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Monday, August 16, 2004


Subway Photography

Girl with Book, PATHI was looking at Dave Beckerman's photo blog just now, and Dave added a new photo this evening, Girl With Doll, Subway. Yet another excellent Beckermanian patented inside-the-subway-car photo.

Thus inspired, I looked through my 250 or so exposures from last week's trip to NYC, and sure enough, I actually had taken a few of these kind of photos myself. This one doesn't match Dave's for impact - I just thought this young woman was rather graceful and made a good composition.

In my youth, I would take photos in the subway every once in a great while. But that was in my try-to-be-like-Henri stage, using an old Leica IIIc and Tri-X. Which meant I actually had to put the camera up to my eye and focus ... or guestimate the focus and the framing, then hope, only to find out hours or days later that my I had actually taken a photo of the sign that says, Aviso - el via del tren es muy peligroso!

In comparison, life is good today! With my autofocus digital camera, I can just point it roughly in the direction of the subject, half-press the shutter and wait for a soft beep, then go for it. Then I can glance at the LCD to see how I did. Cut off too much? Zoom out a little, adjust my aim, try again. Rinse and repeat.

The day before I took this photo, Ben and I had been traveling the PATH in the opposite direction, from Hoboken to New York City. There were two men in an animated conversation who would have made a really good subway photo. I started to clandestinely set up the shot, but Ben was very nervous about me taking photos in the subway. He physically blocked the shot a few times, and then, to emphasize his disapproval, moved to another seat. By then, the two of us, him acting and me reacting, had caused to much commotion to be able to shoot discretely. Good thing Ben wasn't with me this time.

By the way, this photo is quite different from Dave's in another very significant way. I took it not in the NYC Subway, but in the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) tubes. More of a Hoboken look than a New York City state of mind.

I like the versatility of the auto-focus camera. The girl with doll shot was actually shot with the camera up to my eye - but other shots were just done with el auto-focus and hope for the best. Depends on the situation. The girls' guardian was reading a book, so I was sort of okay and there was no one next to her on the left. It's tricky business, isn't it, because if you put the camera to your eye - and the subject sees you - you've probably ruined the shot, i.e. you get that what are you doing look which street photographers seem to like but I generally don't.

On the other hand, with the digital camera, you can check your results - as you say - and give it another try.

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