Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cabbie With A Camera

On slow nights, I go home and get my camera, and load it up with 800 ISO film, and begin shooting the images that I need to go along with my blog entries, as well as experimenting with slow shutter speed blurs, zooms, time exposures and an occasional double exposure. I’ve been working as a freelance photographer since 1974, when someone first hired me to shoot a recently converted hippie couple’s wedding, in a Baptist church in Los Angeles. I still use film, that I scan and convert to digital images.

One night, I strapped my camera to both the roof, and hood of my cab, with bungee cord, and used a 10 foot cable release to trigger the shutter, while I drove up and down the streets of downtown Salem, at 1:00 AM. Court Street is one way, and I began to do donut circles between Liberty and Commercial, with a 30 second exposure at F/22. After I made two exposures, I noticed the headlights of a car, about a ¼ mile away by the capitol building coming towards me. I thought to myself, “I hope it isn’t a cop,” when sure enough, the approaching vehicle was a black & white.

I was turning left onto Commercial, and then into Allesandro’s parking lot with the cop right behind me. He didn’t turn on his flashers, and I got out of the cab, to take my camera off the hood, when he approached me.

“You were turning on Court without using your turn signal,” he told me.

I thought to myself, “yeah, but how do you signal for concentric circles on a one way street?” However, I decided not to mention that, but show him some 4x6 photographs that I just had enlarged from the last time I was doing time exposure blurs and zooms. When I gave the stack of about 20 images to the officer, he began to closely inspect them and comment on the interesting effect, when he suddenly caught himself and went back to his initial complaint about my not having used my turn signal.

I decided to play it safe and use the principle taught in Matthew 23:12 that I learned at St. Mark’s Elementary school, back in the 1950’s. Humility can only be sincere when you give someone the upper hand by exposing your vulnerability.

“I’m sorry officer,” I told him, and continued, “next time I’ll use a parking lot.”

He seemed to accept this, and I finished removing my camera from the hood. Most of the time my shooting is uninterrupted, except by the dispatcher giving me a call. Every so often I’ll hook up with one of the drivers and shoot them as well. I don’t shoot passengers, because there is always a chance that someone may complain, and this would jeopardize my job. Although one time I did shoot a passenger, who was herself a cab driver, who was visiting, from New Orleans, just before Katrina hit.

I’ve always chronicled my life with photographs, so it was a natural thing for me to become a photographer, and view my existence as an assignment. Driving a cab is only the latest installment in a series of episodes that include everything from birth to death, and all my vocations and avocations throughout the years. I was a photographer before I was a writer, but now the purpose of my images are to illustrate my stories, articles or whatever else I write.

I used two photographs to illustrate this blog entry. The first is me taking a picture of myself. Actually I was using two camera’s, and the first was on the roof, with my self-timer shutter release set on 10 seconds, for 4 seconds, at F/22, using an on camera flash at full power. I didn’t take a picture of anything with the camera I was holding, it was just a prop.

The second image was the last shot I took when the police officer questioned me about not using my turn signal on Court Street. As I was driving off, after I first saw the officer approaching I tripped the shutter, and it recorded the 30 second trip, at F/22, from Court into Allesandro’s parking lot off Commercial.

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