On the Streets: Of Paramount Concern

Dancing with the Stars Live, Paramount Theatre, Seattle.

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Paramount Theatre, Seattle. Fujifilm XT2, 27mm.

I stumbled on this event as I was walking home. Armed with my Fujifilm XT2, a new 56mm lens, and a 27mm wide angle “pancake” lens, I tried to get some shots. I’ve never been in the Paramount, but I love its grand, majestic presence at 9th Avenue and Pine. According to Wikipedia, it opened on 1 March 1928. I’m glad it was in the 20s – I think of Gatsby when I walk by, good to know that I wasn’t off by decades.

Since I’d been shooting photos earlier with the 56mm, I started with that. It’s a fast prime, and I’m still practicing with it. From my position across the street, I wasn’t getting shots I was happy with. There would have been an easy way to correct that. What I should have done was borrow a page from the late, great Bill Cunningham, cross the street, and start getting photos of all the people dressed to the nines for an evening with celebrities. Opportunities like that don’t come along everyday in casual, rainy Seattle. If you want photos of Columbia, Patagonia, or REI jackets you’re set. If you want to get street shots of people dressed for a fancy night out, you have to put a little more thought into it.

But liking Bill Cunningham’s work and trying to copy him are two very different things. If you’re not familiar with him, you should head to the New York Times and read the great articles they’ve written about him. Fantastic tributes to an excellent photographer, a New York City icon, and a cherished colleague. He must have had an incredible ability to build rapport with his subjects. It’s a fine line between being a photographer and just a stranger with a camera. I’d just come back from about an hour of shooting photos of people attending a vigil, and while this was also a public event, Seattle is not New York. I felt like hovering around the queue with a camera would have been intrusive. It’s something I need to work on. People are adults, and if they’d rather not be in a photo, they’ll tell you. And if they don’t see you, follow the golden rule (of photography).

I did manage to get a few photos with the 56mm that I liked.

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Paramount Theatre, Seattle. Fujifilm XT2, 56mm, lightly edited in Lightroom.

After a few shots I switched to the 27mm “pancake” lens to see what the wider angle would do for me. The 27mm is a low profile lens. It almost makes you feel like you’re carrying around an X100T. I’ve learned through talking with the pros at Glazer’s and from online reviews that the low profile comes with a cost in terms of sharpness and quality. I’ve been happy with it, but I would like to add a wide angle fast prime to my lens options.

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Paramount Theatre, Seattle. Fujifilm XT2, 27mm.
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Paramount Theatre, Seattle. Fujifilm XT2, 27mm.

Looking at these photos again, two things are clear. I need to see a show at the Paramount, and I should see what some of these would look like in black and white, perhaps in the day.

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