Author: David Halgrimson
While on an AHPW to Missions and Pueblos of Santa Fe and Taos, I had the great experience and idea of taking portraits of people on the street or at events we visited and attended.
For many, taking pictures of strangers, especially if you have to ask them, is a bit daunting, scary, nerve wracking, you name it and it is for me as well. You have to get in a mindset that when you see someone who has a great look you are going to do what you have to to get the shot. There are more than one way to get candid street shots, one is to be try the shot without the person knowing, a bit sneaky, and another is to walk right up and ask. The behind the scene shots can be a bit more candid but are more difficult as you can’t just stand in front of them and hold the camera to your eye. The directness of asking will give more control, at least a little, of the shot, yet it is not as candid. Whichever you choose get out of your comfort zone and do it, it can be very rewarding.
On this trip I choose both ways but mostly to walk up and ask. Most of the responses from the people were, “what for?”, “why”, “who are you?”, “where are you from?”, “what are you going to do with the pictures?”, “what do you want me to do?”. My answers were simply, “I like your look”, “your hat is great”, “you have great eyes”, “just because”, “my name is”, “I am with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops”, “I love taking pictures”, “great shots might go in competitions”, “just do what you were doing” etc. No one turned me down and we had some great conversations.
1) The first gentleman I met at Pueblo of Acoma and he agreed without question. The sun was behind him and I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75mm.
2) The second gentleman was walking along the street in Madrid NM, he was a bit shocked but agreed. The hat the beard the rough face all worked great. Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75MM.
3) Next up was this girl, she was looking in some shops in a small part of town and when I first spotted her I thought, “there’s a great look wonder if she would let me take her picture” then chickened out. Saw her again later and kicked myself in the posterior and asked. Once again a shock, “why?”, “great eyes and the hat.
4) This woman was selling hats in Santa Fe and the person I was with was buying. When I asked she was surprised and not so sure but agreed. I had to shoot fast as I knew she would not pose long. Canon 5D Mark II 24-105 lens at 105mm.
5) Next up, we were at the Taos Pow Wow and I saw her a couple times and finally decided to ask, again, “why?”, who are you with?”. I loved the light spots coming though the hat onto her face and the great eyes.
6&7) The next two were a little tougher, they were standing together I decided to shoot them from afar, that was almost a big mistake. For my first attempt I used my Canon 7D with a 70-200 lens so I could shoot far across a field, whoops, got caught. One of them put feathers up in front of his face then lowered them and motioned to me with a stern looking finger, no not that one, to approach him. So I did, he asked who I was what I was doing and what was I going to do with his pictures. I told him who I was, who I was with and that I wanted the pictures for personal use. He then asked if I was going to sell the pictures and that he was looking for a photographer from a previous time who was selling pictures of him and he was not happy. I assured him I was not going to sell his pictures and after some more discussion he and his partner agreed to let me take their pictures. It was a bit intimidating but all worked out and I later found out he was the Warrior Chief.
8) This lovely lady was watching the Pow Wow dancers and I first took a shoot from her side but decided I wanted a more frontal shot, so once again decided it would be better to ask. Same reactions along with “what do you want me to do?” and I said just do what you are doing and ignore me. After taking the shot I talked to her and gave her my business card and told her to email me if she would like a copy of the image. Never heard from her but love the shot. Canon 7D with 70-200 lens at 200mm.
9) This shot was taken at the Taos Pueblo in one of the Indian homes where they were selling art crafts created by the local Indians. I was buying a turquoise ring and this gentleman was giving me a critique of the ring. We had a long discussion, too long for this article, and then I asked if I could take his picture. The lighting was the best of all as it was coming in from a doorway camera left but it kept changing because clouds were passing by. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 73mm.
10) Finally this interesting guy, he owned an old defunct gas station on highway 68 along the Rio Grande river between Taos and Santa Fe. The place was great, full of old gas station memorabilia inside and out and he was supper interesting. I wanted to catch him in his environment so we shot outside with a background full of his stuff. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 24mm.
David Halgrimson is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.