Image of the day

This environmental portrait of a dusty grain miller was taken in the old walled city of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia.

For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa and on to the coastal ports and the outside world. Harar Jugol, the old walled city, was included in the World Heritage List in 2006 by UNESCO in recognition of its cultural heritage.  It is also known in Arabic as "the City of Saints" ("Madinat al-Awilya"). According to UNESCO, it is "considered 'the fourth holy city' of Islam" with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century and 102 shrines.

As you walk through the crowded dust laden cobbled streets of Harar you will pass by the grain mills that are a feature of most the city districts.  Inside they are dark and incredibly hot and dusty, the workers covered in a veneer of the finest flour.  I love to shoot images in this sort of environment - it gets you off the street and into a relatively 'quiet' environment in which to make pictures.  Generally people are very happy to have their pictures taken particularly once you take the time to approach them and talk about what you want to do - surprisingly easy even if you have no language in common.

This image was shot on a Canon 5d mk3 with a 24-70mm F2.8 lens.  Exposure was 1/6 at F4.0 at ISO 800.  I lit the image with my standard go to setup of a Canon speedlight on a synch cord with a Westcott 43" double fold umbrella for diffusion held at arms length in my left hand.  I like this particular umbrella not only for the quality of it's light but also for it's size when folded - it folds down to a mere 15", easily small enough to slip into your camera bag.  I generally don't bother to use a lighting stand since I like to be reasonably lightweight with my kit and I can hand hold the flash and umbrella in a variety of positions.  My camera exposures are generally manual - frequently monitoring the exposure with live view on the LCD display.  Flash exposures are sometimes ETTL if the subject is moving and varying distance from me, however if the subject to flash distance remains fairly constant then setting the flash manually will result in greater consistency in exposures.

Looking through my lightroom catalog  I see I only shot maybe half a dozen frames of this guy - one to nail background exposure, one to sort out flash and then a couple of frames to get a composition I'm happy with.  Then it was umbrella down, a floury handshake and off to find the next subject.