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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reactive Or Proactive?


The new travel photography paradigm

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Making a special travel photograph takes forethought and planning. The first image (left) is an okay snapshot; the second image (right) is one that Bob Krist preplanned and captures the essence of the Buenos Aires tango.
Take the photos that accompany this column. Both are takes on tango dancing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an overall assignment I shot recently on the Argentine capital for National Geographic Traveler. Tango is the defining cultural element of the city, and you see it danced everywhere—on street corners and in dance halls, bars and restaurants.

The first shot is of an older couple, Pochi and Osvaldo, who dance tango for dollars at the famous Sunday antique market in San Telmo and have done so for decades. They’re pros—very photogenic and fun to watch and shoot. All you have to do is get yourself into a good spot for one of their four-times-an-hour performances, pray for soft light, fire away and hopefully drop a generous tip when they pass the hat.

They always make a great shot, and if I had a nickel for every Buenos Aires portfolio and Flickr gallery they appear in, I could retire in style to that swanky houseboat in Sausalito I’ve been dreaming about for decades!

The second shot took a little more work in the making, a little more proactivity. I found another attractive couple of professionals, dancing in a square in the same neighborhood, scoped out a cool courtyard that was open to the public and asked them to join me there at twilight. We negotiated a rate for their time, and working with my friend Bernardo as an automatic human light stand, I tried my hand at a slightly different, more illustrative take on the drama of the tango.

I underexposed the available twilight by about two stops and set my white balance to Tungsten. The combination resulted in a nice overall wash of mysterious blue. Then as my dancers went through their paces, I had Bernardo, holding a Nikon Speedlight mounted on a long light stand and wrapped with a snoot made from some hastily taped together newspaper to restrict the light spread, walk up the stairs on the side of the courtyard and aim the light from above and slightly behind them. I set off and controlled the Speedlight wirelessly with a wireless remote flash trigger in my Nikon D90’s hot-shoe.

The resulting image, with its dramatic shadows and moody, iconic feel, has done much better in sales from my stock agency than the more usual shot. This is largely because you can see the more usual shot anywhere. Hopefully, Flickr isn’t plastered with different versions of my illustration yet!

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