You’ve heard me whine talk about it before; how travel photographers, unlike the portrait artists, often have to photograph people on the run with little or no control over subject, placement, or even posing. It’s a chronic situation, and it requires you to think on your feet.
This happened to be several times on my latest trip, a fantastic assignment in Slovenia. This little country is full of great photo ops, and they’re all packed into a place a little bigger than New Jersey. You want authentic old Europe, great scenery, and interesting people, you come here.
Among the better stops was the old Olimje Monastery in the northeast part of the country. Friar Ernest Benko was giving a tour of the facility, including the monastery’s old pharmacy, built in 1663. It’s said to be the third oldest pharmacy in all of Europe, and a good shot of the Friar here would be the “money” shot for this stop.
But while the Friar would agree to be photographed, he wouldn’t pose and he wouldn’t stop the tour. To see how I worked around those restrictions to get the above shot, plus some other tries, hit the jump.Really speaking in these situations, you have only one option (if the available light won’t do it) and that’s on camera flash. Yes, Peggy was with me, but we were part of a group and my setting her up as an Automatic Human Lightstand, or VAL (Voice Actuated Lightstands), as Joe calls them, was just not an option.
Fortunately the little pharmacy had fairly neutral colors. My first option was bouncing off the ceiling, in slow synch mode. You see below that it’s not a bad option, it’s just a little clinical, and there’s no “wrap” of light on the Friar’s face:
I had a “safe” shot, but I didn’t like the overly lit feel, so I pointed the flash head off the left wall, and that’s when I got the shot at the head of the post. The difference in the “wrap” is subtle, especially since the Friar is turned slightly away from the camera, but it’s there. You can see it more in the vertical:
Now you’ve got a nice, soft, wrap light that emulates windowlight, my all-time favorite people-shooting light.
Later the Friar took us to the chapel and continued the tour. There was some killer window light, but it was mighty contrasty. Again, the little SB800, aimed against the same wall that contained the window the main light was coming from, cleaned up the shadows nicely, but retained the complete available light feel of the picture.
Of course, in these situations, it helps if you have a subject that is comfortable in front of the camera. The Friar is a delightful and funny guy (his marital counselling to the husbands on the tour would get him a headliner job at any comedy club in New York–and he works clean!), and he was totally at ease in front of the camera, even though he didn’t want to pose.
Quite frankly, after realizing what a natural he was, I was happy not to pose him at all. Obviously, the Friar takes his direction from a higher authority, and as I always say, the “Father Knows Best.”
Tech data; D90, 12-24mm, ISO 800, SB 800 bounced off walls in slow synch mode.