Today's Guest Blogger: Dave Ray

Image 1 Hindu Dancers Laughing_00001.jpg

Today's guest blogger, from the other side of the planet (from New York, anyway), is Dave Ray. Take it away Dave.

Major thanks to Rick for granting me this opportunity to guest blog. 

 Like Rick, I don’t strongly specialize in any particular area of photography except that I seldom photograph in my region of origin, and I love capturing images of people. I used to tell people that I’m an ethno-photographer, but about the only person who ever understood what that meant was Lauren Stockbower—picture editor for Nat Geo!

The Power of People Images

As top wedding photographer Bambi Cantrell has emphasized, an image may be somewhat technically flawed, but it will still be compelling if it shows expression!

 Opening Image--Private Laugh, Hindu Dancers, Penang, Malaysia

Being ready to catch the moment when people’s candid expressions erupt is the critical. Typically, I smile & ask people if they mind if I take their picture. Then, I’ve found they usually feel most comfortable if I pull out my take-with-me-everywhere small pocket camera (like the Canon S100 series) to take a few images as they get used to me clicking away.  As the relationship warms up, I’ll pull out my pro DSLR. 

Back in the analog days I learned from an old pro who always got his best images of his kids playing after spending a few minutes pretending to take their photos without ever really pushing the shutter button & wasting film on camera-conscious poses. After they got over him aiming the camera at them & turned their attention back to their friends, he found many opportunities to capture genuine expressions as they played.

Often it’s not much different with adults.

Expression is revealed around the mouth, in a person’s posture and in the hands, but, of course, it’s caught, more than anywhere else, in the eyes. As a great teacher said, “The eye is the lamp of the body.”

Young Hindu, Ahmedabad, India

 I know I’ve captured the right catch light—when I can discern myself in sharp focus in the person’s eye. It’s usually most important and sufficient to achieve that sharp focus in the nearest eye.

Landscapes Plus

You can’t travel the world without also getting passionate about capturing landscape images.  But, even here, I usually prefer to include human figures.

Mamburit kids & boat, Indonesia

Subtle patterns & negative space in nature—supplemented with the powerful visual mass (David DuChemin’s concept) in the human figure—combine to form stronger images.

But what do you do when pesky tourists invade the frame of a great landscape image?  Usually you have to wait for, if not bait them, to leave!  But sometimes even they can help create a delightful image.  Concentrate on building your image from the back forward by choosing first a compelling background, then as the tourists mingle in your foreground, isolate one or two, quickly position yourself to gain a compelling perspective & capture!

Tourists on Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

It’s All About Light

Rick typically ends his blogs, Explore the light!

That jives deeply with how Galen Rowell started his book Mountain Light:  In Search of the Dynamic Landscape.  He opens there saying, “Most amateur photographers think of landscapes simply as objects to be photographed. They tend to forget that they are never photographing any object, but rather light itself . . . .  my thoughts center on light rather than on the landscape. I search for perfect light, then hunt for something earthbound to match it with . . . . When the light is right and everything is working for me, I feel as tense as when making a difficult maneuver high on a mountain.  A minute-and sometimes mere seconds—can make the difference between a superb image and a mundane one” (4, 2nd ed., 1995).

I was thinking of that insight one day as my wife & I were driving along Penang’s north coast & saw amazing light exploding all around us as the low afternoon sun radiated under an incoming storm. I didn’t know what subject I wanted to capture, but there was great light everywhere. So, my camera came out, & there it was—the earthbound subject to match the light. 

So, there it is.  Catch & explore the light!

Malay net fisherman, Malaysia

If you’d like to sharpen your skills in destination world photography, look at Rick’s Workshops page to capture your spot on our upcoming Java-Bali Photo Workshop in 2015.