Inglorious Color: Repost from March 2013

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Here is a link to the great website American Suburb X and a group of street photos by newly discovered street photography master Helen Levitt. The difference between these pictures and the vast majority of her other previously shown work is that these images are in amazing color.

Seeing those images this morning inspired me to share some of my recent shots. You know, I’ve always thought of myself as a black and white street photographer. But I rarely shoot black and white street photography. I really have done very little in B&W over the last ten years. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m  a street photographer who works primarily in color.

Color is the only way to capture the parts of Los Angeles I continue to want to shoot most. Hope these images from my Leica M-E capture both the timeless grit and the gripping palate of colors of life in LA in 2013.

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6 comments

  1. Hi Donald, I love the feel of these. The placement; use of scale and division, and the colour. Do you underexpose slightly…..there’s an epic and cinematic quality to all of them. Very strong images.

    1. Thank you, SO much, John. Actually they weren’t underexposed, or, at least not intentionally. But… instead of struggling to adjust to the changing light in tall building environment in the middle of the day, which is to say what I have mostly done over the years in attempting not to miss great subjects in the shade, I’ve come to decide over the last few years to expose tightly to the sunny sides of the street, and work with the light. I don’t know that this set makes use of the light shadow opportunities that exist, but I try not to let a photographic idea completely take over shooting in an environment where there’s so much happening.

      As I’ve said before, I’ve never liked M9 sensor color very much. Well, not at all. But I’ve come to realize something that I’ve meant to expound on in the blog and that is you have to work the file. A lot of M9 shooters go the other way and desaturate their colors because the colors are off and why emphasis it. I’m using a bunch of add-on filters in Lightroom and then tweaking them for the time of day and light here in California. I want realistic colors… but I don’t mind pushing them as long as they don’t appear to blow. I hate blown colors. I do think the M9/M-E produces a difficult file to work with. I mean, come on. I’ve was shooting Nikon digital from 2000 on. Some of those cameras I never even thought about WB unless I was in an arena or going for some exotic blues shooting in the early evening. Skin tones were just nailed by themselves.

      But since I re-upped on this sensor by buying an M-E I decided to shoot black and white or shoot color on cloudy days. So these shots are a shock even to me. They represent what I want my color street photography to look like. That it’s attainable in bright sunlight is not something I would have thought likely just a few weeks ago. Being here in Los Angeles, I’m going to have a lot of opportunity to create the kind of street photography I see in my head when I look at much of LA. As far as the issue that has been brought up on DPReview of them being phony color… I don’t see that. Downtown LA is overwhelming in the sunlight. These images emphasis the color but they’re not a departure from what is there.

      Anyway, thank you again for your kind comments. And THANK YOU to all who have ‘liked’ my post, and who are now following my blog. Thank you!

  2. Reblogged this on 50'Lux and commented:

    One of the moments with my new M-E when I realized that I had something. This day completely turned around my street photography and set the stage for all the images I would post on 50lux.com thereafter. Seriously. I can’t believe I’ve never reblogged or reposted this. Here it is….

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