Stand still and let it happen..

Old Havana, Cuba

Finding good subject matter is sometimes difficult as a traveling photographer - some days everything seems to fall into place easily and interesting things pop into your viewfinder one after another whilst on other days you scratch around looking hopelessly for some kind of inspiration.  A useful approach I quite often adopt is the 'stand still and let it happen' technique.  It goes like this: Find an interesting background and then sit back and wait for the subject to come to you!  Simple but often effective.  If you wander around aimlessly hoping to come across interesting images you can strike lucky but if you identify an interesting backdrop to an image then at least you have one element in place and a degree of control of your final image.  Another advantage of this technique is that you can blend into the scene and become less visible particularly if you pretend to be shooting pictures of something other than your approaching subject.

The following pictures hopefully illustrate the point.

Walking around the narrow alleys in the beautiful city of Harar in Ethiopia I came across this door and section of very colorful wall.  As a graphic image on it's own it's OK - nothing special but a good starting point for a better image yet to come.  There were few people around and in the confined space those that there were very aware of a me and my camera.

So stand still and let it happen... Just blend into the wall as best you can and wait - when someone comes down the alley rather than chase them with a camera just start shooting architecture and wait for the moment to happen when person and wall fall into place.

OK still not perhaps the best images in the world but standing in that same spot for 5 or 10 minutes gave me quite a few useable images.

Here are a couple more images shot in the same way in Ethiopia, Kurdish Iraq and Cuba.

Making the most of an opportunity

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Sometime as a photographer things happen very quickly and often you need to decide whether there is something in front of you that is worth photographing or not - will it make a good picture, or an interesting picture - or perhaps one that tells a story you are interested in telling?  Sometimes it's as simple as a young girl on her way to school with an umbrella in hand on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

On this particular day I'd already been driving for several hours through the Western Highlands of Ethiopia and to be honest by this stage was looking for an opportunity to stop and stretch my legs - a toilet stop is always the most obvious excuse but in this instance the sight of the young girl with matching clothes and umbrella were the perfect reason.

Having persuaded the girl to allow me to shoot a couple of frames we were then rapidly joined by a quickly growing group of her school friends who having seen the image on the back of the camera were all keen to be photographed as well.  What followed was an exercise in patience - what you can't see in the images are the 25 or so other kids who all wanted to be in every shot and lined up forming a tight human corridor between me and the subject.  I shot a single frame of each kid at 200mm in order to avoid the sea of encroaching faces.

Individually none of the images are great but together (and as a little reminder of a fun half an hour with some friendly kids) they work quite well.