I like to create an image rather than just take one. The position and placement of a subject is paramount and normally requires good direction and choreography. I find that simply waiting for something to happen and relying on luck can sometimes work but is not that fruitful. I prefer to arrange a shot by placing local people or models in a scene.
With clear communication and a good understanding of a location, you can create clean, well-composed images that look natural and uncontrived. One of my favourite locations is lake Inle in Myanmar. I’ve been there 5 times now and have built up a good working relationship with local fishermen. I take them to some stunning locations at dawn and sunset and with help from my guide direct them to row and fish in just the right place.
Monks are another favourite subject of mine. Their red robes look fantastic against the white temples and blue sky. Novice monks are more than happy to model for me in return for some lunch or a cold drink. I also give a generous donation to the monastery which is the least I can do for their time. I find that kids look very stiff when asked to sit and smile. It’s just not natural and they are very self-conscious. So I ask them to run or jump or play which makes them relax and by having fun the resulting images have more energy and life.
For some time guardians (horsemen) in the Camargue have been driving their white horses through the water for waiting photographers. This is not something you would just find by chance and has to be organised as a commercial shoot. I run photo workshops there twice a year, so have plenty of opportunities to photograph the horses and guardians in different light and locations. The challenge is to produce original images which have impact and a certain X-factor.
The horses look great backlit when the sun is near the horizon. This creates a golden glow and is especially effective with water or sand. I use different techniques to create a variety of effects. Slow shutter speeds can be really effective creating a sense of speed and motion. Reflections add another dimension to an image and I always try to include them when the conditions allow.
Putting a subject in context is vital for good travel photography. A close-up is fine but could be shot anywhere. I try to include the background whenever possible to give the subject a sense of place. Venice at Carnival time is a great opportunity to put this into practice. Venice offers some of the best backgrounds of any city in the world and I love working with models in different locations such as the colourful island of Burano. An effective image has different layers of interest and the beautiful costumes set against an architectural masterpiece is difficult to beat.
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