Part of my job includes commercial photography, which means I get to travel to distant places to photograph buildings and structures. I love this work not only for the quiet, contemplative nature of it, but because it also provides an opportunity I don’t always have with other portrait or event photography: people watching.
Since I often spend time scouting areas or arriving to shoot just before sunrise or sunset, there’s an element of waiting for that quintessential moment when the light is just right. These moments, along with the many hours traveling have provided some interesting insights into human beings. The following short anecdotes are just a few of the things I’ve observed - and encountered- on these occasions.
* while sitting at a red light at a busy intersection, across the 3 lanes of traffic, I saw a man, who appeared mentally challenged, on a motorized scooter crossing the road. About halfway across, his scooter stalled and he struggled with the controls. As he remained seated, trying to figure out the problem, the lights changed and I realized with dismay that there would soon be cars turning rapidly in this man's direction-- it would be easy to overlook him in the busy morning rush hour. Within seconds, as I was still waiting at my light, I watched a woman pull her vehicle to the side of the road and rush out to help the man get out of harm’s way. She was dressed in scrubs, perhaps she just finished a shift at the nearby hospital or was on her way in. The scooter was soon moving again and thankfully, without further incident.
* while driving home one afternoon, I noticed a young woman standing by the road, across from a small chapel, weeping. She was clearly distraught by the tall man standing near, screaming at her and gesturing wildly with his hands.
* photographing a lonely high school stadium one cold Sunday afternoon, I climbed to the highest point I could reach near the press box to set up my tripod. While setting my equipment, I noticed a young man begin to jog on the track around the football field. People really don’t bother me on these shoots... I just wait until they’re out of my viewing frame and take the shots I need. But on this occasion, to my surprise, the man stopped his exercise and in a loud voice called up to me, “Am I in your way?” He was at least 50 to 70 yards away from me and the only other person about. I smiled and called back with my hands cupped around my mouth, “Thank you, but no...you’re fine. Don’t mind me”
* upon entering a fast-food restaurant to warm up with a steaming cup of joe after a chilly shoot, I was glad to find myself alone at the counter, ready to place my order. I noticed a young lady with her face toward me, working on something in the kitchen. She was about 4 paces away. I waited, looking around at a mostly empty dining room. I waited. I jingled my keys. I waited. She never looked up, never acknowledged me. I left.
* waiting for the perfect light just after sunset one evening, I saw a lady bicycling on a nearby path. She had one of those little carts attached to her bike. Inside was a smiling, tongue-lolling canine, clearly enjoying the honor.
* As mentioned previously, people really don’t bother me on these location shoots; I am fairly patient. In fact, I was caught off-guard recently while photographing a cinema entrance. Most families and couples entering & exiting the theater took no notice of me, or, at the most, they only glanced my way curiously. As I was fumbling with my camera and checking some shots I had just made, just to my left was a young couple, hand in hand, smiling at me patiently. They had stopped, so as not to enter my frame, and were waiting for a “go-ahead” from me.
* one of my favorite memories...driving from a location, I passed a waterfall amid a rocky area, warmly lit with evening sunshine. Upon a prominent boulder, and completely alone, was a middle-aged couple basking in that last glow of the day. They were embraced in a hug, resting their head on the others’ shoulder. I slowed down...it was a beautiful thing.