Photographers Deserve Respect Too

I took this photo a few days ago in Toronto. It’s of the jetty and swimming area, on the Toronto foreshore.

I had been in Toronto dropping off some framed photos of the area for a local business. I was really happy with how they turned out and it was great to meet the owner and see their reaction.

They’d mentioned to me that they would like a photo from the Toronto foreshore as well and as I couldn’t find one I’d taken that I liked, I thought I’d go down and take a few shots afterwards.

It was about 4.30pm when I went down and set up near the jetty to take a few pictures. There were a few people around and a couple of kids playing in the water so I tried to find an angle I liked where no one was in the shot.

After a couple of minutes a man approached me. He immediately got in my face and demanded to know what I was doing there and what I was taking pictures of. I said I was taking landscape photos of the jetty.

This kind of thing has happened before; from time to time I get stopped by people thinking I’m taking photos of them because they’re nearby, I even had a police car stop and ask once. I always say the same thing – I’m taking landscape photos and show them what I’m trying to shoot. Usually that’s enough; if it’s not I offer to show them the last photo I took so they can visualise it.

This guy was having none of it though. He seemed convinced I was “taking photos of kids” as he put it. Seriously? Yes there were a couple of kids around but they were on the complete other side of where I was shooting and anyone should have been able to see I was shooting the jetty. 

So I said again what I was shooting and showed him the back of my camera. He still didn’t believe me and asked to see the previous photos too. I showed him but he still didn’t believe me even then, kept saying there are kids here, you shouldn’t be doing it, it’s “not right, not right”.

Then another man who was walking past joined him. He was even more aggressive than the first and said I wasn’t “allowed to be here” and actually tried to take hold of my camera at one point so he could see the photos.

It went on like that for a couple of minutes and I was getting quite annoyed now. I’d been more than accomodating but nothing I said was getting through. I was also really pissed off by this idea that I wasn’t “allowed” to be there and must be some kind of creep. 

Look, I do get that parents and adults are protective of children, particularly around swimming areas, but I felt like I had done everything in my power to reassure them and the only reason they were going on about it was that I had a camera.

Before they approached me I saw a number of people stop and take photos with their phones. No one assumed they were taking photos of children or weren’t allowed to be there. But because I had a camera, somehow the rules were different for me?

It felt unfair. And the thing was too, I knew I was allowed to be there. It’s a public space and, on top of that, I was doing a job. It’s not like I could just go somewhere else and just because I wasn’t dressed in a suit and tie didn’t mean I wasn’t working.

But they weren’t listening; it felt like they’d already made up their minds long before they came over and I was afraid it was going to escalate even further if things kept going like this.

So I tried to calm myself and said again that I was contracted to take a photo and had every right to be there. Then I said that I needed to get back to work and tried to ignore them as best I could.

After a minute they both started walking away, shouting back at me over their shoulders. 

I took a few more photos but after that my enthusiasm was pretty much gone. So I took the above shot and then packed up.

I can’t say I’m particularly happy with the photo; it’s fine but it’s not what I was after so I will have to go back at some stage and try again. There’s usually always people around so hopefully it won’t happen again.

It was a shame as well as it ruined what had otherwise been a nice trip to Toronto. I didn’t even feel like looking at the photos for a couple of days after.

I’m sure I’ll be asked what I’m shooting again in the future so I’m going to keep a printout of the Australian laws with me in case anyone pushes me on it again. And if anyone has a major problem I’m going to ask them to call the police, for me as much as for them.

Maybe I could have handled the situation better but regardless I don’t think I deserved any of that. No photographer does.

I think sometimes people see a camera and just see red. But most of us try to respect your privacy, respect you as a person. 

It just would be nice if that respect went both ways sometimes.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2023

One Scene, Three Compositions

Something I often do when shooting is look for different compositions within my shots. A lot of times I’ll find two or three additional compositions by examining the scene and asking myself which elements really interest me in it and focusing in on them more closely.

These photos are an example of that. They were all taken near Swansea Jetty yesterday evening and nothing changed between them except for the focal length (zooming in a little more each time). But despite that all three images have quite a different feel to them because of how they focus on the jetty.

The first shot is my favourite as I like the whole scene but I like the other shots too and how they act as more of a frame for the jetty. As a set I think they work quite well.

I’ll often do this while I’m shooting a sunrise or a sunset as well as it helps to tell the story of the location – for instance, I might shoot a wide shot of the landscape then zoom in tight on an interesting detail before refocusing to catch someone in silhouette. One scene, three shots.

This works best with a lens with a good range like a 24-105 but pretty much any zoom lens is suitable. It’s more about training your eye to recognise which elements you find interesting in a shot and then focusing in on them.

Maybe give it a try next time you’re out shooting, you might find you get a few different shots you really like!

Photos © CJ Levinson 2021

2020 Favourites

My 5 favourite photos from 2020 and a mix of my other favourites below.

Due to Covid the kind of photos I took were quite different last year; I stopped doing portraits for most of the year, for instance, and due to the lockdown and not wanting to travel far I shot much more around my local area than I otherwise probably would have.

