This is a photograph of Batu Caves with dramatic light in Kuala Lumpur. It’s the location of one of the most famous Hindu shrines outside of India. Every year, the Malaysian Hindu community gathers here in large numbers to celebrate Diwali.
A girl lights candles during a festival at a Hindu temple. While staying in Kochi/Cochin, I was told about a festival taking place at a temple not far from the city. Once inside the temple grounds I found hundreds of people, a large drum band, an odd twenty gold-adorned elephants and loads of very happy people. In the evening, thousands of candles were lit over the complete outside wall of the temple creating a very warm atmospheric scene.
This image was taken in the Northern Romanian region of Moldavia. It was during one of the mask-dances of New Year´s Eve festivals. I was familiar with the subject and went to this festival on purpose to document it. Traditions and cultural events are one of the focuses of my work. The action and the cultural background of the situation made me shoot it but the image is not staged. It was an unique, decisive moment and therefore gone in a glimpse.
The Yuanyang rice terraces are a paradise for landscape photography. Together with the Honghe Hani terraces they have been both declared Unesco World Heritage sites. These fields are located all around Yuanyang old town. They have been carved out of the mountains by the Hani people over the centuries.
This is a candid portrait of a retired man at a Turkish style old coffee shop in the fishing port area of Mersin. He was sitting peacefully at his table and was approached by another photographer who was trying to make him pose. I understood that I might a have a chance to get a good image, so I sat in another chair some distance away and started to observe and to wait.
This photograph was taken at a dance show Aconteció, created by choreographer Kaja Będkowska-Klar and performed by flamenco dancers from La Pasión. I’ve been fascinated by flamenco for years. I’ve even learnt it myself.
Due to a heat wave during those days, Mumbai´s inhabitants would gather around the beach every sunset to get some breeze. The surrounding area became quite lively. With plenty of “action” taking place in front of the camera, this was a great opportunity for photographing daily life scenes.
I noticed the old fisherman's house while wandering around the area. I felt that a night shot would really accentuate the rustic features of the property. I had an idea of the shot that I wanted and I spent 3 nights camped out, waiting for the ideal conditions - No cloud and the moon in the right position to cast enough light on the structure but without polluting the sky scene.
On the last Wednesday of August I went to cover the party of Tomatina for a news agency. As the final event of Bunyol's festival, thousands of people come from all over the world and for a couple of hours throw tons of tomatoes at each other (made available by the Council and grown specifically in the region for the event). The uncertain origin of this surreal street-fighting, which has been flooding the streets with rivers of tomatoes since the 50s, has not prevented the growth of this event into an international tourist attraction.
The subjects were like notes on a pentagram, the numbered stands were a grand piano, and each number was a key ringing under the steps of the musicians. We all heard that there’s a lot of mathematics in music, I think it's easy to make that connection seeing this picture. For me, the strength of an image lies in what it evokes, what it makes you imagine or feel, often more so than in what you actually see.
While I was traveling in India I spent several weeks traveling through the Himalayas. This picture was taken the next day I arrived in Ki Gompa. It was a very long journey full of dusty roads and old buses. From up there in the monastery anywhere you looked, you found majestic views, but I wanted a picture of the monastery itself.
After I attended the morning prayer ceremony and breakfast the monks celebrate everyday, I climbed the hill right next to where the monastery is sitting. I arrived to the perfect spot and I stayed there for about an hour taking pictures. I took several shots, but this panoramic was the one I liked the most.
I ended up staying for a week in Ki Gompa, admiring the view, attending the prayer ceremonies and hanging out with the monks who were the friendliest most happy people I have ever met. They also loved having their picture taken, I was just delighted!
The main challenge was the extreme brightness that you have during the summer in the Himalayas. I had to expose for the brighter parts, not to have burnt-out areas in the image. Shortness of breath at such high altitude was a bit of a physical challenge.
As a researcher in forestry, I have opportunities to spot a number of countryside shooting locations I would not know about otherwise. In this particular one, on the southern part of the valley near river Savinja, close to the local hills, there is a church on a hill with nice surroundings. They fit well into the context of the countryside, without power lines, highways or modern buildings that would draw your attention and damage the spirit.
Aerial shots involve planning ahead. That particular October morning the weather conditions were very promising and the visibility was good. At 3am the sky was already clear and at 6.30am my son and I took off and levelled the plane at 300m above ground. October weather is usually pretty stable and extremes are not as pronounced as at the end of summer. The window of opportunity for making promising photos is longer.On the other hand fog is more persistent and could cover the lower levels. It disappears later during morning, when the sun rises. I prefer to see the potential landing spots just in case of engine failure, so I avoid flying in foggy conditions.
