What makes a good photo? Clearly, composition, light, subject. But also the courage to go beyond your possibilities. Understand what you are photographing. Today I will talk about the fact that sometimes it's necessary to climb into the water, lie down in the mud or climb on the barrel.
When I arranged a photo shoot with a shepherd, Jirka Krpeš from Valaška, I had no idea what I would experience that day. And it started right away for an ordinary car on an impassable road to the farm. When I was sitting in my Golf before entering the woods, I thought it wasn't the right place. It was, I risked it and finally reached Valaška.
It was a day of sheep shearing for Jirka, and a bit for me as well. Usually I try to take pictures early in the morning and then before sunset, so I would just watch and do nothing the rest of the day. I thought I would help Jirka and help feed the sheep. In addition to destroying my shoes, pants and strengthening my fingers so that I didn't feel them for a week, I also learned how to do it. Not only from storytelling and sight. But firsthand, I knew, I felt how much strength the shepherd needed to develop, what all he had to do.
And if you know what you're doing, you'll get a better photo.
Not all environments are full of fluffy sheep. There are places where cement, sawdust flies, or you can drown. Sure, I can take pictures of fishermen from the shore, take a really long lens and it's done. I won't get wet. I'm not gonna drown technology I've been making money for a long time, right? But then you won't understand how to move your ankles in the mud, how that mud stop you, and you have to weigh every step. You will not know the "touch of the carp" as it curls around your legs, what strength and concentration it means to catch it.
Thus, in the water, you are in the middle of hunting, you are there with those people and they know that you experience the humidity and cold with them. They don't take you as a reporter with sneakers who smokes and clicks on the shore and gives you space to capture those real emotions. Well, at least I hope so.
Okay, if I forget how they say at BMW about the "feel of driving", there are other reasons why you should go for a photo. And these are different, more interesting angles than from the forest path. Sometimes it is much more interesting to look at the winemakers from the barrel, other times at the fishermen from the water surface, or at the shepard from the tree. These are all places where you have to get dirty. But all of these places give you a different, new perspective and differentiate your shots to put the story together. Because only thanks to different angles can you say something.
Sure, what if I'm photographing a wedding or am I a reporter? It doesn't matter. I shoot documents and I can't always build shots in advance. I always have a storyboard and there are shots for which I go at any cost. And that sometimes involves a little dirt. Occasionally wet in the shoes and hurt knees.
Technology is mainly a tool for me. It has to serve me and not the other way. And I usually bring it to a place that is on the edge of it's options. For one client, we captured the revitalization and closure of an oil wells after the communist regime. I was prepared for hard work, but not for the ubiquitous cement that flies in the air. And what happens when it starts to rain heavily and it's 5 degrees outside? That's a different ride. The cement will start to harden on the cameras and if you don't clean it right away, you'll never get it out of the camera again.
But there is no time for excuses, it is necessary to come for the shots. Elsewhere, you're covered in sawdust, that's a clean dirt. Until you need to replace the lens. Thanks to dust resistant, closed bodies. I use Nikon cameras and they have never let me down. Whether it's -20° C outside or cement is flying and you're lying near to a 2000 meter deep oil well.
Appropriate clothing that you are able to sacrifice is a must have of course. But what is necessary is good physical fitness, flexibility and quick rehabilitation. Imagine you are in the middle of a row of vineyards and you need to take a shot from the other side. Will you go 100 meters back and forth to get a better shot? Or will you submit a wire 40 inches above the ground? Or when you walk in the cold with a deer hunter from 5 in the morning, you have a full backpack on your back and you are hunting deer. And last but not least, you wade through the mud and try to keep your balance while trying not to drown the technology for hundreds of thousands.
In short, you need to keep fit so that you have shots that no one else has.
Mostly good shots, right? But no, mainly take your happiness and health back home with you. You only have one. The feeling of being frozen to the bone, tired but happy all day is priceless. Thanks for the heated seats and the heated steering wheel. For a better photo, it is mainly necessary to step out of your comfort zone. Clothes and technology are just things you can replace them.
Sometimes just sitting down with your subject makes a huge difference. Try it, you won't regret it.
Once a month you will explore original stories, look behind the scenes and probably learn something new.
© 2023 Marek Dvorak / Photography