Environmental Portraits of Family, Friends and Strangers

When I’m behind the camera one of my favorite subjects to shoot is environmental portraits. It is also one of the hardest things to do. Putting a camera in someone’s face and releasing the shutter can be intimidating. It feels slightly uncomfortable and I don’t want the subject feeling uncomfortable. As a photographer I feel compelled to demonstrate respect for my subject, family, friend or stranger. It doesn’t take much to put someone at ease in front of the camera, sometimes you don’t even need words. Just a smile, a nod of the head and a thank you is all that’s needed.

Friend and fellow photographer Mr. Dave Powell of Shoottokyo.com.

Friend and fellow photographer Mr. Dave Powell of Shoottokyo.com. (Tokyo, Japan)

I’ve known some people that are very skilled at capturing portraits of strangers and I’d encourage you to take a look at their work. One of them, Dave Powell of Shoottokyo, is particularly skilled at grabbing portraits off the street. I’ve shot with Dave in the past and I like his approach, because it’s a friendly non-threatening approach unlike other gorilla tactics that some photographers rely on.

Even though they are personally challenging, environmental portraits will continue to be at the top of my list for favorite photographic genre. The portraits below were taken with a Leica M8 or M9 and a Sony RX1r and were shot at either 35mm or 50mm.

A close friend at dinner. Paris, France.

A close friend at dinner. (Paris, France)

A friend enjoying a cigar. (Palm Springs, California)

A friend enjoying a cigar. (Palm Springs, California)

A happy Hong Kong Sevens supporter. (Hong Kong)

A happy Hong Kong Sevens supporter. (Hong Kong)

Another photographer that has highly influenced my photography, Mr. Thorsten Overgaard. (Hong Kong Workshop)

Another photographer that has highly influenced my photography, Mr. Thorsten Overgaard, overgaard.dk.  (Hong Kong Workshop)

The carwash guy. (Taipei, Taiwan)

The carwash guy. (Taipei, Taiwan)

My father and influential photographer, Mr. Tom Collins of http://www.tomcollinsphotography.com. (Port Townsend, Washington)

Another person with great influence on my photography, that also happens to be my father, Mr. Tom Collins of tomcollinsphotography.com. (Port Townsend, Washington)

Street artist. (Taipei, Taiwan)

Street artist. (Taipei, Taiwan)

A friend at dinner. (Seattle, Washington)

A friend at dinner. (Seattle, Washington)

An Occupy Wall Street supporter. (New York City, New York)

An Occupy Wall Street supporter. (New York City, New York)

 

Landscapes – In, around and of Seattle

This is a popular spot for photographs of Seattle skyline. Basically, it's at the foot of Amazon's original headquarters, just above the international district.

This is a popular spot for photographs of Seattle’s skyline. Basically, it’s at the foot of Amazon’s original headquarters, just above the international district.

Good night, Seattle.

Good night, Seattle.

We’re back in our home away from home (Taipei, Taiwan) after spending five weeks with family and friends in Seattle, Indianapolis and Palm Springs. It is always fun to get back home, start editing photos and seeing if any themes pop out. After quickly going through the haul of photos from this trip there was one theme that I’d like to share here, landscapes taken in and around Seattle. Of course I’m more than slightly biased in thinking that Seattle is a particularly photogenic city. I can’t help it, it will always be home.

If you’re looking for further details on the locations of any of these photos spots, don’t hesitate to ask. Happy shooting!

Looking south from the Magnolia neighborhood over the cruise ship docks. Occasionally, Mt. Rainier pops its head out near the skyline.

Looking south from the Magnolia neighborhood over the cruise ship docks. Occasionally, Mt. Rainier pops its head out near the skyline.

This is what most people think Seattle looks like 365 days a year.

This is what most people think Seattle looks like 365 days a year.

This is the southerly view from the office of a friend. Interstate 5 runs right through the heart of the downtown corridor.

This is the southerly view from the office of a friend. Interstate 5 runs right through the heart of the downtown corridor.