We were approaching our spot when my son pointed out a rare pattern – fog surrounding the church, while some of it was already evaporating. The light reflecting from below us was too strong, so we had to descend and come closer. Moments before the exposure, the final decision was made to get down to 200 meters and to frame the lower part of the scene instead of shooting the usual upper part. This is the best shot out of the series. When I was checking the image at home, my wife was listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Waiting for the miracle” which seemed perfect for the title.
For aerial shots, Shutter Priority setting seems a good choice to ensure a fast enough shutter speed and therefore to get sharp images and compensate for any camera shake. Lens image stabilization was also on. Shutter priority is usually used with one step under-exposed, as light contrasts change fast and can lead to overexposed areas. Lens hood prevented unwanted reflections. The timing of the shot is also important as the contrasts increase later in the day desired early morning light fades away.
This image is part of my ongoing four-year project on Holi festival – the festival of colors. As a kid, I used to love Holi simply because I was allowed to go absolutely insane, throwing water balloons at friends and splashing color all around. This project is a mere extension to continue reliving those wonderful childhood memories.
The Holi festival is celebrated every march all over India and it is renowned for its gayness and colorfulness. In an Indian society which is strongly patriarchal and imposing of many restrictions on women, Holi is the only time of the year when women get the chance to get back at the men, sometimes even tearing off their clothes and beating them. At times, it goes beyond a symbolic revenge, as the images I have taken in the festival for years can prove.
In this particular image some kids have taken over the temple porch that, just a few minutes back, was filled with thousands of men and women splashing color and water over each other. From the rooftop, the colored water, smeared all over the floor made for an interesting setting. Having the perfect setting and an unusual perspective, I just waited for something to happen to make the photograph.
In such a messy festival environment one needs to not get carried away and shoot lots of random images. One needs to have patience and to carefully select what you frame. Additionally, in order to be accepted by the subjects, you have to become a part of the festivities first and to allow the locals to throw clouds of colored powder and water at you from all sides, at the most unexpected moments. Being irritated will simply ruin your experience and the photo opportunities too. You need to immerse yourself, while making sure you keep the photo equipment protected. I enjoyed the occasion and thrived in this environment, meeting some wonderful people along the way.
I just went for a walk that day, as always carrying my camera. I enjoy exploring old abandoned buildings and any sort of industrial ruins. There is something appealing to me in that stillness, in the frozen time. The area of Zabok began its intensive industrialization after the WWII and the window in the image was part of the largest carpet factory in former Yugoslavia. I took the image in its last days before a shopping mall replaced it.
It was cloudy, so the light was very diffused, ideal for shooting what I wanted. While hanging around the ruins, this particular window caught my attention. Perfect geometry with only two corners of the window broken after all these years of abandonment. I just needed a human subject to breath some life into the composition, so when the friend who accompanied me popped out her face through the broken part of the window, I knew I had it. I took one single shot and when I checked it on the camera screen, I felt it was exactly the image I had pre-visualized, so I didn’t even take a second one.
I rely on improvisation; the spontaneous moments are for me the best ones since you never know what sort of images may come into your daily life. Like needles in a haystack. For me the strength of this particular one lays in the contrasts of ancient and young, of beauty and ugliness, and it evokes in me a deep feeling of nostalgia for the old, industrial times.
I’ve visited this amazing place several times, the “Allée des Baobabs” (Avenue of the Baobabs) in West Madagascar, during my long term project “Madagascar, The Noah’s Ark”. This time I wasn’t alone. Nine photo-workshop students were with me, waitingfor the sunset among the Baobabs, which are locally known as “renala” (mother of the forest) and have a deep spiritual significance for Malagasy tribes.
The giant Baobabs soaring 30 meters into the sky are brilliant scenery, especially at sunset. I knew that people from nearby villages have to go across the “avenue” daily, to bring water to their homes. With the last light of the day, the only possibility was to work with dark silhouettes, underexposing the trees and the women carrying water.
In a few seconds I was able to shoot around 20 slightly different frames and this particular one of the woman passing among the baobabs was clearly the best image of the series.
I had to face two technical problems and had just a few seconds to figure them out. The first one was the low light. It was almost dark and I had no time to mount my tripod so I had to push the ISO up to 6400. Since the most important thing for me was to capture the perfect moment I had to sacrifice the definition of the image. The second challenge was the point of view. The only way to put the woman against the colorful sky instead of against the trees, was to choose a very low perspective; so, I was layed on the ground.
