You’ve seen them before – maybe even this past Saturday. Clueless masses of amateur photographers wandering Market Square or some other portion of the city. Yes, they look dorky and uncertain and yes, they may have no idea what to actually do with that massive lens, but have mercy people, they are trying. This past Saturday, I’d say “we” were trying because, yes people, I was one of the dorks.
There are two field trips incorporated into this photography class I’m taking and one of them involves taking photographs of downtown. I’ve taken a couple of those over the last three years. More like a couple hundred thousand. It was interesting to walk around with a group of people in which many had not spent a morning downtown in years.
We did a pretty good tour of the area, starting at the State Street Garage and walking to Gay Street where we milled about taking photographs of buildings and, particularly architectural detail. I remember when I used to walk past little details that make these older buildings special. I still have to remind myself to tune in to the specifics and focus on the here and now.
As we walked toward Market Square, I suggested we walk through Armstrong Alley. I think a large contingent in the group were surprised by the art there. I have to say I’m also growing to appreciate the other aspects of the alley, like the bars I photographed. There are so many shades, angles and oddities that make the alley interesting. I wish we had more like it around the city.
After a walk through Market Square, we settled into Krutch Park for a bit. With the sculptures, waterfall, flowing water and pool, it makes for many interesting photographs. Of course, many people were doing more than aiming for “good pictures.” We’ve learned about depth of field, freezing and blurring motion and so on, and many members of the class worked on those skills. As we walked, Tom Geisler also discussed how to shoot specific scenes.
After walking to Henley Street he pointed out a magnolia tree adjacent to the UT Conference Center through which the Sunsphere is visible for an interesting photograph. We stopped in front of the convention center at a spot of reflected gold light on the sidewalk. Emanating from the Sunsphere, it moved remarkably fast. As we photographed a model in the light, we had to keep moving her every couple of minutes. I had no idea. Tom used the occasion to demonstrate use of light diffusers and reflectors. I get it now. Photographers aren’t just being pretentious when they use those things! Not that I ever though that.
We stopped below the Clinch Avenue Viaduct to photograph a jump while stopping motion in mid-air. I learned that Tom doesn’t jump very high and that it isn’t that hard to do, if you know what you are doing. The fountain was not on in the World’s Fair pool, but we stopped there to talk about portraits in direct sunlight which is, of course, more complicated than I’d given it credit for being.
A walk down the hill to the waterfall and rocks was followed by a trek across Cumberland to Church Street United Methodist which I’ve about photographed to death. We talked a bit about composition at that stop, then walked around the corner to Lord Lindsey (from saints to sinners in a few simple steps) took a few more photographs and stopped for another conversation.
We walked past the Baptist Church, the Whittle Building, City County Building and the old Courthouse when shutters snapping. A group photograph with the Rowing Man finished off our trek on Gay Street. We clicked our way to the First Presbyterian cemetery where we talked about group portraits, posing and composition. And there our four hour walk ended.
But there was homework. We had to take various shots such as back-lighted, front-lighted, automatic white balance and custom, as well as other things I didn’t know existed just a few weeks ago. I was able to get one shot from all those that I actually liked. The goal was maximum subject isolation and Urban Woman kindly submitted to the torture and I was pleased. “Maximum Subject Isolation” just means your subject is clear and virtually everything around them is blurred.
Finally, we had to shoot the city at night. I’d never used a tripod, so that was different. I climbed to the top of the Eleventh Street Parking Garage for shots of the city and the World’s Fair Park and Convention Center. It’s serene to be above the city looking from a distant perch late at night. I definitely have more work to do on night shots. I’d forgotten, if I ever noticed, that the viaduct arches under Clinch are lighted at night. It’s quite pretty.
So, there’s a progress report on the photography experiment. I’m just over halfway through Photography One, and I’ve actually learned a few things. Executing them is different from learning them, but I’m trying.