Ice Cream Truck. West Palm Beach, 2016
Lately I have been attending car shows, which might end up as a new project. This one in West Palm, was a bit of a dud because of the bad weather. I usually want to do these shows on sunny days but as they say, I have to go with the stream. So, it was a shitty day and I started looking around. What I have noticed though is that when I start getting into something, there are always distractions along the way. One project can turn into another—thus food trucks and Ice cream wagons enter into my viewfinder. This might be a better project than car shows but who knows.
In my world, there are two kinds of photographers. The first is the deliberate one, the guy who checks every setting twice, focusses very carefully, checks exposure again, and then spends the next two or three minutes framing their shot. One can take a lot of photographs in two minutes. A lot of times, I have come across these types of photographers, and not wanting to ruin their photograph, I patiently wait for them to finish, before walking through. On many occasions, I run out of patience, and after waiting for a minute or two, I say “fuck it” and walk through their pictures. They never notice me. The second type of photographer is the slob—that’s me. For the most part on a sunny day I set my ISO at 400, camera at F8 and out the door I go. I see something that interests me, I raise my camera and shoot. Its all over very quickly. It may take me a half second to raise the camera and frame my shot and 1/125 of a second to snap the shutter and its all over. The photography above is a perfect example. I was walking through the Piazza di Popolo in Rome, and noticed this couple kissing. I was about 20 feet away and decided to get closer. As I approached, I pre-focussed for about 10 feet walked up, raised the camera and shot. They never noticed me so I continued to adjust my framing, and waited for a split second or two for the right moment and shot three more frames. This one is from the last three frames. It was all over in about three or four seconds and I was gone.
This was a different situation completely and is about as anal as I get as a photographer. My wife and I were in Montreal and went for a late lunch at Chez Leveque—one of our favorite haunts when we visit there. We like to sit side by side, and the waiter begrudgingly obliged. Across from me was this woman, finishing off her lonely lunch with a glass of wine. I saw the shot but did not want to attract her attention so I refrained. I was very itchy to do something but experience had taught me that this was one of those situations that required some patience. In a few moments, a small child who was bored sitting with his parents got up and started to run around the place. When he ran in front of the woman, I raised my camera and pretended to shoot him, but was actually focussing on the woman at the table. The woman smiled at me as I pretended to shoot the obnoxious little brat and the ice was broken. She did not pay any more attention to me. The kid left, she took a sip of her wine and looked out the window. I slowly raised my camera which was already focussed and took two shots and it was all over.
In both situations, I spotted what I wanted to shoot, and acted spontaneously and quickly when I saw the moment. If I was like the other type of photographer, I would have come up empty—the moment passing before me as I got myself ready. I am sure there are times when it pays to take one’s time making a shot, and I am sure I am guilty of that from time to time. However those occasions usually do not have people in the frame. Then I have all the time in the world.
A few years ago we were vacationing in Sicily and returned home by way of Paris. We had a three day layover and I was of course looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I had picked up some bug in Sicily and was not at my best. I remembered something my doctor had told me years ago about stomach bugs. He had told me to starve them and try not eating for 24 hours. This was hard to do in Paris—almost impossible but I did it. The next day I actually started feeling a bit better and could actually go out walk around and feel a bit more comfortable—albeit quite hungry.
We walked along the Sienne and I spotted this couple kissing on the other side. Fortunately, I had only a zoom lens and it came in handy for this shot across the river. Although I have always felt that I needed one of these gizmos (zoom lens), the truth is that I hardly use them at full zoom. When I check my shots in Lightroom, it can tell me what focal length was used for the shot and I have noticed that not matter how strong my zoom, the vast majority of the shots was shot at focal lengths between 28mm and 100mm. These days I hardly bother with them and just walk around using one camera and a single 35mm lens. I have a feeling that I am taking better pictures this way—at least for the present.
Its good to be back. Italy is the land of good food. Not only good food but good meals—which means a nice 2-hour lunch, a bottle of wine, and lots of sunlight—not a bad way to eat. I love it!. You are driving along some secondary road, the weather is wonderful, and at noon it is time to eat. Sometimes you will see a “Ristorante or Trattoria” sign along the road. You stop, go inside and you are seated at a table with tablecloths, beautiful decor (they are very proud of their places) and an array of spotless glassware. The meal begins. You eat, you drink, and after an hour or two, you are sent on your way with a slight buzz—not too much but just enough. America is different and in America, Vermont is still more different. It would be nice to drive along a road, enjoying the scenery, spot a restaurant sign and hop in and have a good lunch but that is not the case. Perhaps in some states, but here in Vermont, all you find are these places—little crumby roadside stands with greasy burgers and no services—and I love it!
I must admit that after a week or two of just great food and fine cuisine, I miss a crappy meal at one of these places. Now that it is autumn, they are closing down for the season and soon I will be heading south. Florida will be different—very different. You are rarely driving along country reads—most of the time it is expressways with little signs every few miles at the exits pointing out the local fare—McDonalds, Burger King, Chic-Fila etc. Not too exciting, but hey, its home. What you have to do is find a town and in Florida there are lots of them—just head toward the ocean and there are towns. Most places along the water serve fish and its fresh and there is nothing like a catch-of-the-day and a beer. I suppose it is just what you are used to.
One thing about Italy though is that my long-range plan is to spend a summer in Italy and my lunch routines certainly will change. Then I will be getting into just going into a bar and having a sandwich and a beer and they make great sandwiches!
By the way, this photo is taken in Vermont—not Italy and the “joint” is in between two towns—the names of which I can not remember. Dining in Vermont can be an anonymous experience.
Vitoria is the state capitol of the Basque region in Spain. We stumbled into this place on a wet, rainy morning and our first impressions were not good. Besides the weather, there was really nothing going on and we were about to leave.
“Lets just go to the end of the street” Sharon suggested.
We sullenly walked down this gloomy road. All that was going on were some Basque separatists hanging banners from a building. It was all very gloomy.
By the time we got to the end of the street, the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to come out. to our left, was a staircase and we decided to go up and “Voila” there was this beautiful little city. We walked around for a few hours and then we got lucky a second time. We wandered into this charming little restaurant and had a great lunch. Persistence has its rewards.
Last October, we were in Croatia for a few days. Quite an interesting country. This young couple was in a restaurant having lunch and hardly spoke to each other. They seemed totally fixated on the screen on his smart phone. They were quite affectionate but they just did not speak. I think that is what is common in kids today. They type well but are totally verbally incoherent. On the other hand, its easy to make photographs of them since ether seemed to be in a far-off place. Ahhhh… passion!
A few years ago, I had an exhibition in Brescia Italy. The owner of the gallery did not speak English, and my Italian is abysmal but we both spoke French so we could actually converse with each other. He was a very congenial host and for the 5 days that we spent in Brescia, he would suggest things for me to do during the day and suggest we meet up somewhere around 5:00PM. When we would meet, the first thing Renato would say was,
“Voulez vous un apertivo?”
That’s when I discovered the delightful custom of the European “happy hour”.
Sharon and I have just returned from a visit to Italy, Croatia, and Austria where we decided to be compulsive about this happy little ritual. So every evening between 5 and 6, we would sit ourselves down somewhere and order an Aperol for Sharon, and a “vino bianco” for myself. As the trip processed and we wearied of continuous drinking we switched to coffee and tea. each time I would get up and take a picture of the scene in a very methodical way. Actually, I find this type of photography where I establish a theme and then in a very deliberate manner, set up to follow it quite boring and anal. Its not the way I take pictures. I prefer to be more spontaneous but for the purpose of this little series it seemed to work.