In a small desert oasis village of Tanouchert, Mauritania, around 300 camels come to drink from the village well almost daily. The camels come with their owners, the nomads, some of whom are “on the road” most of their lives, only stopping at various oases to get water and supplies.
At one of the water pools where the camels were sipping water pumped from the well this man was “directing” his animals. He would lightly hit some of them with the stick (the one over his shoulder), to make sure that everyone gets a drink. I stood and observed this for while. I aimed to have two elements in the photo – the rhythm that came through the repetition of camel necks around the pool and I wanted the man himself to be featured prominently. It took some time for everything to align. I waited and observed, taking photos along the way and then, he turned towards me for a very brief moment, I pressed the shutter-button and that was my image.
The light was somewhat unusual in this case. The photo is taken around sunrise, but everything isn’t golden-tinted as one would expect. The sun was diffused with clouds of sand in the sky, common in Mauritania at the time of the year that I visited.
An important key to capture this scene was using a wide-angle lens. It allowed me to get the exact perspective that I was looking for and to create a sense of immediacy, of being close to the action. I set the Aperture at f/4 to make sure that I get enough depth of field in the camels further in the back.
The Mayana Soora Thiruvizha festival takes place every March in the small village of Kaveripattinam the day after Mahashivarathiri (The great night of Shiva). The festival is devoted to Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity worshipped widely in Southern India. Over 2 days the festival draws crowds from the surrounding villages. It starts in the morning with people getting their cheeks, tongue and back pierced with a Trishul (trident). By noon people dressed up as Kali (Goddess of destruction) start to dance fiercely at the temple carrying knifes and Trishuls. The performance comes to an end when a chariot from the temple reaches a nearby river.
This was my first trip to this village. I came a day before the festival to explore the village and to get familiar with the people, while taking some images here and there. I had enough time to find the place where the make-up session would take place and made sure to be there very early the next morning. I was initially shooting with a wide-angle lens, but then I saw this kid’s face and switched to 100mm lens for a close-up portrait. I had a quick chat with the child and the make-up people and they allowed me to take the photo.
For unexpected situations like this one I use Aperture Priority and AE lock to get the right exposure. I don’t carry a flash because I prefer the look of the images with available natural light. In this case, even at noon, the light was not good enough, so I had to up the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed and set the exposure f/4 to make sure to get the details. I took several frames from different angles but this one is particularly close to my heart.
Maramures is a very traditional region in Northern Romania by the Ukrainian border. I have visited these lands many times because I never get enough of its’ magic and the warmth of its people. One Saturday before Easter I was wondering around the streets of a small village. One could feel that everyone was busy with Easter preparations.
When we saw Dotia, she was cleaning her house windows. With a look I asked if I could go inside and she agreed with a smile. We chatted about Easter, her only son and her life these days. It’s important to never forget that if you’re welcomed into a house, the host might also be interested in getting to know you. I had to open up, if I wanted her to open in front of me. It takes some time before you take photos. It’s easier if you have met the person before and even better if you bring printed photos from a previous visit. I normally ask what was the person doing right before or what was about to do and then to go on with it and to allow me to take some photos.
Dotia was about to make the Easter cake named Pască, so I kindly asked to her to start making it. The room was perfect for shooting, large and well lit. As the table was opposite to the window, there was only a tiny space to fit in between, very close to the subject. I guess she somehow understood what I had in mind because she exaggerated her movements and slowed down a bit. I took several shots, but I liked this one because of her concentrated facial expression and the hands look like they could very well be doing magic ritual.
Due to the tight working room I was forced to choose the widest available lens to fit all the action within the frame, which subsequently involved a bit of work with the raw file to straighten the image and make it perfectly horizontal.
While deep in Northern Ethiopia I was lucky enough to attend a morning Coptic Christian mass at Abba Yohani, a remote rock monastery in the mountainous and mysterious Tigray region. We headed out from our night halt on a small motorbike at 3:30am along a serpentine mountain road made of crumbling rocks. It took us an hour to drive just 15 kilometers, but we made it in time for the start of the mass, which continued till after sunrise.
My translator and friend already helped me gain access to photograph the mass the previous evening, so I knew that as long as I was quiet and respectful, I would have the freedom to move around and to work the angles as I wanted. As I was expecting, once the morning light entered the dark chamber, the scene of men reading passages from the bible started to look surreal, divine in some sense.
