I know it’s a bad thing to boast but I have to say it, I’m proud of this shot, in fact it’s one of my favorite photograph I’ve made so far. That being said, I’ll explain how it finally happened. Imagine yourself, in the old town of Fez, Morocco, in the medina, many back alleys, vendors everywhere, night is falling, you really are in that Aladdin movie. Sun setting means it’s getting dark. You must always be ready for a shot depending on the conditions, set the camera before something happens, if not, too late.
So I was ready at ISO 2000, f/2.8, in Aperture mode as always, I knew I could have at least 1/200, which is more than fine with a 24-70 lens, even to capture some not so fast action. I spotted a rather good looking back alley but without any subject or anything happening, it would not have been very exciting.
As some children were coming towards me, I waited, just in case. I take this opportunity to thank my friends who were there waiting for me but honestly, that’s another bit of advice; do not ever travel with photographers, you get nice profile pictures but we are slow and take too much time everywhere, we eat at strange hours and so on. We are not good travel buddies, you are being warned.
Sometimes, when I’m not at ease or tired of getting yelled at, I use a little trick to take pictures of people without them noticing me. I start taking pictures of the empty scene so as to get my settings and framing ready when they arrive in the frame. It looks as if they are disturbing me taking pictures of an empty alley when in fact I was just waiting for them. I know I know the best way is to ask and act openly but sometimes you lose that precious magic moment and this natural expression or action.
So there I was, taking picture of the empty street and when the two kids arrive, I start snapping some images. Do not only press the shutter at 8fps and think, well if I get 30 shots in 4 seconds I’m bound to be lucky and get at least a good one. You can take a couple of pictures before and after but you have to wait until the intensity peaks and shoot at the perfect instant. In this case, it was when the little child was about to kick the ball in mid-air, both arms extended. Note that the foot about to kick the ball is blurry because of its movement. This comes from the not-so-fast shutter speed of 1/200s but it is more than welcome as it emphasizes the movement taking place, it adds dynamism to the image but keeps the rest of the image nice and sharp because there is less movement in the other areas.
Regarding the framing, note that its little brother in the background (or friend, seriously, I have no idea, I was taking pictures and did not have time to ask) fits exactly under the arm of the boy in the foreground. The street by itself starts at both lower corners, grabbing the eye as it goes towards the horizon in the middle part of the picture, adding dynamism by forcing the eye to move when looking at it.
There are two zones of extreme tones; one black (the window) and one white (the sky). This goes in the same direction as the whole picture showing a high level of contrast through each zone and even by the shirt of the first kid. A high contrast adds dynamism and intensity to a picture which suits perfectly this moment. Here, it would have been very difficult to have a proper exposure on the sky as it was much lighter than the whole scene in the dark alley. It does not bother me as this image is mostly print on Brushed Dibond Aluminium and the pure white exposes the pure metal. On the contrary, the complete black window adds a lot of texture as it needs a lot of ink to produce, adding a nice balance to the printed image.
Want to know the funny part? This whole image is a lie! The kid did not even manage to kick the ball, he missed it and it just rolled on the side, but hey, don’t tell anyone!
You liked the story? You like the picture? Good news is that you can buy it as a print online! Not only does it provide you with amazing art to display in your house but it is also the best way to help me continue and improve my work, cheers!
Important things to remember if you do not want to read the whole story even though you should
- Never stop looking around with your photo eyes, not just normal eyes
- Try to think about what image you would like and think about how to get it
- Plan the scene in advance, how events will unfold and be ready for that moment
- Be respectful of local people but at the end, do everything to get the image
- Watch for your pockets in Morocco
- Taking a couple of burst shots is ok, but make sure you click at the decisive moment, the climax of action
- When it’s dark, use a high ISO. Better to have noisy picture than uselessly blurry
- Use a large aperture to have enough light
- Quick shutter speed to freeze the action
- You need fast autofocus from the lenses and the camera, especially for action shots in the dark
- Frame with many characters in mind, here, the little guy is not hidden behind the player