5 Photographers on the DC Streets

Girls Can Do Anything by Anissa Rahman

Last month, I hosted five amateur to semi-pro photographers on a street photography workshop. The route was pretty awesome moving from Adams Morgan through Shaw and into City Centre.

Anissa Doing Her Thing by Joe Newman

Our goal was to capture a taste of the real DC while learning how to photograph several street scenarios. Along the way we were joined by Focus on the Story Photo Conference (June 7-10) Host Joe Newman who provided some additional tips, and model Rezia Brazia, who provided street portrait opportunities.

Smile in the Rain by Sidney Hargro

The route was broken into three main photo walks. Our workshop photographers and there Instagram profiles were Anna Franqui, Anissa Rahman, Carter D’Wyz, Richard Binhammer, and Sidney Hargro. Here are some of my personal favorites from the many good shots they took!

1) Adams Morgan

Rain Zebra by Sidney Hargro

It was raining for the majority of this portion of our shoot. We walked from the Columbia/18th Street intersection southward on 18th, then northward on a back street to Columbia, and finally east to the Columbia Heights Metro.

Rain, Rain Go Away by Anna Franqui

The Swimmer by Anissa Rahman

Walking in the Rain by Richard Binhammer

Adams Morgan by Carter D’Wyz

2) U Street

Richard, Carter, Anna and Sidney by Joe Newman

The second walk moved east along U Street to the Howard Theatre in Shaw. During this period, Joe Newman, host of the Focus on the Story International Film Festival, joined us.

Black Girl Magic by Sidney Hargro

Famous Since 1958 by Richard Binhammer

On the Metro by Anna Franqui

Hipster by Anissa Rahman

Howard Theater by Carter D’Wyz

3) Blagden Alley to City Center

I See You by Carter D’Wyz

For the final portion, we metroed south to the Convention Center and walked to Blagden Alley, where we were met by a model, Rezia Braza. Rezia gave folks a chance to work on their portraiture in street settings. Then we walked to City Center for the grand finale.

The photo workshop group has a discussion about the shot.

Rezia by Sidney Hargro

Hello, My Friend by Anissa Rahman

Respect (Blagden Alley) by Richard Binhammer

Red Brick Rezia by Anna Franqui

Congratulations to everyone on creating some outstanding photographs. You can see more photos from the collective group here on Flickr.

Register for a workshop with Geoff Livingston today!

5 Street Photography Tips (and Articles)

Red - Taken at the National Gallery of Art

Street photography offers a refreshing authentic glimpse into the human spirit in a time of over-contrived selfies. Newcomers to street photography often feel a sense of trepidation about taking shots of other people in public. To help I have assembled five tips, each taken from a larger roundup article on street photography tips.

Enjoy, and if you have any tips to add, please do so in the comments!

Explore Georgetown with Geoff

1) You Can Ask for Permission

Robert Moore

When I take street shots, I feel excited. You never know who you will meet along the way.

Taking portraits of other people can be frightening, though. Some are afraid of intruding on people’s privacy.

Say you see a remarkable person, and you want to take their photograph. Go ahead and ask them. That’s how I got this street portrait of Robert Moore, an entrepreneur in DC. For more, read this Digital Photography School article discusses both getting over concerns about candid photos and asking for permission.

One extra tip here: I tell people I am a street photographer, and I show them my Instagram account. This sets them at ease. I also offer to send them their picture (whether or not I publish the image).

2) Wait for the Shot

Foggy Morning

Some street photography is about the people, and other shots revolve around the scene and its ambience. In some instances, a scene is created by a mural, a great sense of symmetry, or the light falling just right.

When I happen on a situational scene, I will literally frame my shot and wait for a subject to walk into the frame. On some occasions — like the above foggy morning scene — the shot can take as long as 30 minutes to happen. But when it does, magic occurs.

This is sometimes called the fishing technique. Check out Tom’s Guide for this and 11 other tips.

3) The Right Equipment

The Streets of Havana

The never-ending questions about what equipment to use can be amusing. And like most photographers, I have lots of it. That’s why this discussion on the right street photography equipment from Photography Life is perfect…

The final answer? It’s inconclusive. Why?

Because there is no one size fits all solution for street. In the end, it’s about your ability to tell a story through the camera.

