Right now, the location meta data of the vast majority of my images, would be central to Galway City Center. Circumstances aside, it is my first port of call for walk-about photography. Namely because I’m void of a comfort zone in relation to any kind of landscape photography.
This holds true for my digital art also. I’ve blatantly avoided landscape or scenery painting because any attempt I have made has only gone to prove how out of touch with the style I am. Don’t get me wrong, I have so many landscape favourites out there in the
field area of landscape and environmental concept art, I know what I like, but I know what my limits are. I have always felt more in touch with the human figure irrespective of the medium, and so, it’s fair to say that I have a natural inclination to photograph people.
Now, trying to get candid, natural feeling street photographs is another game. How do you capture people in their natural state without having to peer into an oddly voyeuristic world of pedestrian perversion? How do approach a subject where the unawareness of a complete stranger is what will make the photograph unique? Perhaps the best way is to pack a paparazzi style telephoto zoom and capture your subjects at a great distance? Or maybe downsize your camera completely, go compact, dress as a tourist. This way, even if your subjects clock to your intention they may feel as though your presence in their town/city is short lived and their place on your photographic reel will be lost among the many thousands you are likely to take on your western european adventures.
Or you could just ask.
This gentleman sells the most amazing, made to order doughnuts your likely to receive from any street vendor, anywhere in the world. He has a unique look, a quality of charisma all street vendors should strive for, and a simple yet tantalising product that could sell itself. I have often drifted down Church Lane, and while taking in the sights of the many(mostly gift shop) offerings, I always know I’m going to end up with a bag full of hot,crispy,cocoa covered doughnuts.
I asked for this photo, right after I asked for 3 of his finest confectionery creations. He happily obliged. He gave me his best poses for a few moments. He was still chatty while he was posing which showed me how comfortable he was with having his picture taken. I shot at a slow shutter speed with high ISO presence. This was a big mistake for the lighting that was in the area. But I was nervous and distracted from what I should have been focussed on. I took the images, took my doughnuts and thanked him for his time.
I wandered up the lane and then took the time to glance over the images. Not good. They were blurry at 100% due to the slow shutter speed I had been using elsewhere that day. The ISO was too bright and burned out much of the detail I was trying to retain. I felt like I had cheated myself. But now the pestering quandary. Do I return and ask for another photo? Well, this time, I did. While serving his other keen customers he spotted me coming back. I hung back for a second waiting until his clientèle had departed. I could tell that he was bothered by my return somewhat. As he glanced at me several times as if to say “You again?”. I politely asked if I could just take 1 or two more pictures as my settings were incorrect for the environment. He didn’t seem as enthusiastic this time, but I reshot knowing I could trust my loadout this time around.
In an ironic twist, his noticeable drop in excitement and enthusiasm resulted in a much more dramatic pose and image. I caught him between poses this time. A face that doesn’t seem natural to pull for a photograph turned out to be the most expressive and detailed. Bearing his silver tooth and shadowcast expression I feel I got the best side of him on my return journey, no matter how embarrassing it might have seemed to feel like a pest, it was worth every gruelling step.
I have recently gone to print this image and I’m getting very close to how I feel it should look. Perhaps I will have it ready this weekend, and when I do, I will return once more for his dunkin’ doughnuts crushing produce and to present him with a print of his own portrait.