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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Over the past few months I've made quite a few posts about photographing people in foreign countries, and usually I recommend that you approach people to form some kind of rapport with them first. I find that this often leads to the most pleasing portraits.

But not always. As with everything in photography there's no hard and fast rule. That's why whenever I'm out photographing people I always tend to have a telephoto lens on the camera. It enables you to quickly grab something that catches your eye.

I find that most photographs that require a wide-angle are slower happening, giving me time to change lenses if I need to. The things that require a longer lens are usually fleeting moments where you need to have the camera up to your eye in an instant. That's why I always have a telephoto attached to my camera when it's in the bag as well - so I can quickly pull it out and snap.

Take these guys counting money. Now I could just as easily have walked up to them, had a chat and totally ruined their count! You know how hard it is to count money when somebody's yabbering at you? I decided that his income was more important than my photo and sat back.

It's pretty hard to be inconspicuous in these sorts of situations so they knew I was there but weren't perturbed in any way. As I usually do I gave a quick smile and asked with my eyes whether it was OK to take a shot and they were fine. Originally I thought about focussing in tightly on the three bean counters but then pulled back to include their surroundings, including the two guys at the top of the frame - one fast asleep and the other watching the world go by. I like the contrast between the three so intent on commerce and the other two just lazing a Saturday morning away.

This was taken at the Saturday bazaar in the Nepalese town of Namche, high in the Himalayas. It's a wonderful place to find colourful characters selling everything from chillies to yak's heads. It's quite touristy these days but in some ways that makes it even easier to photograph because the locals are used to crazy foreigners with big lenses.

The main thing you have to be careful of when using the telephoto lens is your shutter speed. If it's quite dark your shutter speed will drop dramatically and you'll end up with camera shake. Keep an eye that you're not going too slow and if necessary bump up the ISO. Photography like this really calls for natural light so you want to avoid flash if you possibly can. It's hard enough to count the day's takings when you've got a foreigner yabbering at you, but even harder if you've just been blinded by the light!

And if you missed yesterday's post we've got a photography competition going - scroll down for details!

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