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A photographer's bag o' tricks

Oy! As a photographer, it is so hard to make something perennial, seem fresh and new. Case in point, the Ajumma EXP flash mob. 

What is Ajumma and why would it result in good photos?

According to Ajumma Exp's website, "Ajumma is a Korean term for a woman between her 30s and 70s, typically married with children, and works her ass off for her family.  Through the years, the word Ajumma has gained a negative connotation, conjuring up images of rude, unattractive, older ladies wearing colorful, unmatching clothes with big sun-hats who elbow their way through the subway. Nowadays, it is considered an insult to be called an Ajumma, but we believe that Ajummas are fierce, tenacious, and have endured challenges throughout their lives.  They have earned the right to be who they want to be, say what they want to say, and deserve the worlds respect. We are Ajummas and proud."  

One of my colleagues from the San Diego journalism, Lee Ann Kim and friend Sonia Chin started the Ajumma EXP group with the idea of celebrating ajummas and highlighting what they can't not do.  Every flash mob dance for the past seven years starts with visor-wearing ajummas walking about innocently in an open space, sometimes stretching. Then the thump of dance music is heard and all break out into a very practiced routine befitting women years younger.  At the end of the routine, they limp away, feigning injury or muscle strain, sometimes with the help of others, all pretending to be anything but able-bodied and all to the applause of the public and family and friends who gather to celebrate as well. The group prepares for months and has performed in Balboa Park, at the San Diego Airport, the San Diego Zoo and their meetup location, Zion marketplace in the Convoy area of San Diego.  

The flash mob just had its seventh performance day in as many years and once again I was asked to photograph it, an opportunity I welcome because of the group's message of empowerment and because my wife is a member.  The photo possibilities present themselves thanks to the many personalities that shine past my camera's shutter. But this year to changeup my approach, I resorted to a tool in my bag of photo tricks.  This year I opted for zoom-blur.  It's a gimmick, no question, and it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right, but when it works, the effect compliments the other photos. It basically involves moving the barrel of the lens quickly from one focal length to another while using a slow shutter speed.  It makes many edge objects or edge subjects blurry, but leaves the center relatively sharp or at least discernible. I don't use this gimmick every day and I probably haven't used it in years. But somehow it seemed to fit. As always, you be the judge. I get a lot out of photographing something so joyous and the women find more camaraderie with each other, spanning ages, cultures, upbringings and ambitions.  

A fitting demonstration of female power for Women's History Month




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