I know that the best way to push myself and get better as a photographer is to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. When I’m out there with my camera, good things happen. The more I shoot the luckier I get and new images are inevitably added to my portfolio.
Between assignments I commission myself to photograph people and places that inspire me. On a recent assignment to Dubai I gave myself an assignment to a place I had always wanted to photograph: India.
From Dubai it was an inexpensive three-hour flight to Jaipur, India. I would only have two days to shoot, but that’s fine. This was an introduction; a shooting appetizer in a place I know I will come back to. My mission was to take my time and enjoy wandering around with my camera letting serendipity be my guide, with no agenda: photography for the joy of it.
I find the “less is more” mantra serves me well in photography. Whether it’s simplicity in composition and framing to the gear I lug around. I have many cameras and lenses to choose from but I can only have one eye to one camera’s viewfinder at a time. I also know that the more my eye is pressed against the viewfinder window, the more great pictures I get—so I took just two cameras and two lenses: Nikon D4 with an 85mm and Nikon D800E with a 35mm lens.
I’ve long been an advocate of exploring your subject, eye to the viewfinder and moving around, closer, further back—a compositional dance of sorts. I tell new photographers to set their zoom lenses near the extremes and instead of turning the zoom ring, zoom with your feet and see how the subject changes in relationships to the other elements within the frame. This concentration on small details can mean the difference between a good and great image with a very slight adjustment in camera position making that essential difference.
I’ve seen many photographers weighted down with too much equipment, more burden then blessing. There is no one lens best for all situations, but one lens is best for many situations and the challenge of working within the limitations of your equipment can sharpen your skills and help you see new images.
I know from experience that for me to do my best work, I need to feel safe and comfortable in my new surroundings. I am new to India and even though Jaipur is arguably a quieter place than some of the bigger Indian cities like Bombay, Mumbai and Calcutta; it’s still pure color and chaos. Having someone with me to watch over me, someone I can communicate to what I’m looking for and who speaks the language when I encounter a problem, makes a huge difference.
I communicated to my guide Janu that I wanted to walk around and explore the Pink City as the light moved from late afternoon to dusk and into the night. Though his instincts were to take me to all the tourists highlights, I simply wanted to see the places where people lived and worked, to feel the vibe and learn about the place. So that’s what we did.