While I’m on the topic of travel photography….Portraits–don’t even get me going on what a challenge I have getting good portraits of people I meet while traveling. Yet, there’s nothing more interesting than faces. Portraits are worth the effort because photography lacks a greater sense of place without them. Sure there are beautiful landscapes, artistic still lifes—food!—and some fun shots of people from a distance but those close-up photos of faces are what really tell a story and give an impression of the folks who inhabit any place—from Minneapolis to Morocco.
I’m kind of chicken. It’s hard to get right up close to people you don’t know, but that’s what it takes for a good portrait. Up close, the subject may become more stiff and self-conscious so sometimes I take the photo from a distance, maybe when they’re not looking, and just crop the heck out of it later. If I’m lucky it won’t be blurry. Ultimately, it just takes a few extra seconds–and a little bravery–to get a better shot.
Also, there’s the etiquette and ethics of portraiture. I’m getting better, but it’s a challenge to ask people that may not speak my language if I can take their picture. Some people just hate to have their picture taken, sometimes for religious reasons. Often, the more exotic looking (or sometimes the more downtrodden looking) the person, the more dramatic the photo. Am I taking advantage of them or invading their privacy? In Morocco, I was told not to pay children for their pictures because it encourages them to forego school for money-making photo opps.
Happy schoolgirls in Guatemala.
This young man was slightly suspicious of the photographer at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis
I like taking pictures of people through windows or sculptures.
One way I’ve found to get good portraits is to buy something the person is selling or simply put a few coins in a street entertainer’s music case. And, if my potential photo subject is in business, like a bartender or shopkeeper, they’re usually happy to cooperate.
When all else fails, animals are usually very eager to pose for a portrait, no questions asked.
The Chateau of Cheverny in France’s Loire Valley is positively awash is hunting dogs. Don’t walk in this giant pen, you’ll be “enveloped,” by anywhere from 70 to 100 hounds. They’re half English foxhound and half French Poitou and, though there are riotous number of dogs in one place, they all appear to be well groomed and happy, like most Frenchmen.
The stately hunting palace was built between 1604 to 1634 and is
one of the gems of chateau country. It’s been in the same family for six centuries and the current viscount and his family still live on the third floor of the chateau. They share their the chateau’s gardens, fabulous decor and amazing architecture with visitors. Still, if you’re a dog lover, you’ll pass all that by and head for the hounds.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Blur.” I usually throw out the blurry pix because they’re not blurry on purpose, just bad camera settings. But a little blur gives a great sense of action or takes your eye to the background or the foreground of the picture as in these photos of kids playing in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.