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Sunday, 08 November 2009


therefore we need smaller, faster and better cameras!

I hope you stopped and got him to sign a model release, Mike. You know how those bikers can get when they see their mug on a photo blog without permission.

PS: So bike helmets aren't mandatory in Wisconsin?

I run sound/lights and take photos for a local rock band, and our singer has the uncanny ability to look straight down my lens even when she's 50 feet away and blinded by the stage lights. Almost creepy how she does it time after time.
And after spending a month as a mall Santa when I was still in high school, it's pretty much impossible for anyone to take MY picture without a certain finger in the frame.

"PS: So bike helmets aren't mandatory in Wisconsin?"

I think BIKE helmets are, but motorcycle helmets aren't. Loud pipes save lives, too. Don't ask.


Mike... is that a police department badge on his upper sleeve? That would be pretty funny too! LOL

Wisconsin, America!

probably he was thinking: damn! that guy is pretty crazy!

I suspect the unobtrusive camera is as much a myth as the perfect DMD. Maybe it is the photographer that makes the difference. For my sins, I am drawn to street photography (although I am pretty darn hopeless at it). It does not matter whether I use a big Canon dSLR, a small-ish Leica R7 or an even smaller Contax G2, I am always SEEN. My conclusion - it's down to self-confidence. I'm quite shy and no doubt it shows, even when I am behind the viewfinder. Compare and contrast with Bruce Gilden, confidence personified, who is not seen even when he pushes his Summicron in his subject's face. . .

Please let's not equate motorcycle enthusiasts with hoodlums. I think that guy was feeling proud to have his picture taken.

Strange culture where "outlaws" are gasoline consumers right along with commuters. Nothing better to do than sit on an oil burner. Wonder what'll happen to that culture when fuel consumption stops being subsidized.

Is that a ready made (store bought) bike or one he built himself?

Nice crop, though.

Mike,you are so used to compact shutter lag that you pressed too soon. Friendlier two two wheeler eye contact here



"In principle, we're against mandatory helmet laws. At the same time, any motorcyclist that doesn't wear one probably doesn't have a head worth protecting."

A quote I still remember from an editorial in a motorcycle magazine when I was a rider back in the late 70s.

well, that look is saying: "what? the police again? I don't want to go back in jail again any time soon ..."

So, what do you reckon? Is the stealth camera a state of mind rather than something you can pick off the shelf?

Golly, it must take a lot of practise to balance sunglasses on one's lower forehead while doing 40mph. Could any motorcyclist out there explain the utility of this skill, please? I mean, apart from wishing to appear pathetically needful of Cool?

He's still busted for not wearing his eye protection correctly!


I'm not sure I can agree with your featured comment. Applying stereotypes to bikers is no more acceptable than applying them to women, men, police officers or angry-looking grandmothers with brooms.

Some of us really are just out there to enjoy riding their bikes and are not caught up in any of the biker-gang rubbish.

That said, I can't help wondering why he's wearing an armoured jacket but no gloves or helmet. Strange.

Good snap, too.

"Famous Last Pictures"

If you tried another thousands times the sign with America! would never again get positioned so perfectly. And the fact that he did look over just adds to the photo.

Only in America!

He's probably just wondering why that driver doesn't have both hands on the wheel. ;)

When I am shooting candids at work, people always stop what they are doing and look at the camera. Often, they pose. Lean closer together. Smile for the camera.

It drives me nuts. But I haven't had a motorcyclist do that. Yet.

"And after spending a month as a mall Santa when I was still in high school, it's pretty much impossible for anyone to take MY picture without a certain finger in the frame."

Keith, Me Too. But hey, I was making a buck an hour and it prepared me emotionally for walking around downtown Port Jervis NY dressed as George Washington during the holiday weekend. Yep, I'd do just about anything for a buck an hour when I was 16.


It's just human nature to look at the driver of the car your passing, at least for a very large percentage of the population.

The biker just wanted to see what he was passing so he would know if he needed to pull the clutch in and open up the throttle to make those loud biker noises that so impress the opposite gender...?

And I guess photographing while driving is still legal in Wisconsin too.



I'm going to disagree with Damen, those bikes aren't cheap, and the riders are probably MDs.

That guy was probably thinking "hey, sweet, is that the M9? oh, no, it's just the GF1. Pffft."

"Strange culture where "outlaws" are gasoline consumers right along with commuters."

I have to agree with Alex--99.9% of riders aren't remotely outlaws. A guy on a motorcycle that fancy has to have a pretty good job. Motocycles are popular here in the Midwest and a lot of households have one. They come out when the weather's nice, like it was yesterday, especially when the weather's nice on a weekend day.


