Taking a knee

Photographing children can be one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of being a photographer, and also one of the most challenging. Kids have great fascial expressions; are easily distracted; and once comfortable with the camera,  are quick to forget the shooter’s presence. However, by not shooting from the right angle you can end up with nothing but the tops of heads.

Last Friday I had an assignment to photograph some elementary school children for a story about certified green schools in Santa Cruz County. My strategy for the assignment was to focus on those fantastic childish expressions by placing my lens at their eye level.

Here are the results:

Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012

 

Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012

As you can see, by simply taking a knee and letting the schoolchildren forget about me, I was able to capture some wonderful expressions; this is an amazingly effective strategy for photographing young children. Continue reading

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Cabrillo College Theater

These images werte shot during the proclamation and dedication of the new Samper Recital Hall at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California.

Piano Soloist Kiefer Taylor performs a song by Ludwig van Beethoven at Cabrillo College on Friday during the grand opening of the new performing arts center, Samper Recital Hall. Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012

 

Choir performers wait in an entrance to the newly dedicated Samper Recital Hall at Cabrillo College on Friday. Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012

 

Cabrillo Youth Strings plays to a large audience inside of the Samper Recital Hall on the Cabrillo campus in Aptos on Friday during the grand opening of the newly dedicated performing arts center. Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
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The Awareness Test


Did you see it?

There are times when we, as photographers, get so completely caught up in “finding the right moment,” or “capturing the image that best illustrates the situation” that we fail to realize the true, unseen things that make a photograph great.

We get so entranced with stealing the easy pictures and illustrating the obvious that we often fail to realize the moonwalking bear.

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Avoiding the cliché

Kevin Johnson 2012 ©
Sure, the cliché is fun and easy to shoot. The pictures are nice and provide instant gratification… But what else can we shoot? Lets get creative.

If there is one thing that I hate about looking at pictures, it’s seeing the cliché.

What my former photojournalism professor refers to as “postcard pictures” are prime examples of what makes me groan when thumbing through a portfolio or flipping through a slideshow…

They’re the pictures we see on TV, the stuff we are drowned in in the blogosphere, the pictures our friends post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The landscape, the homeless man, the smiling child, and the ever-so prominent sunset… Ugh, that beautiful, peaceful sunset. Continue reading

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Primal Shooting: Doing away with zooms

A 35 mm lens set to f /11, as indicated by the...
A 35 mm lens set to f /11, as indicated by the white dot above the f-stop scale on the aperture ring. This lens has an aperture range of f /2.0 to f /22 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zooms:

Just about every photographer relies on them. 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 16-35mm; the staples in every shooter’s toolbelt. Except mine. Over the past few months I’ve almost completely done away with my zooms and replaced them with a single 30mm prime.

It’s not that I hate zooms, nor do I find them completely useless. It’s just that… Well… I think they’re lazy. All to often I watch photographers standing still, twisting their fingers instead of moving their feet, ducking, kneeling, crawling, standing on their tip-toes, or intruding on their subject‘s “personal bubble”.

This laziness–at least in my case–has a dramatic derogating affect on the photo’s composition, impact and message. In this post, I will lay out my top 3 reasons for ditching those zooms in place of a trusty prime.

  1. Closeness

In my experience with documentary photography and photojournalism I have encountered a feeling that can only be achieved through physical closeness. I can best describe the feeling as an energy exchange between subject and photographer; it’s developed through a sense of trust and achieved by a diminished proximity between photographer and subject. Continue reading

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The Face Of…

My most recent assignment in my photo editing course at SJSU was to illustrate the idea, The Face of… Something. My fellow photojournalism students and I were sent out to put a face on an abstract idea; to capture the face of an emotion, a situation, a mood, or concept. All images were to be of real people doing real things in the real world. No set-up shots, just real decisive moments.

Below are a couple of the images I came up with:

Kevin Johnson ©2012
The Face of Helplessness

This image shows a man who was caught buying alcohol for a minor during a decoy operation carried out by the Santa Cruz Sheriff Department. The man, who was without identification, had his backpack searched by one of the Sheriffs. Inside of the backpack were bags full of marijuana. The concept behind this image is the face of helplessness.

Kevin Johnson ©2012
The Face of Worry

This image was shot on the Friday of the final weekend of the Santa Cruz County Fair. The image depicts a young girl during a 4-H livestock judging. The girl was watching her competitors–and their chickens–while they were meeting with the judges of the competition.

Kevin Johnson ©2012
The Face of Anticipation

This photograph was shot during the sentencing of a homicide convict, and shows one of the victim’s family members leaning forward in anticipation as the plaintiff’s  attorney was addressing the court. The convict had killed the victim in a drunk driving accident.

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Santa Cruz County Fair

The Santa Cruz County Fair drew in thousands of people for it’s last days at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville this weekend. Fair goers flocked to the fairgrounds to catch a glimpse of a sword swallower, a hypnotist, ponies, chickens, pies, and piglets.

While covering the fair yesterday I took the opportunity to seek out some of the wonderfully awkward moments that can only be found at the yearly event.

Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
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Boulder Creek Fire

A fie alarm was sounded in Boulder Creek at Old County Highway at 7:30pm on Thursday night.

Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Firefighters heft their gear up a small hill as they battle a blaze that ignited at a residential building off of Highway 9 in Boulder Creek on Thursday night.
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Firefighters battle a blaze that ignited at a residential building off of Highway 9 in Boulder Creek on Thursday night.
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
People watch a building burn from the side of Highway 9 in Boulder Creek on Thursday night.
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
A woman sobs as she smokes a cigarette on the side of Highway 9 in Boulder Creek on Thursday night as fire fighters put out a fire that ignited at a residential building.
Kevin Johnson/Santa Cruz Sentinel ©2012
Firefighters surround a burning residential building off of Highway 9 in Boulder Creek on Thursday night.
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