The following is a blog post written in collaboration with Santiago Garcia of Sueños Marketing and Communications.
A Foggy Morning
I caught up with Eric Formato -- owner of Formatografia, experienced photographer, and incredible visual artist -- about one of his most recent shoots. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the brain and heart of one of my favorite artists and try to understand why photographers shoot what they shoot.
Eric, brotha man, so tell me about one of your latest and favorite shoots?
Ooooh, well a couple weeks ago I somewhat stumbled into this amazing shoot that’s quickly become one of my favorites.
I woke up early one morning and encountered an extremely foggy but unusual ambiance. I snagged my camera and went outside to shoot the surrounding neighborhood to see what this odd, foggy, but warm morning had in store for me and it came out really sweet.
So you woke up, saw fog, and it motivated you to go out and shoot?
Well, somewhat. I woke up and when I peaked out my bathroom window I could barely see the building that’s always next door. I was shocked, because usually I can always see it due to its proximity. I thought it was interesting, and started envisioning what pictures in this fog would potentially look like. It peaked my interest so I went ahead
I take my sisters dog, Diego, out for a walk out almost every morning and as soon as we made our way outside I was stoked. It wasn’t just the fog that was interesting. It was everything. It was the light. It was the bizarre warm front weather. It was the weird dance between the misty fog, the warm wind, and the rays of sunlight that got me. It was unlike anything I’d really seen here in Chicago and my inner photographer went into overdrive. I stopped several times to take shots even before arriving at the lakefront, Diego was not pleased... But, anyway, with 4 lenses ready to go I was prepared to capture whatever lay ahead of me. We walked a few blocks over to Belmont Harbor, where I take him every morning, and that’s when it all got even better. The light was amazing over by the water, despite there being so much fog. The water was extremely blue, a sharp blue that stood out in contrast so well with the white fog and concrete pier. The contrast in color was beautiful on with all the other conflicting themes going on, nature vs. civilization, warm vs. cold, vibrant vs. moody.
The entire atmosphere was irresistible to my eye. Every step I took was as if I had walked into a totally different scene because the fog would move around and cover lines of trees or skyscrapers. It was extremely quiet out there, too. As it usually is during winter in Chicagoh, there was essentially no one else out there, just a group of fishermen, myself, and Diego. The isolation or tranquil energy just added to the power of the atmosphere; it was genuinely so unique. And even though there was fog everywhere, it transitioned between creepy and colorful, as you can see in the contrasting styles from this shoot.
The shots do their job of encapsulating and externalizing that exact atmosphere and ambiance I was feeling. It was exciting but tranquil. Pausing to take it all in, and then capture it, Diego was dying to continue on his walk, but that's just life my dear Diego! We continued around the mouth of the harbor where you can see the city skyline. One of my favorite spots, certainly never captured in exactly this way before.
Once I got back to edit the shots, I was ecstatic to see how much I could manipulate the pictures and the lighting. It was the perfect storm. The light that morning, in combination with the odd, heavy fog was the ideal mix to create these color schemes I hadn’t even seen before. There were these yellows and pinks and greens coming from the trees that I was not expecting at all. The versatility and flexibility of this light allowed me to express different perspectives on the energy that day. I could make the scene look wintery or creepy, or fresh and misty. It was like this random shoot turned into a trillion different shoots!!
Are a lot of your successful shoots somewhat random like this one?
You know, I’ve had some really strictly planned out, detailed shoots that go really well and some sporadic ones like this one that kill it too. In essence, I don’t think it’s about planning or not but instead genuinely recognizing your surroundings. Recognizing the opportunity. Recognizing the signs. Feeling the rhythm and going with it. In that context, nothing is really random. It’s all there, we just have to see it (and with me, evoke it and pull it out digitally.)
That morning, the environment and the ambiance completely got my attention. It made me pay attention, and look closer. Maybe it was just another morning in Chicago, but what I saw was an incredible dance and interaction between the city’s infrastructure, the buildings, the pier, the roads with the fog, mist, and natural lighting. Maybe that happends every morning, but in this specific situation I felt, saw, and acted on it.
With photography...spontaneity, luck, synchronicity, timing, spidey sense- a combination of those or whatever you want to call it is pretty essential. As photographers, we need to be energized and be present in order to notice opportunities to act on and shoot. I think this foggy morning and this specific photo shoot is a nice reflection of that. As a photographer, you can’t force a shot but you do have to make it. You have to feel the right moment and capture its essence. In this case, I felt the moment and took hundreds of pictures. But that’s really what art, creativity, and life is all about. If you toss yourself out there in situations without major expectations, you might surprise yourself, you might learn something new or, in my case, create a new set of art that I didn’t even know was possible. That’s probably why I really do love this shoot so much. I listened to my intuition, went off a hunch, challenged myself, trusted my energy, and created something new.