Kung Fu performers from world famous Songshan Shaolin Temple in Henan Province face off in decisive moment.
Yesterday I was complimented by a caller that the photographs on my web site were “so nice and ... so clear.” For a moment I wondered if praising my ability to get things in focus was really a compliment, as I had been at this game for a few decades, but then I remembered that often people find it difficult to articulate exactly why a photo works for them. “So clear” usually means “I get it!”.
Very orderly and quiet lunch room for young Kung Fu students at Wuseng Tuan Training Center, Shaolin Temple, Henan. Between the notes sips and sticks important.
For me the technical craft of focus, f-stops, composition, color and light intuitively blend into the moment when I trip the shutter and capture a unique story. The viewer doesn’t need to recognize my hidden steps to understand the photograph.
Vendor offers just spun cotton candy for waiting night time visitors in Pingyao, Shanxi.
In photographing people one of my favorite hidden steps is timing, just the right moment so we, the viewers, connect human being to human being. The peak action of Kung Fu performers facing off, fists out and eye to eye is the interesting icing on the photo cake. We really feel the drama playing out on a far off Chinese mountain.
Frying rope bread called Mahua at shop spilling onto sidewalk, Pingyao, Shanxi.
But sometimes the decisive moment is more subtle and more difficult to capture because I have to watch between the moments for just the right tilt of the chop stick or turn of the body. I liken it to editing a good interview where the reflective pause is as important as the words on either side. The small moments between the major notes can tip the viewer over into “I get it!” and make the photograph “so clear”.
Quiet moment captures shoe repairman and customer sharing shady sidewalk with
bicycle shop, Pingyao, Shanxi.
A year ago this month (first five blog posts here) I was traveling in China with friends where we were invited to exhibit at a municipal cultural center and we attended an international photography festival, with extensive travel in between. Yes China is exotic, the people fascinating and the politics meaningful. But by golly this trip was the toughest photographically of all my trips there. The weather was hot, the skies were pollution brown and we practically never had delicious light. And now I know why some regions we visited are not in the guide books ... nobody in their right mind should go there. But we had a great time meeting Chinese from all walks of life and made photos in spite of the challenges.
Next week: Travel Photo Tips: People Don’t Bite (Usually).
Tourists pause on Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, Beijing. Composition and light set stage for freezing people in moment.