There were four openings letting in light behind the man. This resulted in the back part of the man being outlined by a rim of light, but at the same time, there was enough light to see detail in his face, his costume and the fresco on the column. I had to recognize the situation and to find the most favorable angle. I also noticed that the book in front of the man was a light-source too, it reflected light onto his face. This was great to show detail. Some work in post processing to brighten the slightly underexposed areas and I ended up with the image I had envisioned.
The book itself was so bright that I had to slightly underexpose the scene so as not to end up with a white, blown-out spot in place of the book.
The Vegetarian Festival is an annual Thai event taking place for nine days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is certainly not for the faint hearted. The festival dates back almost 200 years when a Chinese opera used to travel to Thailand to perform to the Chinese immigrant miners that worked in the tin mines. The Vegetarian Festival (or Jia Chai in the local Hokkien dialect) has changed a great deal since then to not only includes a strict vegetarian diet but also sacred rituals that are believed to bestow good fortune upon the local community. Many of the rituals include forms of self-harm and self-mutilation.
The one event I was excited to capture was a parade where local devotees carry shrines through exploding firecrackers. Technically this shot was pretty straightforward, I knew I needed a fast shutter sped to freeze the act and to capture flying debris. The real difficultly came with timing. I had a strong idea of what I wanted to achieve, to get in close and get capture the expressions at the moment of the fire crackers went off. Getting in close was no problem (other than the occasional flying spark, oh yeah it was loud too) but I never knew when to shoot.
By the time you hear the bang it’s too late, the moment has passed. I had to predict the moment and hope my subject didn’t turn away and hide his face. I probably took over a hundred shots to get this one.
Travelling through the massive valleys and river systems of Yemen’s Hadhramaut region, I encountered this fortress like village of Hayd Al Jazeel in Wadi Dohan. I decided that an early start was in order and that this scene at sunrise had the potential as a 'big picture landscape.'
I was driving through the Romanian countryside with a couple of local photographer friends. We were looking for photogenic situations and we’d stop whenever we saw anything with potential. In a foggy patch of the road we noticed a man in a field ploughing his land and decided to stop to have a closer look.
We came closer, waved and started to photograph from different angles. After going back and forth a few times the man took a break, lit a cigarette and my friends began to chat with him. They explained that I was a foreigner, so, I felt ok not joining in the talk. Instead I shook his hand, smiled and started making more exposures from different angles. He didn’t mind, so I tried a vertical framing and one from further out, finally realizing that coming in closer and framing the man with the horses behind him would give me the strongest image. I loved the fact that I could see a lot of detail in his face and in his hand. I had the framing I was happy with and made a few exposures, to be sure that I get the smoke from his cigarette.
Having a local who can speak the language of your subject is a great help. Try taking photos whilst a conversation is happening to get a more candid/relaxed image.
A group of Rajasthani workers having a break. What happens when one goes to a country for the first time, especially to one as profusely photographed as India? While making a one-month photo trip to the northern part of the country, my mind was stuck on other photographers’ iconic images and my eye was unconsciously searching for those shots all the time. Only after a while did I finally begin to see for myself.
One of those obsessive “clichés” was the “photogenic old shepherd with a red turban”. I could´t get it out of my system, so I decided to look for such an image and to photograph it with my own visual approach. After several situations where “my subject” almost satisfactorily appeared in front of my camera, one day, I got over five of these beautiful characters, together, sitting in the middle of the road in the most harsh midday sun ever.
The idea to invite them for a cup of tea saved the day. It offered me not only the soft light in the shade, but also 5 minutes of minimum subject movement. I could mentally compose the group portrait, while the tea itself, was a sufficient reward in exchange for allowing me to photograph them.
Traveling down the coast of Morocco, a must stop is the town of Essaouira. Wondering around you will surely end up visiting the main harbor, where most of the fishermen try to sell their catch of the day, cleaning and arranging the fish in front of your eyes.
Initially, I was all for documenting the fishermen at work but noticing a huge flock of seagulls trying to eat whatever the fishermen were throwing away. I decided to climb a wall nearby in order to get a different angle of the action. By sticking my camera right underneath the seagulls and, through a bit of trial and error, I managed to get the birds, as they were passing by, to frame the city walls of Essaouira. This gave a new perspective on the otherwise predictable shots of fishermen at work.
Since I was stuck on top the wall, the zoom lens was what made it possible to search again and again for the appropriate framing without needing to move around. I did change the aperture to f/7.1, which allowed me to focus on the city walls and at the same time to get enough detail on the foreground of the seagulls.