Taking a ferry always offers some unique views for the Puget Sound. If you look closely you can see this summer's Super Moon in the top left side of the frame. Mt. Rainier is still mostly snow-covered at this point in the summer.

Taking a ferry always offers some unique views for the Puget Sound. If you look closely you can see this summer’s Super Moon in the top left side of the frame. Mt. Rainier is still mostly snow-covered at this point in the summer.

This was taken about two hours from Seattle in Port Townsend.

This was taken about two hours from Seattle in Port Townsend.

And finally, Seattle as you approach from an inbound ferry.

And finally, Seattle as you approach from an inbound ferry.

Palm Springs – Style

Jags and Bikes

Jags and Bikes

It’s great to be home, home being the United States, with family and with friends. Every year we spend overseas, the more a trip home means to us. You’d think that after ten years living abroad that we’d get used to being away, but we don’t and I can’t image we ever will.

Trips back to the states never change. There’s a big part of us that just wants to fly home drive to our house and put up camp for five or six weeks, but that never happens, and it always turns out that we are glad it never happens.

Outside living areas and pools

Outside living areas and pools

This year we decided to spend the first week home visiting our family in the mid-west followed up by a gathering of close friends in Palm Springs. This was a new place for us. Our first thoughts were of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and low slung, angular, mid-century homes with driveways full of Cadillacs and old Thunderbirds.

Palms Springs was exactly that, a city that’s stuck in the 60’s and I would not change a single thing. This is a cool place with great style. As a photographer there are several directions to take.

Palms

Palms

For the street photographer the mix of local residents and tourist give you plenty of opportunities to catch a lensfull of interesting characters/subjects. Still life photographers are in for a special treat especially if you are interested in mid-century architecture. The area is filled with countless homes and building designed by some of the greatest architects around. For the landscape photographer you will be treated to a harsh desert landscape filled with little more than a few scattered trees and desert bushes. It is unfortunate, but I did not make it out into the desert. I won’t make this mistake twice.

 

Staircase

Staircase

Cadillac Style!

Cadillac Style!

Enjoying a drink by the pool

Enjoying a drink by the pool

I’m already looking forward to a return visit to Palm Springs.

Current Configuration: M9, RX1r, RX100II

Relative sizes of each camera: Sony RX100 II, Sony RX1r and the Leica M9

Relative sizes of each camera: Sony RX100 II, Sony RX1r and the Leica M9

I will be the first to admit that I like the gear side of photography. Actually, my wife might be the first one to admit that I like all the gear that accompanies photography.

Over the years my kit has spanned Olympus, Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, Leica and most recently Sony. When the Sony NEX cameras first came out I was intrigued by the idea of a small body housing a large sensor; aside from the quirky Sigma DP1 I can’t think of another digital camera that had such a large sensor is such a small body at the time. Technology has evolved and given us some interesting choices lately, to the point where you can find a full frame sensor in something half the size of a traditional APS-C DSLR. The options for photographers are getting better and better.

As a side note it was a very, very difficult choice to set down the Ricoh GR in favor of the RX100II. I have only had the RX100II in my hands for a day, but I can see a huge amount of potential from this tiny camera.

Influential Photography Books – Magnumº

This is one of the most influential photographic books on my shelf. I have the highest respect and admiration for each Magnum photographer that’s been nominated and selected to join this small group. Magnumº – A book I’d highly recommend for anyone interested in a journalistic approach to photography.

20140603-DSC05306-Edit

This elite group of photographers was originally founded by artist that wanted to protect the copyright of their works. The founding members, all photographers, Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and William Vandivert created the group in 1947.

 

The Other Hobby

Spring tune-up. Cervelo R3 with Reynolds 46/66 carbon wheels.

Spring tune-up. Cervelo R3 with Reynolds 46/66 carbon wheels.

It is interesting to look through my Lightroom catalogue and see month to month and year to year trends in my shooting habits. The catalogue starts back in 1998 with my first digital camera the Apple QuickTake 100. (It was as advanced then as the most recent digital camera is now, but back then it was revolutionary.) The catalogue now has 100,000+ images. If you are familiar with Lightroom you will know what the file structure looks like; basically each month and year is labeled with the number of files. As cycling crept into my life the number of photos dwindled.

