Congratulations to our Top Pic of the Week, Cory Blessman.  Read on to learn more about the production of these photos!

In 2010 I purchased my first ever camera. It was a DSLR, a Sony a55 to be exact! I was so proud and extremely eager to learn what I could do with my new camera. I took some amazing photos that I was extremely proud of in my first year of photography. One of my favorites was of an individual walking home from work in Washington DC with an umbrella. It was raining outside and I was doing some street photography with my a55 and 50mm f/1.4 which was my favorite lens at the time. I stood at the crosswalk next to him waiting to cross and turned to my left and saw his chin peaking from underneath the umbrella with a city bus approaching. Took this image wide open at 1.4, wanting to really focus on the rain dripping from the umbrella.

[caption id="attachment_40502" align="aligncenter" width="626"] "Umbrella Man" |One of my favorite because this was taken on a walk i was having with the buddy of mine that actually got me started in photography, and who i continue to learn from today. This was in Washington DC and shot with my very first camera. Camera: Sony a55, Lens: Sony 50mm f/1.4[/caption]

I would say this sparked my street photography interest. Since that day I began to really see the beauty in everyday life, candid photography. My first film camera I got at an old antique shop in Orange Virginia was a  Minolta x-700 which came with a flash, a zoom lens and a Minolta 50mm f/1.7. All wrapped up in a ziplock bag!  In 2013, I upgraded to a Sony a99, still shooting my 50mm f/1.4. I was ecstatic about this purchase as well but it didn’t last long. I began to want to simplify things, get away from shooting a computer, and focus more on shooting a camera. I wanted my gear to sort of get out of the way. I made a switch to the Fuji system and shot adapted manual focus Minolta lenses, which I still use to this day.

[caption id="attachment_40500" align="aligncenter" width="641"] "Constructing Friendship" | At this point in my life i was working a night shift and would get off around 10pm. On this night i went home and planned to just stay in for the night, but instead i grabbed my Fuji Xpro1 with an Adapted Minolta 50mm f/1.7, and set out to the down town area of Silver Spring MD. I came across these gentleman and observed them for a bit before walking up to them and asking if they'd mind if i took their photograph. They said sure and continued working. I didn't want a typical portrait but instead I wanted to capture a feeling. i backed up and framed my scene and waited for what i felt like was the right time. afterward I walked back up to them and thanked them. Camera: FujiFilm X-Pro1 Lens: Minolta 50mm f/1.7 Shot wide open bumped the contrast up a tad in photoshop to increase my shadows. other than that this is almost straight out of the camera.[/caption]

I was inspired and got into film photography by a good friend of mine. I already owned the x700 but after playing around with his Leica m6, I did some research and read some of Ken Rockwell’s material. I pulled the trigger on my first Leica M3 and instantly fell in love with this 1956 fully mechanical piece of art. The simplicity of the Leica helped me to further simplify my style of photography in both the film world and digital. I would say that my style of photography is still “street” or candid.

[caption id="attachment_40499" align="aligncenter" width="536"] "Sailor Tom" I met this man through a mutual friend. She told me she knew a guy who was pretty much the most interesting man in the world. I had to meet him because she also told me owned an old Leica III. I talked with Tom for some hours and learned of all the things he's been through in his lifetime, from being in the military, to flying planes, crashing said plane and surviving it.  He's built 7 cars from the ground up, traveled the world, built his house, and now sails his boat; competitively I believe. He lives right outside of Annapolis, MD. This image was taken on his sailboat. He asked if I wanted to go sailing for a bit and of course I obliged. I watched him as he raised and lowered sails and talked his way through doing what he does. Intense but effortless, Tom was. The entire time I'm thinking how can I photograph this feeling, what and who he is? I realized Tom's face tells his own story. I again, just existed where I was and waited for the moment to come, and then it did. As I laid on the deck looking up, he stood in front of me looking behind the boat at something. I prefocused my lens (Minolta 50mm f/1.7) to where I figured the focus would be close enough (I don't believe every image is required to be tack sharp) . I released the shutter and later gave it a tighter crop and gave the image deeper shadows.Camera: Fuji x-pro1, lens: Minolta 50mm f/1.7[/caption]

I’ve recently, within the past year , began doing more portraits which I’m using the same principles I use with street to capture the portraits. Candidness.. I try to capture a real emotion. Whatever FEELS right for that moment.

If I could give advice to anyone starting out in photography, whether it be street or portraiture. I’d say to simplify your gear and yourself, figure out why you’re even holding a camera in your hands, what inspires you. I started out chasing the best and most technologically advanced cameras and the best lenses, now I own 4 film cameras (Leica M3 which I bought from KEH Camera, a Leica R4s also from KEH, an old Minolta x700 and a medium format Mamiya RB67). and one digital (Fuji x-pro1). It wasn’t until I simplified that I became more aware as to who I am as a photographer. Also, learn from the greats, but don’t try to become them.

[caption id="attachment_40501" align="aligncenter" width="580"] "The Messenger"| I took this image while walking around downtown with my girlfriend. We were both shooting that night. In the distance we saw this guy flying up the street towards us as we are walking down. I wanted to capture how he may have felt traveling that fast. I pre focused on a spot I knew he'd be traveling to, then i put my camera on him and followed him until he reached my spot that I had framed out. I love that his feet are showing motion, the background is flying, and his body language looks like he's a man on a mission. Camera: Fuji x-pro1, lens: Minolta 50mm f/1.[/caption]

Thank you, Cory , for allowing us to share these photos! Check out more of his work on 500px.

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