So many condratiction, one lucky shot. Can I use those two pictures for that website about motorcycles I'm writing for?
It is indeed America.


I like the photo, and as people pointed out, getting "America" located where it is is a Good Thing. I also like the crop a lot, except it's not really sharp enough.

The people I know who ride (that I'm remembering at the moment) split 5 fairly ordinary citizens and one kinda outlaw type (but never been in jail, and he's older than me). Also 50% women, which is a sure sign my sample isn't representative, though :-).

Robert Harshman wrote: The biker just wanted to see what he was passing so he would know if he needed to pull the clutch in and open up the throttle to make those loud biker noises that so impress the opposite gender...?

So Robert, what you're saying is that Mike drives a chick car...? :-p

Nice shot Danny.


Even if we think of unobtrusiveness, the size thing is not directly proportional in my opinion. Animals and people (preys and predators in general) have a very strong embedded urge to recognize the eye graphic pattern. I was studying a few days ago what would be good bird scaring shapes for crops, and the simplest is an eye painted on a plastic sheet, even better if it moves with the wind.
We are all conditioned to recognize it and pay attention to it. Probably the "eye" being on, and orientated in the same direction as, the face is part of the pattern, that's why TLRs and articulated viewfinders attract a lot less attention.

Seeing your water bill, I think it could be cheaper to use local beer instead of water (and perhaps the dog would be happy)

At least yer man popped up his shades to make eye contact--I thibk it made for a better picture.

Waukesha's water supply polluted? Let me guess: Degreaser/solvents from the Briggs & Stratton plant? I remember that factory from when I visited my cousins there in 1968.

Max, thats the best explanation of unobstrusiveness I have ever read. And to a certain extent it is the photographer I am sure.

Btw. I am glad that John Slee already mentioned the stereotype thing and also others chimed in to somehow defend the bikers against prejudice.

About the photo: I really like it as a lucky shot, it works imho. And in my book it is absolutely sharp enough! Of course with the M9 you could have set the distance to short of infinity or hyperfocal and have a sharp biker ;-) Or what about M glass on the GF1?

We might need to start a "Don't Chimp and Drive" campaign.

"Waukesha's water supply polluted? Let me guess: Degreaser/solvents from the Briggs & Stratton plant?"

Radon, and, in fairness, there was probably radon in the water in 1896, too--they just didn't know it.


The upshot for me is that the details in the file are pretty darned good, even when editing severely. I think the only thing Mike is being sneaky about is his desire to show us the quality of the file without actually saying so.

Depends on how you balance biker garb / apparel and facial characteristics, but I think he looks a friendly enough chap.

There is one infallible solution to this, for both photographer and subject. Here's a perfect example at work: "Ninja Parade Slips By Town Unnoticed Once Again" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtR2m20C2YM

In California, once the motorcycle helmet laws were implemented, organ donations went way down. Used to be in my world (emergency medicine) that we referred to motorcycles as "donorcycles". Maybe those in need of a new heart or set of lungs should move to Wisconsin!!

On the motorcycle shot, why is the white balance so blue?

Mike, though you were watching the road you were not paying full attention to it, as you were taking photos. That's not good.

You may think that I'm over reacting, but I'll have a limp for the rest of my life after being knocked of my motorcycle by someone in a car who wasn't concentrating. Hurts at least a bit, every day.

Moan over, I'm now off to a biker site to make 'smart' comments about photographers.

David Adam Edelstein-
good golly I sure hope he's not an MD. Most of us have enough sense to wear a helmet even where it's not mandated. Has something to do with seeing the results of helmet-less crashes up close and personal.

My brother tells a story about his cadaver in Medical School, who he dubbed "Helen Wheels." Helen had been a heavy smoker in life, and the instructors called the class over to examine her lungs.

Subsequently, Charlie noticed that his class seemed unusually irritable and on edge--in a bad mood and quick to anger.

It turned out that a third of the students had been smokers. But after seeing Helen's lungs, all but three quit smoking immediately.

The three who continued were all older students with more established habits.


I'm in Guatemala traveling with a new K7 attached to a 16-50 zoom, hood always on - not exactly something I can tuck away in my man-purse. But is pretending we're not photographers the route to good candid pictures, anyway? I don't think so.

Anyone observing us is going to see someone with their hands up around their eyes, adopting a certain posture. That's the tell, not the camera we're using. So a DMD makes quality more portable, but it won't make you disappear.

