Sunday, April 20, 2008

Do You Love Your Subjects ? Man on Bench

Not in the romantic sense, but spiritually or camera wise, even though I am sure many of us do have subject in the former description.

On the way to the Ottawa Busker’s Festival , I ventured through Confederation Park and I came across this gentlemen sitting on a park bench. There was something about his expression, the wildness in his face and a certain glint in his eye that I knew would capture well in the camera. I believe he is a homeless person who had his belongings in a cart with him and was probably staying in shelters at night, as he wasn’t completely dishevelled.

I did fall in love with his face and I asked politely if I could take his photo. At first he was somewhat withdrawn or apprehensive about my intentions and he did not give his permission. We spent a few minutes talking about things and told him that I thought he had a great face that would photograph well. I told him that I was with a local camera club and I like to collect photos of interesting people. When he realized my intentions were proper and that I would not portray him in a bad light, he agreed to let me capture a few images.

I do hope that the final image above does capture some of the majesty within this person, maybe a little Hemmingwayest.

A few of the other images taken are presented below and from the series you may see some other elements of his character and his natural world.

I liked the mangyness of his hair, but the darkness and clutter of the background leaves would cause this hair to be lost in all the detail and therefore a conversion to B&W image would solve this problem and might show off his expressive character better.

cropped to 8x10 format

The first B&W image is from the standard B&W setting from the new CS3 B&W settings (6 separate colour slider settings) . Since there is yellow in the both leaves and face I decided to use 2 separate B&W layers. One layer to darken the face and the other layer to lighten the foliage, to create more separation between the hair and leaves.

In the last B&W frame I cloned in parts from other leaf areas to remove the larger white sections, which are visually distracting. The final image, at beginning of article, there is lens blur applied to the foliage only. This extra softening creates more separation between the hair and background without destroying the patterns and it also helps to blend in the cloned parts better. Just a final touched up on the little white spot on the tip of the nose.

There are many interesting people and faces that we encounter as we travel about. Many of them do have goodness with their lives and we should try and capture the best ways about them. I do feel that if you have a strong passion and love of your subject, this will come across as you ask for permission to take their photograph. They will come to understand that you wish them no harm with the use of their image and therefore will be more willing to grant permission.

For photos I never offer street people money at first as I feel this would put them under undue pressure to accept. A kindly donation afterwards shows respect.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer’s Adage

I like people for their weaknesses and faults. I get on well with ordinary people. We talk. We start with the weather, and little by little we get to the important things. When I photograph them it is not as if I were examining them with a magnifying class, like a cold and scientific observer. It's very brotherly. And it's better, isn't it, to shed some light on those people who are never in the limelight. - Robert Doisneau


Anita Jesse said...

Excellent presentation, as always.

Paul said...

Wonderful post, Niels and an excellent portrait. I think that you made the right decision to black and white, to be sure.

I also like your approach of sitting and getting to know someone. I had never taken pictures of people on the street until I took a workshop in Savannah, GA. It was a thrill, but also very tiring. I found that I have the gift of gab and can be, shall we say, quite loquacious at times. ;-) Anyway, I found it very interesting to sit and talk to people for 10 or 15 minutes before finally taking their picture. Both of us were more at ease. Here is a link to my favorite experience:

nielsp said...

Thanks for your kind comments A. Jesse and Paul.

Paul having the gift of gab should put you in good state to be able to connect with these people we run into from time to time.

Sometimes they are in a state of mind that makes it difficult to connect, but when you do you find some interesting stories. I sometime wonder if not for the gift of God, then there go I as we all seem to have our problems also.

I like the story and photo of Charles


taryn said...

What an amazing post. There's something about that man's eyes that reminds me a lot of my father.

nielsp said...

Thanks Taryn.

If you look at the sequence of shots you can see that the selected version is one of those fleeting moments where you are hopefully able to capture a bit of the soul.

With those eyes, you are able to see more of the person than would normally be seen by just passing by.


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