Maybe it all started here with my mom taking me out shopping on the bike. Japan 1969

Maybe it all started here with my mom taking me out shopping on the bike. Japan 1969

A few years ago I picked up road cycling and went head first down the rabbit hole. I tried scuba diving for a few years, but the logistics of it made it inconvenient. Cycling was appealing for a few reasons: it was gear intense, it was a healthy habit and it was much more time efficient compared to scuba diving. About the gear intense comment, I admit that I really enjoy all the gear and gadgets that go along with any hobby, diving, cycling, becoming and audiophile and of course photography. Cycling ticked a lot of boxes.

The bike has taken me to some pretty cool sites along the way. Taiwan's north coast.

The bike has brought me to some pretty cool sites along the way. Taiwan’s north coast.

I had a couple friends that were also supportive in different ways. One was already a cyclist and one was getting interested at the same time so the motivation and support was there to fan the flame of my new hobby. Previous to this the last time I was on a road bike it had leather strapped cages that my tennis shoe would fit into, clipping in was not an option and all the shifting was on the downtube.

The carbon framed bike is fun, fast, agile and light, but for longer rides the titanium framed bike is great.

The carbon framed bike is fun, fast, agile and light, but for longer rides the titanium framed bike is a perfect balance of stiffness and compliance. Leap Ti frame, Thomson seat post, TokyoWheel 60mm carbon tubular wheels and S-Works Toupe carbon saddle.

Back to the Lightroom catalogue. The correlation between when I starting riding the and months when I spend a lot of time on the bike is obvious. My photography took a pretty big hit when I started riding. It did bother me a little, but I was loving the new hobby. Eventually I started bringing a camera with me on some of the rides to document some of the beautiful and interesting sights I see on the rides. Most of the time the iPhone does all the photographic work and occasionally I bring out the NEX7 as a riding companion. One small drawback is that most riders are not interested in stopping mid-ride to grab photos so that has meant more solo riding compared to when I started out in this hobby.

The bike has provided several beautiful sunset rides. Taipei, Taiwan.

The bike has provided several beautiful sunset rides. Taipei, Taiwan.

I am just about to enter my third year of riding, I’ve collected a couple bikes a few cameras and I think I’ve found a good balance between the two hobbies. So, with all that being said you may will see the influence cycling has had on my photography.

Cycling has changed my view of things on the streets a little.

Cycling has changed my view of things on the streets, a little.

This was one of the more foolish, but fun rides I've ever done. We decided to rent some city bikes for the day and tackle a 3000' ride up the mountains. These bikes were not meant for this kind or riding. They are ridiculously heavy, are not geared correctly and have lame brakes...we loved it.

This was one of the more foolish, but fun rides I’ve ever done. We decided to rent some city bikes for the day and tackle a 3000′ climb up into the mountains. These bikes were not meant for this kind or riding. They are ridiculously heavy, are not geared correctly, have fat under-inflated tires and have weak brakes. Yes, we loved it every second of the ride.

A contact sheet of some cyclist I found in Paris. This series was taken over the course of just a few minutes. Paris, France.

A contact sheet of some cyclist I found in Paris. This series was taken over the course of just a few minutes. Paris, France.

This was one of the most memorable rides, heading up Mount Rainier. Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Tom Collins

This was one of the most memorable rides, heading up Mount Rainier. Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Tom Collins

 

About the Header – Styrofoam Balls

Styrofoam Balls - Taipei, Taiwan

Styrofoam Balls – Taipei, Taiwan

I went to the zoo and came back with a photo of styrofoam balls hanging from the ceiling. It’s not really what I expected to come home with as my favorite photo, but it did prove that you can’t predict what you will end up with after a day’s outing. In fact, the other photo I decided was a keeper was of people, not animals, but people leaning over the rail to get just a little closer to some monkeys.