Thursday, May 26, 2011

Get out of your comfort zone!

I’ve said it often enough: I take great pictures of Rocks and Trees. I don’t take people pictures, I don’t do events. Well last weekend I decided to try something different. I’m glad I did, because I got my creative juices flowing.

I've started shooting more pictures of people. I'm finding it quite rewarding. During the Trillium weekend I think I shot more pictures of my fellow photographers than I did of the landscape. Certainly more than I shot of the beaver swimming across the pond, unlike some other people! This past weekend too — I decided to stretch myself and as a result I'm feeling less stale.

I was in Montreal for a memorial for my father and I decided to drive home via Ottawa. The 417 has a lot in common with the 401: total boredom. But after Ottawa it’s another story. The GPS took me up through Renfrew, then turned me along Highway 60, 132 past Calabogie and eventually 28 through Bancroft. I’d been on those roads before – they’re renowned motorcycling roads. A very enjoyable drive, even in a car – I recommend it. But that’s not what this is about.

At the last minute, approaching Ottawa, I decided to take an hour or so to visit the Byward Market. It’s an outdoor stall-type thing over several city blocks. At this time of year, I guess, it’s mostly produce and flower vendors, with a sprinkling of other tourist stuff as well. I parked, mounted my “walking-about-lens” (24-120) and set out to see what I could see. It didn’t take me 10 minutes before I changed to the 70-200 and I never switched back.

The 70-200 allows me to be a little less – OK, a LOT less intrusive. I can shoot from 20 or 25 feet away without getting in peoples' faces. Add to that the better perspective and the great isolation you get with the shallow DOF at f/2.8 and I'm reminded why this is my favourite lens.

I decided I would take people pictures. Candids, street pictures. Stuff I don’t usually do.

I’m shy. I asked the first interesting guy if I could take his picture. He was made up in whiteface and it turned out, was a sort of a street performer. He asked me for money. I said no, he grimaced and grudgingly agreed to be photographed. I took a couple of shots, and caught his ‘act’ later – he complained that ‘everyone is taking pictures but nobody is paying’. Right. DO SOMETHING, bud. He just stood there and pretended to be a statue. For this he wants payment?

I took candids of other people, but didn’t have the nerve to ask them if I could take their pictures. Again, I have to learn to do that. Here are a few candid images I took. The first one all by itself tells me I have to do this more often!

Sometimes you get lucky. Check out the expression on her face and compare it to her shirt.

These kids were checking out the menu board while waiting in line at the Beavertail concession.

Street guitarist showing a couple a riff that he was playing. To me, this picture tells a great story.

There was another street musician that I connected with. Well actually I threw a Toonie in his case and told him he was in the wrong city — he should have been in New Orleans. So he posed for me for some pictures as he played. He wasn't that good, but he did have some blues in him. The "Pink Panther" theme on the baritone sax sounded pretty good!

OK, I admit to doing a little Photoshopping on these pictures. Just because I changed my subjects didn't mean I had to change my style!

Finally I saw some great patterns in the produce for sale and took some of those shots.

Same image, a little Topaz. OK, a lot of Topaz.

But the most interesting ones were the people pictures! I still did my Photoshop and Topaz stuff but there’s a whole world out there of interesting subjects to photograph. I have to learn to be less shy, and ask permission to shoot pictures of people. The worst thing that can happen is they say “no”, right?

So I’m going to try to do this more. Expand my horizons, do stuff I haven’t done before. What about you? Are you ready to leave your comfort zone?

— 30 —


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. And Simon is my friend... the "statue" is not that easy to do, have some respect, dont brag you pictured him and published without giving a penny... BTW I have seen better photos of myself. The photoshop pizza sucks.


    So people can make their own opinion. I am still often at Byward Market and next time you can have your 2 bucks back. If it was to insult me after I dont want it.

  4. The fact that my prior first comment was removed says it all.. Sorry for this 1rst reaction to your blog, the photos are not so bad but I want my face removed, I dont remember giving you any authorisation for using my pictures for your personnal blog, and please keep your opinion to yourself. Thank you. And next time you use public image of artists ask them THEIR NAME and autorisation, please.

  5. Your comment was removed because of the language you used in it. And you were in a public place and therefore I have the right to post the picture without your specific authorization.

  6. I have been a busker since 1995. I don't have any issue with having my picture taken. I'm not on the FBI's most wanted list or anything and because I am singing and playing in a public place, it is fair game for people to take my picture. Just one of the many services we offer in the Byward Market. Snap away.