When shooting in the field, I’m always on the look out to photograph interesting locals dressed in distinctive and traditional clothing. Here in India, at the Amber Palace just outside of Jaipur, it was no different.
Rajasthan, an area of India renown for its wide range of colors, even has nicknames for a number of cities based on the colors to be found there. For example, there’s the Pink City (Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan) and the Blue City (Jodhpur). This region is also known for having beautiful women dressed in vibrant and bangled “sharees.”
Having taken an elephant ride up the long hill that leads to the Amber Palace, in the city of Amber (this is not a reference to color), there were a number of women dressed in blue who were sweeping the vast palace grounds. This particular woman was diligently doing her job up against the backdrop of the public audience space known as Diwan-I-Aam, so I immediately took notice and went to work trying to capture the scene.
The idea was to photograph her as an otherwise faceless and anonymous figure, hidden behind the veil of her sharee. As you can imagine, she was constantly moving as she brushed the ground around her with a “zarhu” (a type of broom that’s locally hand-constructed of thin strips of bamboo) so catching her in an interesting position was going to require a number of shots. Eventually I caught her peeking out of one side of her veil, and this made for a rather unique expression.
Even though I always turn off all the sounds on my camera in order to be as discreet as possible, she eventually caught on to the fact that I was interested in her as a subject, and so just for a moment – as if her boss might have been looking – she stood up, gave me a brief smile, and kindly let me make a few more images before she continued with her tasks.
The point of all of this is to be sure you take advantage of the candid moments that present themselves, then go for the more posed shots. It’s difficult to go the other way, from having a subject pose for you to then getting the candid shots. Although there are a number of opinions on this, my feeling is that a good way to do this is to be sure you make use of a telephoto lens to get in on the subject without being noticed, which would in all likelihood completely change the photo opportunity. You can certainly use the zoom feature of your point-and-shoot camera, as well, but always remember to stay within the optical, not digital, range of the camera’s capability.
What’s your preference, a candid shot of a person involved in EDL (Everyday Life), or a more posed and planned portrait? This doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation, and it’s my recommendation that you be on the lookout for both opportunities.
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