I personally prefer to use a fixed lens on one of my Nikon DSLR cameras, specifically either a 35 mm (see the above), 50 mm, or 85 mm lens. While each offers a different look, a fixed length forces you to focus on the actual art of photography rather than switching lenses or fiddling around with the zoom. Focusing on framing and composition, and not the gear is particularly important when you are first learning street.

4) Character Shots Require an Eye

United/Divided 2 Winner

If your primary subject is a person and you are telling their personal story, then your shot needs to include their eyes. As this PetaPixel article by Eric Kim notes, eye contact creates a stronger emotional bond, and inspires people who see your image to engage with it.

The above photo was taken at the 2017 Pride Festival in DC. I literally stood in the street waiting for the best costumes and outfits to walk towards me. This woman’s costume was great, but her eyes make the shot. Robert Miller, Deputy Director of Photography at The Washington Post, chose this image from last year’s Pride Festival for the Glen Echo Photoworks “United/Divided 2” exhibition.

5) Shoot for You

Little Cubs Fan

Photography is one of the most documented and discussed hobbies out there. Purists argue for rules and composition all while loathing technological advancement and its impact on photography. Others want to push the envelope of innovation and technology to create new styles of imagery.

Every time I try to make my photography a literal representation of someone’s interpretation of those rules, the images suffer. This novice’s view of street photography reminds me that in the end, I photograph as an expression. That means I need to shoot for me, rules or no rules. Go off the beaten path and create an image that captures your vision and yet, may be unconventional.

What tips would you add?

Why I Believe in the Local Motion Project

A modern dance class at Local Motion Project

This Wednesday is Alexandria City’s giving day for local nonprofits, Spring2Action. I am supporting my daughter Soleil’s dance studio Local Motion Project with a fundraiser and complimentary photography. Why do I believe in this cause?

Another Modern Dance Class at Local Motion Project

Many children find their creative spirit and a sense of self confidence by participating in Local Motion Project classes. I have witnessed it with Soleil over a period of three years, and I have seen it with other’s children. As a parent I find this outcome to be indispensable.

Donate to Local Motion Project Today!

Soleil’s Story

Children at a Local Motion Project Class.

Soleil (the girl with the red scarf) has always loved music and dance. For the past three years she has learned to express her creative spirit through ballet, modern, and tap dance classes. Today, she will literally float around the house in joy. Local Motion Project gave her that gift.

Soleil practicing her hop.

This year she learned not to quit. She was getting bullied at a new school and struggled there. Then she didn’t want to do any extracurricular activities, which was new. Getting her to participate in her Local Motion Project classes was extremely difficult. For a while, we thought she would end up quitting at least one class.

Soleil and Westin

But she stayed, and she worked through it. Now she is very excited about finishing the year and her recital. No coincidence, by not quitting and continuing to work she gained new confidence. Soleil believed in herself, and used that confidence to help her at school. Local Motion Project was the pillar through the change.

Soleil Flying Mono

Just this weekend I saw Soleil apply this lesson in a different part of her life. We bought Soleil her bike a year and a half ago, but she had a bad fall out of the gate and avoided riding, afraid of more raspberry wounds on her elbows and knees.

Soleil Learns How to Ride a Bike

Yesterday, she overcame her fear and rode her bike at Jones Point Park. And today she asked to go back and ride some more.

Support Local Motion Project This Spring2Action

There Is Fun to Be Had at Local Motion Class
Do you want all children to have the opportunity to grow as dancers, artists and people like Soleil? Please give a donation that supports Local Motion Project expanding in Alexandria. It is growing and need your help to spread its Dance Integration program to more Alexandria City Public Schools, and to offer tuition assistance to students in its studio program.

Support Local Motion Project

Though the actual giving day is Wednesday, please give to Local Motion Project today! Early donations count towards a competition for a $500 cash grant for most dollars raised, and most donors. In addition one early Local Motion Project donor will win a $50 gift certificate from the Kiskadee shop in Del Ray, Alexandria.

Tap Class

There will also be a second donation of photography that will be revealed during the actual giving day. Stay tuned for details.

Spring to Action Day Is Here for Local Motion Project

10 DC Scenes to Photograph
Besides the National Mall

One of My Favorite DC Scenes in Georgetown

Why put together a list of DC scenes to photograph besides the National Mall? There is so much more to see and photograph in the DC area beyond these tourist favorites. The region is ripe with incredible architecture, cool neighborhoods, and even amazing natural vistas.

