As I’ve mentioned, I spent almost a week down in Austin, TX at SXSW (South By Southwest) Interactive at the beginning of March. I had my DSLR camera with me but I actually took a lot more photos with my iPhone and iPad mini than I did with my larger camera.
I led a 2 1/2 hour workshop on the first day titled ‘The Compelling Image in the Age of Social Media’. A lot of the hands on activities I had the participants do were related to portraiture and to composition using a simple cell phone. I also participated some in taking pics and below are examples of what I was teaching them.
A simple front lit portrait is a great way to get a good photo without much work. Including the environment around the model helps identify her in an actual place, filling out her identity and giving a mood or feel to the image.
Portraits of people with just part of their face, or without any part of their face, showing is one of my favorite ways to emphasize character and style and place. I had them work on that idea of ‘partial portrait’ and also taught them how to take photos of strangers. I practiced what I preached in the middle photo, asking a volunteer at the conference center if I could take a photo of her necklace and earrings.
She was modeling and selling ‘gaming glasses’ at the Gaming Expo of SXSW. I had no idea what they were at first, I thought it was just a sunglass company selling their wares. But she explained that the glasses helped reduce glare, blue light and eye strain for gamers who are at the monitor or TV for hours at a time. That interested me because my daughter Rebekah the Neuroscientist (yes I am bragging) is also a fierce gamer. I took this woman’s pic and messaged it to Beka at the time to show her the glasses.
I was at the outdoor Subway lounge charging my iPhone and struck up a conversation with one of the Subway hostesses/models. She wasn’t in a costume at the time but she told how she had been earlier and how cool it was. The costume was designed by a hot and upcoming fashion designer in Austin who used nothing but Subway material for the costume. I really wanted to see it but that promotion was done for the day.
The lounge had this very odd plant block with flowers on top in the middle of it and I found myself trying to figure out how to place it in an image. I asked her to model for me with it in the background and she was open to the idea. If you’ve ever seen my photo-collages you know I do a lot of ‘one eye open, one eye closed’ images and I had her pose both ways. I later collaged the two images to get this one.
I went back the next day and lo and behold there were two models in the costume she had mentioned. I asked them if I could take photos of their backs (another part I take a lot of photos of) and after initially wondering ‘uh?’ said ok. I posed them on either side of the bizarre plant block. That combined with the symmetrical trashcans made for a pretty interesting image I thought.
While I was in Austin I wanted to finally meet a long time Flickr friend, Kat. We have known each other via our photos for 6 years or so but have never met in person. She came and picked me up one morning and took me to a cool coffee spot in Austin not far from the convention center. We then took a short side trip around back where there were some brightly colored building so we could have a mini-shoot.
I took most of the pics with my DSLR camera but I took one with my iPhone so I could use them as a new example in my presentation about the capabilities and power of the camera in your pocket. Here are the pics, can you guess which one is from the cell phone?
Put your guess in the comments and I will let you know in a day or two which one is right.
SXSW at Night
At night the conference spilled out onto 6th street, the main entertainment drag in Austin. I wasn’t with anyone so I just wandered around looking for interesting scenes. Here are a few I caught.
Rain dominated the weather for a few days of the conference. As I walked from the bus stop to the convention center early one morning I saw this woman in bright red pants brighten up what was otherwise a completely gray/brown landscape. When I turned after passing her I noticed the red sign in the distance and loved the balance of the two. I originally posted it on Instagram, that’s the reason behind the square format.
And of course in taking street photos you often don’t know what you are going to get. Here I captured a moment right between two people walking by. I was paying attention to the person all in purple but I caught a sweet spot right between that person and the cape leading the way. It’s an arrow and a mystery.
I really was focused on learning and networking and didn’t take nearly as many interesting photos as I usually do. Next year I will take more!
Photos and commentary by Marty Coleman