This, the first series of images in a new section on our blog, involves Kazakh eagle hunters in western Mongolia.
These are a very strong people that have a strong sense of culture. One of those cultural icons is hunting with eagles. I wanted to get a shot that really conveys the sense of spacious land in Mongolia, the power of the eagle, and the traditional dress that seems to be seen less and less in the historical cultures of the world today. This first photo basically establishes where we are – two eagle hunters, a horse, and the eagle traversing an open slope on the border of western Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
In this second photo you actually see how close I am to my subjects. I am using my Canon 1Ds Mark III camera with a 16-35 wide angle zoom lens, which allows me to include a strong foreground subject (the hunters) as well as the dramatic sky in the distance. Also note that the light looks a bit flat in this shot, but from the viewpoint from which I am taking the photo things look completely different.
In my third image, which is at a right angle to the direction of the sun, I have attached a polarizer to my wide angle. You can see how much more dramatic the light appears. This image also highlights the problems of working with dramatic light – very harsh shadows were cast every time the eagle moved its wings.
The wing of the eagle is now down, but the man that’s controlling the eagle is casting a shadow on his assistant.
I decided to get lower and shoot upwards to bring in some of the openness of the sky in hopes of creating more of a story than in the previous shots.
The result is that I don’t have nearly the problems of the previous images with the shadows. This is a very satisfying image to me, but in an effort to see what else is achievable, I begin working the scene a bit more.
I’m standing at eye level again with the hunters, but the problem with this shot is that the man closet to me is staring straight at me. I try to maintain a little anonymity when I am taking pictures, and would prefer that the subject is not staring straight into my camera.
I ask him to look straight ahead, but now with movement of doing so, the eagle is staring straight at me. This isn’t necessarily a bad composition, but I would prefer the eagle in a different position.
I move a little bit further around and discover I love the way the light is falling across the main eagle hunter and his beautiful fox fur hat. However, as you can see, I have moved in too close to get all three in the frame.
I decide to back off a little bit, and now I am getting what I am looking for. I love the fact that the man in the middle is kind of looking my way, the assistant is looking off to his left, and the eagle is conversely looking off in the opposite direction. There is a nice balance to this image, with no shadows on their faces. In addition, the eagle has nice light on his eye. This to me is a winner.
I also like this last photo because it has a nice sense to it; the eagle is looking further opposite now, and is even more absorbed in what is going on in the landscape, rather than in what the photographer is busy trying to achieve. Both of these final two images are very strong photos for me, and I am very happy with the results:
good balance of compositon, dramatic light, openness of the land, traditional wardrobes – it all comes together in a very nice way in these last two images.
As promised here is the second installment of my iPhone images from Bangkok. I want to thank all of you who commented yesterday and also respond to many of you that were discussing the fact that it is not the camera, but the person operating the camera. I firmly believe that you as the photographer have the ability to create anything that you can visualize in your mind. Those who are taking my upcoming Creative Session Course will learn that the equipment is secondary and becomes only the means by which you put your vision in a form that others can appreciate. On Thursday, I am going to bring you a new how-to section entitled “Working Towards the Decisive Moment” in which I discuss how I achieved the final and strongest images in a series of shots. And then next Tuesday, we will be posting a video that highlights a completely new body of work from me.
I walked through downtown Bangkok, with only my iPhone, and these are some of the images that I was able to capture. I am really excited about the creative possibilities of utilizing this new technology in my image making process. Stay tuned for more images tomorrow.
I am very pleased to have not one, but two Canon ads in prestigious publications this month. The “Story Behind the Shot” appears in this month’s Photo District News and “Wildlife as Canon Sees It” is in National Geographic.
Thank you to all the people that made this happen!
This past weekend I was in San Francisco visiting my friend Ian Mackenzie. Ian is a brilliant anthropologist and his life’s work has been working with and writing the only dictionary for the Penan of Indonesia. The Penan is an indigenous Bornean rainforest tribe whose way of life is being forever changed by rampant resource extraction.
In 1995 he published Nomads of the Dawn with Wade Davis and Shane Kennedy. To this day it remains a powerful, tragic testimony to a disappearing way of life.