Sure, every local and traveling photographer cannot resist the call of the national mall, including me. After all, it is cherry blossom season. And can you blame us?

Join Geoff’s DC Street Photography Workshop

That said, once you get a taste for metro DC, you come to appreciate the incredible character the region has to offer beyond monuments and federal buildings. With that in mind, let’s show you a little of what the city has to offer. Whether you favor street, nature, or travel photography, there is something in here for you.

1) The National Cathedral

The National Cathedral is one of the best places in DC to photograph.

Both inside and out, this cathedral offers a taste of Europe with incredible buttresses and more traditional gothic architecture. The Cathedral also happens to be the sixth largest in the world. So no, it’s not Vatican City, but it sure is impressive.

The interior of the National Cathedral.

2) Georgetown

The C&O Canal in Georgetown.

DC has many great neighborhoods, but few are as well known as historic Georgetown. Come see the stomping grounds of JFK and Jackie O, as well as some of DC’s brightest students. From Dumbarton Oaks to the C&O Canal (currently under construction), there is much to see. One of the best places for DC street scenes, including the lead image for this blog post.

The Exorcist Stairs

3) Shaw

Blagden Ally

If you are looking for murals, hipsters and cool neighborhoods, make sure you check out Shaw. The neighborhood is vibrant and fun, filled with good restaurants and neat scenes. Make sure to check out Blagden Alley, too.

Girl in Shaw

4) Great Falls

The Waterfall in Great Falls, Virginia.

Great Falls offers beautiful nature vistas with wonderful hiking just north of the Beltway on both the Maryland and Virginia (pictured above) sides of the Potomac River. If you venture on the Maryland side, don’t miss the Billy Goat Trail, a challenging difficult hike that offers many views of beautiful Mather’s Gorge.

Hiking through Great Falls

5) Old Town, Alexandria

The Wilson Bridge

Old Town Alexandria is filled with lovely federal style town homes, boutique shops, and its own small but scenic waterfront. You can easily spend an entire weekend visiting George Washington’s hometown.

Cobblestone paved Princess Street in Alexandria, VA.

6) The Navy Yard

Pedestrian Bridge in the Navy Yard

When Nationals Stadium was built more than 10 years ago, this neighborhood was just scary. Now it has been redeveloped and has lots of new buildings and scenes to check out.

Pedestrian Bridge in the Navy Yard

7) Glen Echo

Glen Echo Park

Take a walk through time and visit historic Glen Echo. There is great fun art deco signage to photograph, a gorgeous carousel, and of course, The Spanish Ballroom. It also happens to have a pretty cool photo gallery and school, Glen Echo Photoworks.

Shonali in Glen Echo

8) The National Arboretum

The Azalea Garden at National Arboretum

From cherry blossom trees to azaleas to the Capitol Columns, there is much to see in the National Arboretum. So if you need a nature break inside the city, just drive east on New York Avenue and enjoy the sights.

An Epic Love Story

9) The U Street Neighborhood

U Street is always bumping at night.

From the original Ben’s Chill Bowl to street murals to cool theaters to hipsters, it’s all there. Many good street photography sessions have started for me on U Street.

By the way, this was a close one, I could easily have substituted NoMa for U Street. Both have great DC scenes.

There are many murals in the U Street corridor.

10) The Wharf Waterfront Area

Anthem is in the middle of The Wharf.

The Wharf is DC’s newest shopping and entertainment district. It has some fun alleys and scenes, and neighboring southwest DC offers worthwhile off the Mall federal architecture.

What would you add?

From Engagement to Marriage – A Nine Month Love Story

From Engagement to Marriage – A Nine Month Love Story

A silhouette of Brett and Heather kissing from their walkthrough at the Key Bridge Marriott.

Last year, I had the privilege of photographing Heather and Brett Pocorobba for their engagement and wedding. I am not a traditional wedding photographer, but they wanted a real street vibe to their collection, so it was a good fit.

As we discussed the project, I suggested a series of street engagement shots, one every month. The idea was to show the evolution of their relationship as they moved towards marriage. It was kind of a crazy fun idea, and made it interesting from an artistic perspective. Heather and Brett are big fans of art (Brett is the bassist for DC rock band Skip House) and they really liked the concept.

