Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

I’m not exactly the most social or outgoing person I know (though I am, by far, the most awesome), which can result in lost opportunities that otherwise could have led to some interesting shots.

We took a little family trip the other week to our proud (not really) capital, Stockholm. Since we don’t have a car, nor a driving license, we traveled by train. We had to switch trains a couple of times and on one stretch we ended up in a completely empty compartment, 50-60 seats all for us, very nice and very quiet – the little one was sleeping at this point as well, which probably contributed in large part the unusual silence. My brain of course went immediately into photographer mode when met with such an unusual opportunity.

The photo itself isn’t all that noteworthy. There’s a LP160 with a small softbox clamped to the baggage rack to camera left (love that Lumopro clamp) and that’s about it. I would have liked a shallower DOF but there was a lot of sun coming in from the windows. Alternatively I could have forgotten about DOF and gone wide angle instead, distorting the perspective to give the scene more depth. However, this post isn’t so much about the technical details or the execution, instead it’s about one of my biggest shortcomings as a photographer.

This was a rather rushed shoot. The reason for that was my desire to get a few frames off and then put my gear away before the conductor came around again. In hindsight I realize that I missed a really golden opportunity here. I hardly think the conductor would have had much to say about us taking some pictures in the train, even though it would probably have been the first time he’d seen a flash clamped to the baggage rack – normal people keep the flash on the camera…silly people. The problem is that I don’t like drawing attention to myself, I don’t like being noticed. This is definitely something I have to work on if I want to take my photography to the next level. What interests me the most is shooting portraits, and that kind of implies that I have to work with people.

So, what I should have done, instead of worrying about the conductor spotting us, was to take a few shots of my wife and then actually wait for him to come around. My wife is lovely but here’s the thing: a great photograph should tell a story. What better way to tell a story than to shoot a conductor in an empty train? You would get context, an interesting subject and an interesting location, all in one. I could kick myself; this is exactly the kind of stuff I want to shoot, real people in interesting locations, and I just let the opportunity go completely by without even realizing it until later. Live, learn and try to improve.

What about you guys? Are you all social wizards who can engage anyone in interesting conversation at any time or place? Or do you share this weakness? Or perhaps your personal weakness is something completely different? Share your thoughts in the comments.


All aboard


13 Responses to “Lost opportunities”

  1. Noeline Smith

    I know exactly what you mean! I have the same problem myself and have missed so many great shots only to kick myself afterwards. Let me know how you ‘get over it’ because I still haven’t managed.

    • Rifqi

      I’ll be sure to let you know if I find the magic cure for this affliction :p Thanks for stopping by, you have some nice landscape shots over on your blog as well.

  2. [Gm]

    I’m not a social wizard, but I’m not a shy person too. It’s easy for me to struck a conversation — if I understand the language :D. And I think shooting people on the street push the boundaries even more :D…

    By the way… I wonder why you always have to use flash in your portrait. I mean, I understand if you want to make a perfect shot in a controllable situation… however, there are places or situations that you can’t control… and using available lights is the best option — perhaps this is one of that situation?

    • Rifqi

      I always use available light, my flashes are always available :p Seriously though, using flash lets me create shots with my own style, sort of like putting my signature on them. In the past year I’ve gotten a lot of experimentation out of the way and I feel that I might be moving towards more subtle light in the future, light that complements and enhances the available light without overtaking it completely. This shot (by Joe McNally, one of my favourite photographers) is a good example of that kind of light. That’s for on location work though, studio stuff is a different ball game.

      I’ve yet to find a situation where a little flash couldn’t improve things :p Well, I took this shot on the same trip as the shot above, no flash there, so it does happen, just not very often.

      • [Gm]

        I agree that a little flash would improve things … I just don’t think it suitable for every occasions… especially when you are chasing a (non-repetitive) moment… e.g. shooting a conductor that won’t pose for you :D…

      • Rifqi

        There are certainly occasions where you should put the flash away and just shoot, no two situations are the same, you should always adapt. However, what I regret here is that I didn’t get the conductor to pose for me. Had I put him in my wife’s place, I would have had a much more engaging shot. I wouldn’t really be interested in shooting him if he didn’t pose for me :p

      • [Gm]

        Ah… I see. Well, you better work on your social skill then :D… Good luck!

  3. disperser

    Social interactions are easy for me when it’s about the other person. But it is foreign to me to engage in social interaction for my benefit. Even with willing subjects, I would feel as if I am imposing.

    As a general rule, there are no people in most of my photos, and when they are any, it’s more as if they are part of the background.

    • Rifqi

      I know what you mean. I don’t have that much trouble with it if someone else initiates me in conversation but, like you say, it’s when I’m after something for my own benefit that it feels awkward. The solution I want to come up with for that is to find a project that will actually benefit the subjects that I’m shooting as well. Easier said than done though.

      • [Gm]

        Perhaps you guys can make some sort of business card, ask for their e-mail/address and send them the file/photo? This will be beneficial for both parties, I guess.

        Beside, it’s not like you are going to selling the photo. But if you are, you can ask their consent and share the profit, no?

      • Rifqi

        If I were to ask random people on the town to pose for me I would definitely offer to send them copies of the final photos. What I would really like though, is to find something that can benefit the community as well. Perhaps help promoting a non-profit organization or some local, independent artists or athletes. The idea is clear in my mind but I just don’t know how to approach the execution. Perhaps giving it another year to grow more confident in my skill first would help.

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