Years ago, I went on a weekend photo trip with a fellow photographer. We were driving down a lazy Georgia road when we spotted an abandoned country store. Excitedly, we slammed on the brakes and rushed out of the car with our gear in tow. It was just the two of us on the site - no one else in sight. We were surrounded by open empty land on all sides.
We split up and started taking photos of everything we could find. A week later, when I developed the film, I noticed something strange in one of the photos. A man's face was visible in the window pane. He had a beard, sunglasses, and a hat, and was possibly wearing a dark overcoat over a white shirt.
We were both amazed by the photo and spent a lot of time discussing who or what could have caused the image to appear. Eventually, the photo ended up in my collection of black and white photos, where it was mostly forgotten. But every now and then, I'd come across it again and wonder about the mysterious figure in the window.
With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share the photo. It has not been altered in any way to include a ghost. It was a cloudy but warm day, so even if someone had walked up behind me, they wouldn't have been wearing a winter coat. As a photographer, I'm always aware of my surroundings.
The photo is un-retouched, and even the dust specks and scratches on the negative can be seen. While much clarity has been lost in the scanning process, the man's face is still visible in the leaning window pane. If anyone wants to examine the negative, I'd be happy to locate it. This mystery has intrigued me for many years, and I'd love to know who the man in the photo was in his living life. So, Ghost Hunters, shoot me an email.
Can I take your photo?
I know a lot of good photographers who never take photos of people because they are afraid to approach strangers. To that I say, "Never pass up a photo you want." These photos are to show you that if I can take photos like these, you can take a photo of people doing everyday things. Never be afraid.
The above photo, along with those shown at the end of this article (all scanned from silver gelatin prints), were taken while on assignments. I didn't have to take these photos but I knew they would make good material. Getting them was easy as asking. I can only remember a few occasions over thirty years where people did not want their photos taken. Some people are camera shy but it is always worth a try to approach people. I have found that most people are open to having their photos taken with a 'real' camera even, if like the people in these photos, they know they will never see themselves in print. The iPhone is another sort of animal. People may think you are up to no good.
I love street photography and have taken my share - thousands of photos are hiding in un-scanned negatives and slides and on my computer, waiting to be discovered. One day, they will all be sorted and posted. I hope.
If you are interested in photography, don't neglect life. That flower will be there for awhile, the deer will always return, and the mountain...well, the mountain ain't going nowhere. Record life as it happens and you will make for a much better photographer and won't bore people with your people-less photos. Just kidding. I love your vacation photos of waterfalls and buildings.
Aftermath of flooding
If you read my previous you may remember I talked about newspapers wanting before, during, and after photos of storms. The below photo was taken after a flood. It made the front page of my newspaper and the Associate Press 'top-ten photos of the day' list.
I can't emphasis the importance of evacuating before a hurricane hits your area. I have been in several hurricanes, dating back to Gloria in 1985. It was only a category 1, but it was enough for me to learn to respect the power of nature.
It was always one of my assignments to photograph weather-related events. News photographers are expected to cover blizzards, flooding, high winds, extreme heat and cold, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Newspapers call them 'weather shots.'
In getting those shots, I have photographed from my own vehicles, rode in the backs of pick-ups, hitched rides with law officials and the National Guard, and sometimes used my own 2 feet to walk a weather related event. Newspapers want the entire story, from people shuttering windows, emptying grocery store shelves to the after-effects of the storm. They also want those up-close and personal photos of the weather, and that can be challenging when it comes to hurricanes. Knowing when to leave an area is a skill you gain with experience.
With the explosion in cell phones, I have seen people doing some dangerous things to get photos to send to their local newspapers and TV stations. Don't. There is no 'safe' when you are at the mercy of the weather and an inexperienced person could be risking their lives in certain situations. Hurricanes are the worst because of downed power lines that could electrocute you and flooding that could trap you in your car.
If you don't adhere to warnings and decide not to leave your home, and are in a truly safe place, go ahead and take photos, but know that the window you're standing at could be blown apart at any time. The same goes for a tornado.
I hope people are heeding the warnings about evacuations. If you have nowhere to go, call the Red Cross or your local law enforcement office, or check with a nearby church.
Many times, during a hurricane, I have had to pack up my cameras and head home or to the nearest 'safe' location. You need to remember that if you decide to stay and the weather worsens no one will come for you. Even the National Guard will leave a dangerous area if the weather dictates. There will no EMS, no fire personal, and no law officials until conditions are safe.
As for photographing a hurricane, the media pays people to do that job. Don't put yourself in danger for 2 seconds worth of fame.
Don't touch that photo! Copyrighted, you know?