I think we caught some street style in this, but we also evolved beyond that, too. Looking back at the project, we added a sense of style to the classic engagement shoot that’s not quite street, but definitely beyond the usual soft white engagement picture.

The following photos show the project month by month, each with a little side story. Because people always ask about equipment, these shots were taken with a variety of Nikon cameras, including a D810, D750, and Df. If a unique lens was used, I note that. Otherwise, assume the shot was taken with a Sigma Art 35, Zeiss Planar 50, or a Nikon 85 (1.8 version) lens.

January

Love reflected through time.

Love Transcends the Rain.

I took this outside of St. Elmo’s coffee in Alexandria, right after we agreed to work together. Since it had just rained, and we were executing a street-themed concept, capturing a kiss in a puddle offered a great way to set the tone for the project.

February

Brett and Heather in the Cathedral

A classic engagement moment, ring included.

The National Cathedral added a sense of grounding to the series. First, it was cold out, so yeah, we wanted to shoot indoors. The open, almost universalist spiritual nature of the building made it welcoming. And of course the soft reddish purple light was perfect for Valentine’s Day.

The Journey Together

The Journey Together – If you follow my work, you’ll definitely see some familiar themes, with Heather and Brett framed by symmetry and isolated from crowds that may be present.

This one is really about intentional light and dark contrast with the couple featured in the light. Many spiritual overtones to this photo, one with a grand sense of scale.

March

Rock Star Couple

Rock Star Couple

It was still cold outside so we went to the National Gallery of Art. And boy did we get a sense of avant garde style and power from the couple. These are not your usual engagement shoots. They look chic and cool. These shots may have been the best of the whole series with the tunnel shot as my favorite portrait of Heather and Brett from the project.

Sensual engagement shot

Steamy! More of a sensual shot.

Engagement shoot going down the National Gallery Art stairs.

Love the stairs at NGA, shot with a little fisheye effect compliments of Nikon’s killer 14-24 mm lens.

Hello, Beatles!

Hello, Beatles! An intentional take on the fab four’s penchant for staircases.

April

An Epic Love Story

Classic engagement shoot, again with a sense of grand scale thanks to the Capitol Columns.

We finally got outside in April, and went to the National Arboretum for our next shoot. I even brought in some lights to get some stronger classic engagement pics. While I like this shoot, it lacked the street portrait and scene edge that the other pics in the series have. If this were music, then these are your top 40 pop songs.

Classic spring engagement shot.

Engagement shoot in the azalea garden. What’s unique about it is the bokeh, a signature look from the Meyer Optik Trioplan 100 lens.

His and her engagement rings.

His and her engagement rings.

May

Classic street shot of a couple.

Coffee Shop Days: I really like this one because it shows Brett as I think of him. Classic street.

A rainstorm brings us back to the street. The top shot was taken through a window at le Madeleine’s in Old Town, Alexandria. The rest of the shots were taken underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Most notably, these latter three are within my normal street style, a bit of subject isolation mixed with grand scale.

Engagement shot mimicking Hollywood style.

Ocean’s 2: Hip, cool and slick: Pure Hollywood.

Engagement shot under a bridge.

So this is Love: A good natural moment.

Engaged couple walking away together.

The Walk Off: Love this shot! It is grungy, and stylish, and fun.

June

A sense of naughtiness with this one as Heather and Brett are captured in a city fountain.

June was not a great photo shoot. I was experimenting with the Sigma Art 135 mm lens, and just really did not produce many outstanding shots outside of the above fountain shot. I rented the lens for two weeks and remained mixed with its performance overall (Stay tuned for a review of three 135 lenses next month). The good news is that we did capture this awesome summer couple shot. The photograph has a great street vibe to it, and really fits well within the project’s direction.

July

Engaged couple in a tunnel.

Forever: Again, grand, stylized with strong contrast. Shot in one of my favorite locations, the Wilkes Street Tunnel.

Oh July. So we tried a crazy photoshoot on some railroad track with a smoke grenade. And it bombed (so punny). We then relocated to the Wilkes Street Tunnel in Alexandria to make some lemonade. I got a sense from Heather and Brett that they were starting to feel the wedding tension, but that it was bonding them. They were really together now, married spiritually.

Engagement shot on railroad tracks.

Ready: The couple is bonded together and ready for their wedding.

The lighting and wall texture makes it a nice street portrait.

August

Engagement shot

Brett, Heather, and their dog Sora on long boards.

