Jorge Quinteros: The Color Run
Floyd Bennett Field, Southeast Brooklyn, New York, USA
Time / Date:
12:30 PM / August 12th, 2012
Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.8
Shutter Speed: 1/500s
Focal Length: 85mm
I got into photography after having taken a prerequisite class in college while majoring in Graphic Design. With the exception of that one class, I’m primarily self-taught and from the outset, I had no idea of the hundreds and hundreds of bad photographs I would have to inescapably take to fully understand exactly how ISO affects shutter speed, why 95% of the images I took resulted in sheer blackness when shooting in Manual Mode and more importantly why I even photographed. For me my camera is just a vehicle to explore new subject matter, the vibe of an environment or a person I haven’t met.
Photography in itself is a lonely craft. It’s generally just you, your camera and the desire to return with something compelling to share. A lot of times, I completely draw a blank as to what I would love to photograph, so the night before attending The Color Run, I randomly searched online as to what exciting events where happening in Brooklyn. I wasn’t planning on running the race because that would have taken away from photographing the event and even if I wanted to the registration for it had been closed weeks prior. I had 2 photographer friends who became aware of the event they were both keen on the thought of the 3 of us shooting the run together but sort of dismissed the proposition because when you’re companionless, you become much more aware of your surroundings and those who are in it. With a group, there’s a tendency to get absorbed in your own tight circle and you focus on what’s happening with you and your friends while neglecting everything else around. When it’s only you and your camera the internal experience of sightseeing is different.
While I didn’t have much to compare the “color-ness” of the race to anything I’ve ever experienced, the atmosphere was very akin to what you would be faced with while attending a religious Spring carnival celebrated by Hindus known as Holi or The Festival of Colors and as the race was culminating, I was still eager to capture a photograph having a throng of participants completely smothered with colored cornstarch amidst a cloud of super dry dust but a little more pleasant.
At the outset of the event, I quickly realize you essentially have 2 options for documenting such a colorful spectacle. You either have a long lens to capture expressions and reactions from afar so as to not risk getting absurdly doused in colorful powder that will have you looking as if you ran through a beautiful rainbow or you opt for shooting up close and wide (16-35mm) while having your camera sheltered with an OpTech Rain-sleeve or even an underwater housing. There was practically no break from the chaos or no quiet corner to escape and swap lenses even if I wanted to, so I simply kept the lens I originally had attached prior to arriving which was the 85mm. The results made it seem as if I were closer than what I really was. The 85mm was a fast enough prime to shoot portraits and crowded scenes. The other lens that remained safeguarded in my bag for obvious reason was a Canon 35mm 1.4L lens which failed to see the light of day.
Making the Shot:
Once the race concluded, luckily the celebrations didn’t because apparently there was a post-race party, which included a DJ and a dancing area. Most of the crowd gravitated towards the stage to hurl packets of colored powder and dance to house music and Top 40 hits. The combination of all those elements along with my commitment to seeking the right set of circumstances to get the shot I wanted was action-packed. Three organizers of the event were evidently searching to make a bigger splash with the substantial amount of colored powder they had left so all 3 of them went up on a mini crane and at the count of 10 they released 3 buckets of blue-colored powder. Having pressed the shutter button more than I ever had consecutively, I knew that I had found the shot that had been eluding me all day.
Editing & Processing:
The well-established workflow for me is: download RAW files into Lightroom 5, fine tune the 5-starred images and publish to Flickr. This particular photograph didn’t necessitate much post-processing other than elevating the contrast a bit and increasing the vibrancy of colors that was already present.
Photographing events is very comparable to hunting. You must be hungry to go out and hunt until you get that shot. Good hunters stalk their prey very patiently before sniping and if they don’t feel they’ve capture what they’ve gone out to seek, it’s unlikely they’ll give resign very easily and that essentially encapsulated how I felt that day. Possessing a child-like curiosity I felt was vital because street or event photography is, by nature, voyeuristic. If you’re bored to tears with the world, you’ll be blind to anything enticing happening around you.
The best advice anyone has every given me with regard to photography is to treat every shoot you do as if it were commissioned work. By that I mean, try to make as much as you can and don’t feel spiritless when no one has reached out to employ you with an assignment and avoid at all cost remaining stagnant awaiting for inspiration to strike. Shoot, shoot, shoot and the universe will reward you, especially if you have a keen eye and work with subject matters that interest you. I wasn’t paid or personally invited to photograph The Color Run but I attended in view that it was simply another opportunity for me to practice what I love and produce work that motivates me.
When you’re out with your camera, you’re not necessarily seeking to invent anything other than to capture something. Some people place the act of photographing in such a high pedestal that they completely freeze up at the thought of doing it. Most people assume they can’t photograph. They think it’s just something other people do and a lot of the fear comes from placing too much emphasis on what they consider “real photographers” do as oppose to focusing on what photography really is. In its simplest form, photography is just the act of observing and being daring enough to capture what others may deem as inconsequential.
For this particular photograph, I had pre-visualized the type of image I wanted and retreating front the euphoric event not having capture it was not an acceptable outcome. Know what you want and do what it takes to bring it to fruition.
There was a long period of time where I stumbled over my words as I made the effort to describe what type of photography I practiced whenever the question came up. If it took me longer than 5 seconds to set forth an intelligent response then I knew in all likelihood it was indication that I didn’t know myself what it is that I love to shoot but through trial and error and countless hours of shooting, I realized that what generally caught my attention where those quite corners of the city, those people less photographed and those objects left behind.
You have to care seriously about what you are photographing. It’s about finding a subject that one cares about and if that interest goes deeply, it will come through and the photographs will hopefully be interesting — not just to for one, but others as well.
For me my camera is just a vehicle to explore new subject matter, the vibe of an environment or a person I haven’t met. I would describe my work as organic and understated yet hopefully the viewer is still able to take notice of a sense of intimacy with the subject matter. Interesting photographs are about a person’s unique voice and perspective and so unless one can manage to capture something different in a place where thousand others have already tried, the probability of being distinct is low.
They say inspiration comes from the strangest of places and for me the whole aspect of meeting people, traveling to unexplored settings and photographing has come from watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown. While the show may necessarily be about photography per say, hopefully you’ll understand that sometimes you don’t necessarily have to always be involved in your own pastime to feel that’s the only way you can actually improve on it. The biggest takeaway from the shows have been that sometimes we get so caught up with wanting the life of a particular profession that we forget that we have to have a life in order to make having that title worthwhile in the first place.
About the Photographer
Living in Brooklyn, Jorge Quinteros is a 32 year old self-taught photographer. He lived in El Salvador for 5 years and with the exception of brief anecdotes that highlighted significant events, he regretted not having owned a camera to document experiences that became uncommon in comparison to what he was use to in New York. Everyone’s perception of the world is unique and so it was that insight of having lived abroad and natural curiosity of the world which ignited his interest in photography.
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