Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday Workday (Interesting People in Their Environment)

Primitive Wood Carver - Costa Rica
I haven't done a 'Wednesday Workday' for awhile, so it's about time.  As I was choosing a photo for this post I began reflecting on something another photographer said that made a great impression on me.  He had spent 10 years photographing waterfalls, sunsets, barns, flowers, lighthouses, mountains, etc., and then one day realized something was missing and he was bored.   He wasn't being challenged anymore because he had mastered his camera, understood exposure, lighting, composition, etc., and pretty much knew exactly how his images would turn out.  He became tired of producing yet another glorious sunset.  He realized what was missing...the human element.  When photographing people there are always challenges, surprises, and varied outcomes.  When he started doing character studies, his skills improved because he had to go way beyond just the technical aspects of taking a properly exposed picture.  He had to overcome fear and reach out to people.  He had to become a communicator.  He learned to be genuinely interested in the people he photographed, and in turn they, allowed him into their world.  Then he had to compose a picture that not only reflected the personality of his subject, but would tell the viewer a story about the person as well.  (In other words, no sneaking candids with a telephoto lens!)  I don't have anything against landscapes and still life (you can tell that by many of my posts), but I think he is right.  Several years ago I began to force myself to go out of my comfort zone to met interesting people, build rapport by being genuinely interested, and hopefully gain trust so I feel comfortable asking if I could take their picture.  It has been so rewarding and I love the photos I have taken where I feel I've done a good job of capturing a bit of a person's life.  We stopped at this man's little roadside stand in Costa Rica.  He was very proud of his work, and was especially proud that 'someone' had discovered his talent and had some of his pieces in a little art gallery in southern California.  He took out a very worn out and torn newspaper article someone had written about him and was so pleased when we took the time to read it.  He talked about how he became a wood carver and his life style in Costa Rica.  He was proud of how well he spoke English.  He very graciously said I could photograph him.  I was really proud of myself for not just pulling out my camera and taking a quick snapshot.  I kept my wits about me and asked if I could take a picture of him actually carving wood.  He even moved as I directed him, so that I could show his work as part of the background.   Meeting and photographing the interesting people who cross your path will stretch your abilities and skills as a photographer and you will be richly rewarded in the process!     


Scott said...

In many ways I'm right where that photographer you were talking about was, except I am still trying to overcome the shyness. While I was in Oregon I saw a lady painting and so I got up the nerve to talk with her for a few minutes and ask her if I could take her picture. She seemed pleased and allowed me to. When I got home the photos were nicely composed and the lighting was just right, but they were slightly out of focus so I deleted them. I'm very embarrassed to say I was so nervous about overcoming my nature and getting the photo that I forgot to make sure I was in perfect focus. I keep promising myself that I will begin getting more of this kind of shot - and I will.

This one is great. Good photo and good history of the subject.

Stacey Dawn said...

How very special - love the shot Karen.

Karen said...

I'm with you Scott!!!! It is so hard to overcome the nervousness and fear of instigating conversations with perfect strangers, and then have the nerve to ask if you can photograph them. Then being clear headed enough to actually remember how to use your camera!!! I still struggle a lot, but find it is so rewarding and really pushes me to improve my skills. A long while back I wrote about taking a fabulous workshop where one assignment was to walk the streets of Santa Fe, NM and photograph strangers. I learned more that day than at any one time since. Click HERE to read about my experience and see my very first 'character' photos. I was scared silly!!!

MyMaracas said...

I'm not sure I'll ever have the nerve to ask people to photograph them. You got a very nice portrait of the woodcarver and a memory to go with. Nice work!

Rick said...

That's funny - I thought I was the only one with that affliction! Now I read here about a couple of fellow photographers - whose work I admire - who also share that 'challenge'.

I haven't made a pact with myself yet to move to that zone, but I realize it needs to be done. Thanks for raising this from my subconscious - I will at least start by opening myself to look for opportunities.

You did well by your subject in this one Karen - it's obvious he has a passion for his work.