Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Week of Storytelling Begins Here on Sunday

Photograph © Rick Sammon. All rights reserved.
Canon 5D Mark II. Canon 24-105mm IS lens.

Hi! I am just back from a two-week trip to China, where I could not get access to twitter or my blog. Hummm….
But now I’m back, and happy to be back blogging! Here ya go!

Photographers are storytellers, whether they use still photographs or videos to tell their stories. Although I shoot some videos with my Canon 5D Mark II and 7D cameras, I am still in love with the still image – because it captures a frozen moment in time.

I “see” like a still photographer, which I think is different than “seeing” as a photographer who shoots videos. The difference for the still shooter: you must anticipant and capture that exact moment in maybe 1/500th of a second, more or less. I truly enjoy that challenge. (Hey, let me know your feelings on how you see! Please comment here.)

On Sunday, I’ll start a week of storytelling here on my blog. For seven days, I’ll use my favorite pictures that I took this past April at the Sister’s Meal Festival, which is held each year near the city of Kaili in the Guizhou province of China. It was truly an amazing experience, as well as an incredible photography opportunity, as you will see.

The idea of this weeklong project: When you go to an event, on the other side of the world or on the other side of town, try to “tell the whole story” with your pictures.

Processing Note: All of the photographs you will see were enhanced in Photoshop to some degree. Mostly, I used the Recover feature in Adobe Camera Raw to recover some of the detail in the silver headdresses, as well as the Shadow/Highlight adjustment in Photoshop to open up some of the faces there were in the shadows. These features are a godsend in harsh lighting conditions, as well as when working on images that include highly reflective subjects and objects, as you will see.

Photography Note: All of the pictures were taken with my Canon 5D Mark II cameras and either my Canon 24-105mm IS lens or my 15mm lens. I also used my Canon 580 EX for some of the photographs.

I was in the province of Guizhou for two weeks leading one of my photography workshops. The Sister’s Meal Festival, a gathering of Miao women in search of a husband, was one of the highlights. I’ll share some of my other images and stories from the trip in other posts – starting right now.

Today, as a prelude to my people pictures, I’ll share one of my favorite people pictures that I took after the festival in Tianlong, a nearby ancient garrison town where we also saw the Grand Opera.

Like many of my travel portraits, this is a set-up shot. However, it does not look like a set-up shot – which is the key to a good environmental portrait.

We spotted this man smoking his pipe in his home and asked him if we could take his picture. He said okay.

Before we started shooting, we asked him if he could sit down and move closer to the door to this home so that we had nice light illuminating his face.

We chose a shooting position so that the background was much darker than the subject.

We crouched down and shot eye-to-eye, which makes the viewer of a photograph identify with the subject.

Finally, we used our wide-angle lenses so that we could shoot close: the closer you are to the subject, the more intimate the portrait becomes.

Shoot me an email if you are interested in joining my 2011 China workshops. I will have some guest pros leading some workshops, too. Email me: Rick Sammon at

Want more travel photo info? My current app, 24/7 Photo Buffet, offers a wealth of photo tips for photographers on the go – even HDR photographers.

Explore the light,
P.S. Okay! Here is a sneak peek at the Sister’s Meal Festival.

Photograph © Rick Sammon. All rights reserved.
Canon 5D Mark II. Canon 15mm lens.


Jim said...

In Still Photography it is the thrill of the click..but at 70+ years it is also (the agony of de-feet.)

JimmyD said...

Great capture Rick. I love how you set up the light to only expose the man smoking his ridiculously large pipe and everything else is in the dark. That's why you get the big bucks!