A friend of mine is doing a photography course by correspondence. Each week a ‘project’ is suggested, with the tyro then emailing his or her results to the tutor. What a wonderful world we live in these days where technology allows us to send photographs through the ether. Definitely quicker than postal bags!
Now while I am in favor of this ‘go and shoot this project’ approach, its value is in making the student photographer look critically at the subject matter. This is called developing the photographic ‘eye’.
There is so much more to photography than just popping the shutter and moving on to the next ‘record’ shot. Photo projects help you to develop a theme and then you illustrate that theme, which is at least one step towards professional results.
Take, for example, the local markets. In Thailand these local markets are everywhere (and if you don’t know where your local market is, ask your wife or maid) and carry a myriad of items.
The hard part is to isolate some of these items from others, but is not difficult if you have a zoom facility on your compact camera, or a zoom lens for your SLR.
By shooting at a focal length of more than 150 mm, and using an aperture of f4 or wider, you will be able to separate the main subject from those surrounding it. You will also be able to stand a reasonable distance from the subject so you are less intrusive and are more likely to get some good spontaneous photographs.
However, before you shoot anything, you should take a walk around your market and make a note of suitable subjects that will show a local market to a visitor to Thailand. Again, this makes you think about how you will present the different subjects.
Items that will come to your attention could include the BBQ chicken/sausage vendors, with smoke trailing from the BBQ coals. Try to backlight this subject – in other words, get the sun behind the smoke and shoot “contre jour”. For these shots with tricky lighting, it is always a good idea to bracket the exposures, so try three shots at half a stop difference.
In markets, the vendors will often arrange their goods in an attractive pattern to show to the prospective buyer. To get this shot, move in close, and frame up very tightly, and review the shot before taking too many of them.
Very often the attraction of the markets lies in the cheap prices, so in your list of shots make sure you get some price tags. Once more zoom in close and frame tightly and you will have it for ever.
Lighting at open markets can be a little of a problem, but not insurmountable. Try walking to the other side of the stall and shooting from there. You should also try not to have the stall or subject half in bright sun and half in shadow. There is just too much of a difference between the two light intensities for the camera to handle.
The photographs this week were all taken on one very pleasurable Sunday afternoon. Try it yourself this weekend.