August was a much more natural shoot, featuring Heather and Brett enjoying one of their favorite activities together, paddle-boarding on the Potomac River. We had a special guest star for this shoot, their dog Sora. I like that there was a great sense of calm with this final series of engagement shots. All photos were taken with Nikon 200-500 mm lens. Next up is the wedding.

Engagement shot while paddle-boarding.

Together in the water.

The Key Bridge in the background adds a grand sense of scale.

September: The Wedding

Bride and groom kiss in the elevator.

Now, that we are alone…

The wedding was super fun, and Dwight Jefferson and I shot it from a journalist perspective. We did have our fair share of standard wedding fare (portraits, the ceremony, etc.). In all, we delivered several hundred photos to Heather and Brett.

Here are some of my favorite shots that I think met the spirit of the overarching project. A new lens is introduced to the mix here, a Tamron 24-70/2.8.

Dancing in the street!

wedding gowns

The bridesmaid and bride gowns and shoes.

bridesmaids

Brett catches a lift with the bridesmaids.

Can You Say Honeymoon?

The Bride and Groom Dance

The Bride and Groom Dance.

The walk off.

A special thank you to Heather and Brett for having fun and experimenting with our shoot!

My Exposed DC Crystal City Isolation Exhibit Takes on Self-Identity

Blue Isolation

This year’s Exposed DC Crystal City Fotowalk Underground Exhibition features 13 local photographers, including me. I contributed a 12 photograph series focusing on isolation and self identity.

Modernism as a movement interested me because of its take on the isolated individual in the industrial world. My favorite modernist was Franz Kafka, with his characters often alienated and trapped alone in a mad ironic world they cannot escape. While 20th century modernism deals with isolation in a time of factories, cars, and new skyscrapers, I feel we are in a new modernist era.

The current sense of alienation finds us alone in a crowd, both in the city and with social media. Our sense of self is exacerbated, a brilliant signal in a vast barren field of noise. For many that noise is defined by the digital noise they experience on their phones, TVs, and computers. It is often malevolent filled with self-indulgent over-spun social media posts, Trumpian vitriol, and fear-mongering tabloid news.

When we are in the world, surrounded by crowds (and that person taking an over-contrived selfie to add to the digital noise) we feel relief, but see ourselves as a unique signal in the noise. The rest of the world doesn’t even see us, just more noise. So last year when shooting street photos, I tried to capture the 21st century sense of self, surrounded by millions, yet alone.

This Friday Exposed DC is hosting a happy hour at the Gallery Underground in Crystal City to unveil the 2018 exhibition. If you live in DC, please join us and come see the exhibition. I will be there on Friday, and the photos are gorgeous, blown up so you can see them in large format.

You can also find smaller virtual copies of the exhibition photos in this gallery, and five of the 12 shots below with the back story behind each image. Cheers!

Modern Isolation

A dark sky and gritty take on an idyllic Laguna Beach scene makes this walk beautiful, yet fraught with trouble. It’s an image that typifies what I believe represents the isolated self in the 21st century. The beach was actually quite crowded, but there was a five second pause in pedestrian traffic around her on both sides. I actually sat in this spot for 30 minutes waiting for the shot.

Highway to Hell

Highway to Hell

Taken during a foggy morning in DC, this photo features a man walking alone on the Pennsylvania bike path towards the U.S. Capitol building. The last vestiges of the fog are burning off in the distance, and his silhouetted hoodie add a sinister element to the image. To me this is how many of us feel alone and powerless when we consider the modern political environment.

Run for Joy

Run for Joy

I was sitting in the pillar of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress, waiting for people to walk out the entrance for the perfect shot. Suddenly, this little girl ran into my frame and went tearing down the passage oblivious to the world. The image typifies an innocent beautiful sense of isolation that children have as they enjoy their surroundings. It also illustrates hope, the belief of what could be in this crazy world.

Isolation in Love

Together at the End of the World

When you are in love, one often feels a sense of positive isolation. No one else exists almost, it’s just the two of you enjoying life and facing the world together. This silhouetted shot typifies that sense of love, in my mind.

Trapped

Stuck on the Train

This poor fellow pushed his luck and found himself trapped in the metro. The doors eventually opened, and let him enter the train. What a great visual for modern isolation. It screams awkwardness, isolation, and humiliation for an individual alone in a large crowd.