street photography

Must, must return to Hong Kong

My eyeballs exploded in Hong Kong. Everything was new, and every moment one I should capture on film. Here’s just one of those random moments. Advertising there had to be big, bolder, more awe-inspiring than what rank amateurs would practice elsewhere. Hey, it’s Hong Kong! Cannot believe it has been 10 years since my quick trip. Hmmm. (Click on the photo to see the picture on a separate picture page.)


Everyone has a story, even if some are pure malarkey


I used to work as a newspaper reporter. But even before that I learned that everyone has a story. Everyone. I did not have time to get this guy’s tale, unfortunately. He was remodeling his patio in front of quirky old house in Sisters, Ore., and I had miles to drive still that evening. He was a really nice guy, but, well, busy fixing things up.

On the other hand, sometimes we may not want to know folks’ stories. But it is usually worth the effort to listen, even if what you are hearing can be full-on malarkey. For the record, I love malarkey too, ’cause the best stories tend to be tall and stretch the truth on the edges, and even the middle–just listen to people run for office and you find good examples. Or just talk to a the proverbial fishermen, or perhaps barfly.

(Click on the photo to open a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Bidding farewell to my Contax system … my good friends


In my effort to downsize everything I own, I decided to sell my Contax G1 camera and two Carl Zeiss lenses designed for the G System, the Carl Zeiss Biogon 2,8/28  and the Contax Carl Zeiss Planar T 45mm. This rangefinder and its lenses are still considered among the best in terms of providing crisp images taken on analog film. (One reviewer who loves the G System, Ken Rockwell, disses the G1, but I found it to be a tough workhorse.) They also have a cult following, and for good reason. I used my Contax system around the world, from Vietnam to Egypt to the Northwest. I loved how it could spontaneously capture people I met. Its unassuming size and its autofocus feature made it invaluable to my street photography projects.

The good news is, I am going to sell the entire set and buy a Fuji X-Pro 1 (did I say downsize?). This digital and beautifully crafted tool  mimics the world-renowned and religiously revered Leica M6, a camera I also own and will carry to the grave. These two are frequently compared, and the critics tend to agree that the Fuji, which can take M6-series Leica lenses with an adapter, is a perfectly designed camera body that caters to the desires and needs of photographers who want manual control. The Fuji X-Pro 1 also holds its own with the Leica M9, according to some. Cameras truly can be like children, but sometimes it is best to let them leave the nest and try new things.

Vivian Maier’s hidden world of intimate, visual storytelling

I just learned about Vivian Maier, an amazing street photographer and student of the human condition, in all its rich, strange, sometimes unfair and cruel glory. She was born in 1926 and died in 2009 and spent much of her life in New York and Chicago, where she did her voluminous work. More than 100,000 of her negatives and undeveloped rolls of film and 8mm and 16mm film were discovered posthumously. Suddenly an unknown photographic storyteller burst on the scene in the last five years through the power of social media and more importantly because of the volume and quality of her highly personal work.

Her self-portraits, including the use of a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, are wildly off-kilter. In the era of the self-absorbed, narcissistic cell-phone selfie, these make that practice seem like a pale shadow. As for her portraits of ordinary people she met, you cannot take photos like this without deep empathy and respect–something that is not common. It links her to photographers like Sebastião Salgado.

Look at the cameras she used; some appear to be Leicas. She also used one of my favorite twin-lens reflex cameras, the gorgeous Rolleiflex. When she snapped her street and people pictures, she was right in her subjects’ private, most intimate space. There is now a documentary film that came out in 2013 called Finding Vivian Maier, and it is gaining buzz too. Oh, she made “a living” as a nanny, if that matters. It makes one wonder about who is an “artist” and what hidden potential people who may be dismissed can possess. Catch a glimpse of the film via the trailer on Youtube below.