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A Lesson Among Lanterns | Rangefinder

“Most all of my work is a kind of controlled chaos,” says Chris Daniels, a photographer and director based in L.A. “I’m usually reaching for something emotionally true but also controlling a set of constants and variables while doing so.” Going into a shoot, he likes every technical and conceptual aspect to be purposefully predetermined. “That’s where I most often live and work.” But to keep himself as an artist on his toes, Daniels likes to turn to street photography from time to time. “For me, it is the complete opposite side of photographing people,” he says. “The spontaneity of street shooting makes me look at and capture moments quickly. There is no control. You either get the shot or you don’t.”

He had just recently returned form a trip to Miami, where he shot a series of “beach street” photography, all shot between f/10 and f/16 on a wide-angle lens. He says this time shooting in Miami “allowed for a more painterly feel that I quickly became obsessed with for that particular scenario,” and it went on to greatly impacted his future approach to shoots.

Shortly after returning from that trip, Daniels was scheduled to meet up with fellow artist and friend Elisabeth Donaldson to hash out an upcoming shoot that she would help him produce. About a half hour before they got together, he called Donaldson to confirm their location. “The phone rings a couple of times,” Daniels recalls, “and when she answers, there was no hello, just, ‘CHRIS! DO YOU HAVE A CAMERA WITH YOU?! YOU HAVE TO MEET ME AT THIS PLACE!’ She’d stumbled upon and wandered into a Chinese lighting show that was still being set up, and because she is the fun and charming person that she is, they just let her wander about.”

It was time for a spontaneous shoot, once again challenging Daniels’ usual approach to shooting.

“Those random images that I decided to take in Miami influenced this image,” he says. “They went on to influence still others. I’ll learn something today or tomorrow that will impact how I will do things next month. I may not even realize it when it happens. That is what this image means to me. It’s a reminder to not only not get too comfortable but to sometimes actively make yourself uncomfortable. The second that we think that we have it all figured out or that we have nothing more to learn, we’ve lost. Many of us describe ourselves as storytellers, but what stories can we tell if we are not first listeners?”

(Shot midday in full sun on a Fujifilm X-Pro2 and 16mm lens at f/9, 1/250 sec. and ISO 400. In post, Daniels did “general cleanup,” as he says, in addition to dropping the shadows and color grading.)

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