I'm having only middling success with my candids (he declared modestly), but since I'm presently seeking the decisive moment in a strange culture every single day, I might be qualified to give a few pointers (in no real order):

Anticipate, pre-focus and wait. Sometimes you need to let the subject come to you.

Hide in plain sight. Look as if you`ve been there for hours. Fiddle with your camera.
People will soon stop noticing you.

Lean on something. A relaxed posture reduces subject anxiety.

Take yourself seriously. Then others will. Stand your ground.

At the same time, respect the person who really doesn`t want their picture taken.

Talk to people. Ask permission. Show your results (the beauty of a digital camera).

It`s a constant process, this blending in, because you`re always moving on to a new situation. I still get the gigglers, the wavers, the hiders and the scowlers. Either I didn't approach them properly or they weren't good subjects in the first place.

I suppose if anyone wanted to see how I was doing, they could always click my handle.

As a street photographer, I can attest people have a very good sense of spotting lenses pointed to them (and I often shoot with the relatively small Canon G11). A passing glance sweeping you by chance will be followed immediately by a more inquisitive look if they noticed the lens. I think it's the result of the long history of watching for predator eyes. So there you go, the ancient skills of hunting or survival get a new use in the era of photography :-)

A thought and a correction:

He's probably not looking at your GF1, but your GTO. Right? Right.

Oh, and the Chicago Fair was in 1893 (planned for 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery.) I did some research on it, back in the day.

In my 30+ years of riding I never went more than fifty feet without a helmet. Full face always. They are damned inconvenient things to wear but they do afford some protection. I had an off some years ago while canyon racing up the Crest road in the Sandias, New Mexico. I was fine but my helmet had a nice divot from a bolder on the side of the road.

On a much lighter note. I like to pass the time while driving across Texas by taking a photo every few minutes out of the side window or the windshield of my truck. Once in a while you get an interesting image.

"Strange culture where 'outlaws' are gasoline consumers right along with commuters."

I'm not sure I follow your comment. Motorcycles, for obvious reasons, are a significantly more efficient mode of transportation that cars/truck, at least from a gasoline-usage standpoint.

Talking about scary looks, see the fourth picture here!

And this was with a tiny pocket camera, held at waist level. He still noticed. :-)

Ahhhh...the days of the 400! How I wish that I could have seen the 400 battling the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha! There was a famous curve on the latter's run with a sign that said "Slow to 90." It's a shame that America had decent high speed rail in the days of steam, but can't say the same for today.

GF1 does Paparazzi!

Hello Mike,
Now that you're a bike rider be SURE to light yourself up. I used to think my helmet and blinking tail light was all I needed until a motorist ran a stop sign at dawn and saw me at the very last second. A pretty frightful feeling knowing you are about to get hit by a minivan. Now when I ride I look like the Electric Horseman.

It occurs to me that a small part of the success of the pioneering candid photographers was that their subjects were, in general, unaware of the possibility that someone was making photographs. To most people in the 1920s and 30s, a camera was a big box operated by a professional in formal circumstances. Or perhaps a Brownie held by a father on holiday. Now, for better or worse, everyone is sensitive to being on-camera all the time.

"It occurs to me that a small part of the success of the pioneering candid photographers was that their subjects were, in general, unaware of the possibility that someone was making photographs. To most people in the 1920s and 30s, a camera was a big box operated by a professional in formal circumstances."

Mark S+,
That's very true, but I think it was more true of the 1880s and early 1890s. At that time, people who were familiar with cameras at all would have expected them to be larger stand cameras on tripods. By the mid to late 1890s, though, hand cameras were a "craze" and people must have gotten used to them pretty quickly, at least in more populated and urban areas. Although photographers using small hand cameras probably benefited from the same "he can't be that serious" response that people with point-and-shoots get now.

Another thing that was different back then is that people hadn't been conditioned by SEEING pictures of themselves. Nowadays, everyone has seen lots of unflattering random snapshots of themselves, so it's very common to point a camera at someone and get this reaction: "Oh, no! Don't take my picture! I look awful! I hate having my picture taken!" or some variant. We've all gotten that. People a century ago had seen many fewer pictures of themselves, and the pictures they did see were more likely taken more deliberately, so they hadn't yet been conditioned to have adverse responses to being photographed.


RE. Soccer Goal Keeper picture. Based on the ref's position, this is a penalty kick situation. Many keepers guess which way they think the kicker will place the ball. He guessed left and ball went right. I've seen that look hundreds of times. It most likely had nothing to do with the camera. Of course, you were there and may know he was looking at you the whole time.

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