Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Seven Deadly Whims

Early today a delightful young lady Fiona asked me to come up with ideas that would help her get better travel portraits.
'Not things I read in a text book' she pleaded, 'Something practical that works'.
'Do you want Boring?' I asked
'Heavens no!' she said 'I've got this passion for travel and a whim to take better photos'.


1. Travel with a small lens and big heart.
Tourists in downtown Istanbul
Big lenses intimidate people. They think you are spying. Besides, who wants a 200mm lens pushed up their left nostril? A big heart means you are passionate about your photography. Nothing will stop you. You won't be lounging in bed until 10am and having a skinny latte on the balcony. You'll be up before dawn with your sneakers sloshing through stench at the Alexandria Fish Markets.

2. Imagine a sticker on your subject's forehead that reads 'Make me feel special'
I'm deadly serious. Visualise that sticker on your subject's forehead.  If they feel nervous or suspicious its your job as photographer to relate to them and make them feel special. One trick is to praise something they own or they look after. 'These are healthy looking sheep you look after' or 'What a great car! How long have you had it'. But be gennuine. One hundred percent genuine.

3. Focus between the colour and the white of their nearside eye.
First, set your camera on single focus point. With multiple focus points the camera decides where to focus. I want you to decide. So just a tiny single rectangle. If your distant, focus on the face. If you are close lock focus between teh colour and the white of the nearside eye. The eyes MUST be sharp!
Town square, Cartagena, Colombia - polishing a Botero

How are we doing Fiona?

4. Avoid wearing Estee Lauder's 'Knowing'
Its a beautiful fragrance. Tryly. One of my favourites. But its bad news for travel portrait photographers. The fact yiu arrived by aeroplane, stay in a hotel and carry a camera means you must be a multi-millionaire. That's the perception. So first, dress down. Also, I want you, the photographer, to use your senses to 'read' the environment; tune into the sights, sounds, smells; touch and taste the world you in.

5.  Travel Alone
Broke the rules - a 400mm lens!
In the past decade I've worked with three of Australia's top travel photographers. Each one of them says they are most productive when travelling alone. If not alone, with a friend or colleague or guide who is totally supportive. The quickest way to divorce is  a photographic adventure with a non-compliant spouse. 'What do mean you are setting up your tripod for the thirteenth time to photograph a weed at sunset!!!!'. A small group is better than a larger group. When you travel alone or in a very small group you will get far better access to private homes and develop a dialogue with your subject.
Big groups are comfortable, and comfortably boring for photography.

6. Visualise your end result - Subject and Style
Ringside at the Tango in BA
Study your location. Not just the hotel and menu. Learn a phrase or three, especially 'où sont les toilettes?'. First establish exactly the SUBJECT you intend to shoot before you arrive. eg women picking olives. You cannot shoot everything. Try that and you definitely will end up with Deadly Boring Photographs. Secondly what STYLE will you use - artistic, technical, photo-journalistic. Once you establish SUBJECT and STYLE pursue your goals with passionate determination.

Stay awake Fiona, we're almost there ...

Feel the Emotion
Photographing people is not about taking mug shots for Police Records or recording anthropometric minutiae. Its about emotion. You need to feel the atmosphere; a pulse running through your veins as you click; controlled excitement and exhuberance!

Country Daze

Practical Photography Intermediate

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