutes prepping a single photo. Nonetheless, I got in and started going for it. I was fortunate that two of the young ladies I was working with were also fairly new to this and super patient with me.

I’ve never worked with a model before and so I had no idea how to pose them, or what kind of things to talk about during the shoot. So as I fumbled between asking about their favorite movies or bands, I’d snap a photo here and there. I also decided I wanted to go a non-traditional route and get shots of the models not doing the regular old “yearbook pose”. With the first, whose name is Jasmine, I wanted to go for melancholy. She had a great look and awesome hair (very Macy Grey-esque). Her sister was the second model and her name was D’Juana. I loved her short hair and classic model look. These were probably the best shots I got of each of them:

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The last one I shot, was Heather. She’s been modeling for quite a bit longer than most of the others there and while I didn’t get any studio shots of her, I caught one on my way out the door while she was outside taking a break. The lighting of the building lamp made for a cool shot:

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If nothing else, I learned that this is something I am absolutely interested in doing more of. There are so many options that I can foresee doing with creative portraiture.

The second excursion of the week came on Saturday when I took the kiddo out to the Holi Festival of Colors in Salt Lake City. This was by all accounts an awesome event. Tons of music, people, dancing, and general love to all those in attendance regardless of who they were. From the Wiki entry on it:

“The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships, and is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest”

And boy-howdy was that a thing. It was kind of the perfect place for the kiddo as she’s the type of kid whose never met a stranger in her life. She loves everyone, and is all keeping it 100 for play time. Seeing her that amped made the day all that much better. It also helped that I got some sweet photos too! If it is something you want to do I recommend getting some shrink-wrap and some duct tape cause it gets crazy messy and your camera could get ruined pretty easily. But if you’re willing to put in the pre-work and risk it you can get some super colorful and fun photos:

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“A guy preps his pack of colored chalk for the dance floor area”

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“The kiddo adjusts her bandana. It’s common to wear one like this to prevent breathing in all the chalk in the air.”

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“Colorful Yoga. Classes were held throughout the day even as the storm was rolling in”

And of course what good is a festival without all the dancing, music and chalk throwing. Here’s a panorama shot of the dance area and stage:
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“A drone is launched over the crowd to capture everyone throwing a peace sign and their chalk to symbolize unity, love, and peace.”

All in all it was an awesome weekend, even though we’re getting rained out and mostly stuck indoors. I look forward to some of the upcoming festivals here in Ogden this month and can’t wait to shoot some more. As always, until next time, Thanks for reading!
-D

Street Shots of the Temple Lights: The Prominence of Camera Phones

Last night my wife and I went out to check out the temple lights and snap some photos. While I had originally gone out with the intention of capturing some wide sweeping panoramas of Downtown Salt Lake City, I ended up getting a lot more street photography style shots. It’s becoming an unhealthy obsession. Something about the way in which the Christmas lights are seemingly vomited randomly into the trees and shrubs kind of threw me off this time around. I had dozens of shots where all the trees would have lights on them and then there were one or two next to those that were just blank and dead. It’s as if someone either forgot to do them, or at some point simply shrugged and caled it good enough. This is a good example of it:

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As you can see, the center trees are filled with lights, while half of the trees on the outside of the frame aren’t. This shot makes it look a little more uniform than it really was. Once you got up to them, it was fairly haphazardly done.

Nonetheless, I did get some pretty cool shots of people, most of which are using their phones in some way or another. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have grown a fascination when I’m shooting of catching people who are locked into their phones and ignoring the world around them. Part of it I think, has to do with the fact that I am often times one of those people. If I don’t have my camera on me, or I’m not on a specific errand, I’ll simply wander about with my face in my phone. I’ll either be playing a game, or scrolling through a social network, but I am largely oblivious to what’s going on around me.

I mean, I get why people do it. This isn’t entirely a judging thing. In a lot of cases your errands are boring. Who wants to wait in line at the DMV or some store in the mall and just creepily stare at the back of the person in front of you’s head? Nobody. So instead you can bury into your phone and entertain yourself for a few minutes while you wait.