The flip side of that was that I think it actually helped me creatively in a way; because I was shooting in similar locations it made me look for different compositions and angles.

I did a lot of food photography throughout 2020 as well, helping some local restaurants get their menus online for deliveries during lockdown. I also had two works featured in the MAC Gallery and helped photograph some of the animals for local shelters. So 2020 was a fairly successful year for my photography, despite Covid.

I’m very glad to leave 2020 behind though. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year, particularly once the vaccines become more widely available.

I hope you like the photos. Happy 2021 and stay safe.

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Norah Head Lighthouse under the Milky Way

Went out with a friend last night to shoot a bit of astro. We went to Norah Head lighthouse on the Central Coast and I managed to get this despite battling the light from the lighthouse. Really like how it turned out.

It was nice being out under the stars again. I love the solitude and the perspective you get when you’re out shooting, particularly the moments between shots, standing there, staring up at the stars. It really makes you realise just how small a part of the universe we are. And how lucky we are to be here at all.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2020

Silhouette by the Lake

A young woman
Sits by the lake
As the sun sets
On another day

I took this shot yesterday evening while going for a walk along the lakefront. I loved the way the light was hitting the water and I was trying to work out a way of showcasing that when this young woman sat down for a breather right where I was looking at shooting.

Normally I would have asked if she minded being in the shot but with social distancing at the moment and as I was shooting telephoto and she was a fair way away, I couldn’t really ask. So I decided just to snap a quick shot but make sure she was in silhouette.

I like how the shot came out and it’s really about the contrast between light and dark so the silhouette works really well for the shot.

For what it’s worth I’m not really someone who likes taking photos of random people but I started out with street photography where having people in the shot can often add to a photo so I developed my own set of rules for what I was comfortable with and I’ve pretty much stuck to them ever since.

My rules are, if I can ask first I will but when that’s not possible, if someone walks into my shot or if having someone in the shot adds something interesting to the photo, then I’m okay with it. But the shot mustn’t put them in an unfavourable position and I prefer not to have them be obviously recognisable if possible. And if anyone would rather not have been in a shot, I’ll delete it no questions asked.

Basically I try not to be a dick. It’s not that hard really and it’s worked pretty well so far!

Haiqua and photo © CJ Levinson 2020

2019 Favourites

My 5 favourite photos from 2019 and a mix of my other favourites below.

It’s been interesting looking back over the year, I can see where a few themes developed that I wasn’t aware of at the time.

For one, I definitely photographed a lot of jetties and wharves! There are still quite a few around Lake Macquarie that I haven’t been to yet though, I might do some of those over the next year.

It was fun doing some astro photography as well. Definitely something I want to do more of in 2020.

I hope you like the photos. They’re in the order they were taken.

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Sunset 17/12/19

A bright sun descends
From an orange sky,
A portent
Of things to come

Watching the sun go down from the lookout at Green Point Reserve. After the weeks of smoke in the air from the bushfires, it was nice seeing the sun and a clear sky again, even if it’s probably not going to last for long unfortunately.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2019

2018 Favourites

With today being the last day of 2018 I thought it’d be fun to post a collection of my favourite photos from the past year. I hope you enjoy them.

2018’s been an interesting year for my photography. I actually didn’t start taking many photos until about April but it’s been pretty much non-stop since.

Part of that’s been that I decided to do a calendar for the end of the year. I thought it would help inspire me to get out and shoot more, which it did. It ended up being a really fun project.

Along with my landscapes I started doing more portraits as well, particularly studio portraits which have been fun and have helped my understanding of flash. I’ll be doing more paid work in 2019 so it’s been good practice for that.

In general I think my photography has improved a lot this year. In particular I’ve refined my editing a lot and I’ve found myself focusing on combining long exposures with movement which has created some really interesting images.

I also won the Lake Macquarie Float Your Boat photo competition and my calendar sold much better than I expected it to – it actually sold out twice and it came together very well in the end.

I also switched to Sony from Olympus midyear which was a bit of a learning curve at first but has worked out really well in the end.

So all in all 2018’s been a pretty productive year. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring. 🙂

Happy New Year! Hope it’s a good one for you.

Belmont Baths and Jetty

The new Belmont baths and jetty opened on Saturday. The old finger jetty was destroyed by a severe storm several years ago and the council used the opportunity to design a new one and reopen the community baths as well.

I live in Belmont so I’ve been watching the construction closely over the last few months and I popped along on Saturday to have a look now it’s all finished.

I quite like them. The jetty is fantasic and the baths look like they’ll be great on a hot day and they’re an interesting design. I was a little surprised by the boundary posts though; I thought there would be more connecting them than the shark nets but I guessmaybe that would have ruined the view.

I went back for a proper photowalk on Sunday to explore some more and catch the sunset. I like how the shots came out and the different views of the baths and jetty and the lake. They’re definitely interesting to photograph, I think it’ll be an interesting area to go back to every now and then.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018