May 22, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

Thanks to Simon Abrams for requesting that I blog about this one from Nicaragua.

I had spent the better part of the day on the back of a motorcycle as it wound and bounced its way through the mountainous jungles of San Juan del Rio Coco's coffee country. The last farmer's home we visited as the day came to end was this man's. He was sitting in his hammock listening to a soccer game as we pulled up. He had no pretense whatsoever. My arrival and almost immediate photographic activities didn't even get a passing glance from him.

Only after 15 minutes or so did he seem to warm up to the idea that I was genuinely interested in his efforts. Sure enough, once that nut was cracked, it provided almost an hour of him sharing his story, his home, his farm, and his aspirations. He even had me climb up on his roof to shoot the view of his road. He got into it. You can check out other nearby images from the Flickr feed to get a sense of that time together. (Sorry there aren't more there).

This portrait came about because the light that was bouncing around the space just off his porch was so luminous, delicately textured, and otherwise monochromatic that I couldn't let it go without putting someone in there. He was the obvious choice.

For the first few shots he stood close to the wall and I wasn't feeling it. I asked him to step closer and as he did, he also relaxed his stance. I made a dozen shots in about a minute and felt that was sufficient. I knew my own enthusiasm wouldn't abate but politeness dictated I stop. At one point some chickens ran into a few frames but I opted for the less distracting composition.

There ain't a stich of retouching or a lick of Photoshop on this shot. That's increasingly my M.O. I recommend it.

Make pictures and don't let good light go to waste.

May 02, 2010

Two Che (By Request)

I'd been riding in the back of a pick-up for the better part of two hours when we returned to Jinotega, Nicaragua to run some errands. We'd picked up large bunches of plantains and were delivering them to folks. As the day turned to night I was excited to see what pictures could be made in drive-by mode. I love this time of day when the ambient natural light is equal to that produced by artificial sources. Arguably, it's my favorite time of the day and it's as fleeting as morning dew (or a coffee flower in full bloom).

As we turned around on this street, I saw the sunset, the Che stencil, and pink hues shared by both. I fumbled to switch cameras. I had been holding my D3x with the 50mm and needed my D3 with the 24mm. I lost a second or two in the transition and as a result lost some proximity to the building as we pulled away. I snapped two shots as quickly as my finger allowed and chimped the results with satisfaction.

Lightroom allowed me to reduce some contrast, do a little burning and dodging, and otherwise mimic ol' darkroom efforts and share it as is.

I like this shot too. It's got a subtle reference to place with a mood to match. And considering it's not exactly made under ideal conditions, standing in the back of a moving pick-up, I can imagine making a better shot one day. It's a little like golf, part of what keeps you playing is the potential to do better next time. Photography is the ultimate live-and-learn art form.

Make pictures.

May 01, 2010

Snap Inspection (By Request)

This shot is more fun to see with a little hindsight. At the moment of making it, I was concerned to have decent hand positions and a shutter speed that would speak to the task at hand (which was removing defects from the passing green coffee). It became obvious shortly thereafter that the clinical face-mask hair-net stuff was just for me, the visiting photographer.

Sometimes I forget that I represent something more than just a curious artist. In this case, I was something akin to an inspector. The Honduran co-op leaders knew that my visit was official enough that they needed to play by the book and that book apparently requires these women to cover their hair and faces, which is idiotic considering their role in the process is to remove defects and foreign objects. Whatever.

All I know is that after a few shots of their efforts, I was frustrated with not being able to see their faces and asked my watchful male guides if they could remove their masks so I could see some smiles. They obliged and the women whipped those masks off faster than you know. It was then that I realized the ruse. They were as uncomfortable wearing that stuff as I was trying to make decent human pictures.

What else was being faked for me? I did a quick review and came up with nothing but it was instructive. I'd be on guard for the future and remind leaders that I don't care about silly rules or small lapses in protocol. I care about people.

And if anyone is concerned about germs here, they need to relax. This is green coffee being touched by bare hands (there's no requirement for gloves) many weeks before it makes it to any roaster where it'll be "cooked" for at least 12 minutes, repacked, shipped, etc. You should be more concerned about the herbicides, pesticides and general poor soil quality of non-organic coffee long before any hygienic performance art.

Make pictures.