However, while I was wandering around shooting everything I could, I noticed just how much I would be missing in the world. For example, on our way out of the temple grounds, I had contemplated checking my phone to look up the score of the Saturday night football game, but as I was about to do so, I noticed a guy get down on one knee. While I didn’t quite get the “money shot” of this proposal, I did get the “post-yes hug”, and had I been on my phone, I’d likely not have noticed it happen at all until his friend yelled out to the crowd her acceptance. Here’s the happy couple:

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As an aside, I tend to get mildly annoyed when people see me setting up a shot and just wander in front of my camera. If I was on a phone or something sure, you can’t really tell if I’m texting, or snapping a pick; but when I have my bag open next to me, with tripod out and I’m measuring angles – it’s pretty clear I’m in the middle of something. Move.

Of course, in this singular case, it worked out alright as I got not only the shot of the temple I was going for, but the guy who rudely wandered into the shot actually made it better. Who’d-a thunk it?

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Aside from those I snapped a few other I am happy with. I attempted two fairly large Panoramas, but due to my position regarding where I shot them from, they just didn’t work out. However, I did learn something valuable in that endeavor so hopefully I can get them fixed for the next time when I go and shoot. As for those shots I mentioned, here they are:

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That should do it for this installment. As always, till next time, Thanks for reading!
-D

The Little Details

They really do make all the difference.

I got the chance to get out and do some more street photography in Salt Lake City last week, and I thought I’d try and apply a few things I’ve read/learned from some actual street togs and see what I could come up with. What all does that entail exactly? Well, to be honest a lot of it was just some interesting tips and tricks on how to interact with people so it wouldn’t be so awkward as I take their photo. Here’s a few I tried out that went OK:
– by continuing to look past someone after snapping their face, they often assume you were shooting something else entirely, so they don’t even ask about it.
– Ask to take someone’s photo then pose them in a few ways
– Snap first, then if they look upset or confused, compliment them on something they’re wearing. The compliment instantly eases tension and makes the subject feel you were more interested in their shirt/hat than their face.

Applying these tricks went mostly well. There were a few cases in which people were still taken aback by me shooting their picture on the street. This one in particular:

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After firing off a few quick shots and moving on as the moment looked pretty personal and I didn’t want to be too disruptive, the guy called out asking if he could at least see the pics. His tone was fairly annoyed. So I tried to compliment him on his suspenders which was a miserable failure. He wasn’t happy about the photos at all. The girl he was with started discussing how they’d just lost a friend/co-worker and so I sat and chatted with them for a few about the guy named Niko who had passed and gave them my condolences. They seemed slightly more at ease as I left.

Unfortunately, this image is just slightly out of focus, or I think it would have been an incredible picture. Part of the goal as a street photographer is to capture that “human condition” or raw emotion on the faces of everyday people. This was perfect opportunity but given the lens I was using and my distance from them, I didn’t get the shot as well as I would’ve liked. Case in point about the little details. In this case, having my focus point set to 3 feet instead of 6 feet caused a blur in the guys face, detracting from the shot.

A similar case of that could be found in this photo as well:

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In this case, the couple had no idea I was snapping their picture, but I was in too much of a hurry to make any sort of camera adjustments. As such, there are some awkward glare spots, and the sales clerk is exceptionally blurry. I would argue the clerk isn’t so big a deal as she wasn’t the focus of the image. The primary focus was to show the guy’s face who had clearly been drug out for shopping by his girlfriend/wife and had no desire to take part in selecting what color bath soaps they should get. It was a classic “Every man’s nightmare” scenario of being drug out shopping. My hope is I can fix some of those things with a little more post work, but the time being I felt I’d leave them as it ties together with the point I’m making.

Finally, the last image I got from that night that came out rather well, was of a young lady closing up the hipster tea place in the downtown mall area. What I didn’t notice on my first pass through the photos was some of the finer details of the image that weren’t her. For example, I ended up snap accepting this image since she was in good focus and the picture came out how I’d hoped it would.

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All in all a fine capture, but on the second look through the images I noticed a couple of things in a similar photo. 1) SHe was still mostly in focus; 2) The register had the full “Have a nice day” printed on it; and 3) the lighting was just ever so slightly different that when I went through and messed with it in post, it actually looked even more like she was closing up for the night.

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Those couple of small finer details I think produced a much stronger image overall. More likely than not I’ll be converting these over to black and white once the final work on them is done. In the meantime, I hope they did a good enough job showing you the difference in what taking those few extra seconds can mean for getting that perfect shot.

That’s all for this one. Until next time, thanks for reading!
-D