Photography Travelogues – Papua New Guinea 1/3
December 19, 2011 6 Comments
Young Tufi Warrior, Papua New Guinea
While we might smile at a youngster in warrior garb, a few minutes earlier his spear-wielding father appeared a lot more serious as he marched intently towards us, screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs! And as much as I’d like to tell you how we travelled for eight days along an inhospitable Papua New Guinean coast, in sweltering heat and dripping humidity, and then paddled the last two kilometres up a narrow, twisting creek under a dark jungle canopy in a local dugout, I wouldn’t be telling you the full story.
And perhaps I shouldn’t.
This image was made on a second trip to a private location where the Tufi clan hunts and harvests. In the dugout I carried my camera equipment in a backpack, a tripod in my left hand and a small Elinchrom Ranger Quadra lighting kit in the right. In front of and behind me, two of the Tufi clan were paddling quietly and purposely, the low wooden craft cutting through the shallow waters at a surprising speed.
I had asked permission to take the young Tufi warrior’s portrait on the previous trip and had already sketched out where I wanted to shoot. There was around 15 minutes to set up the lights, reassure my subject and take the photograph. Fortunately, for many of the local men and women watching me, attaching a soft box to a long support pole made me just as much a novelty to them as they were to me.
My choice of camera was perhaps unusual for a portrait: a 23mm Rodenstock Digaron on an Alpa TC with a Phase One P65+ behind. However, to me it made sense as the location was just as important as the subject, and if I left the subject in the middle of the frame, there would be very little distortion to worry about.
The exposure was 1/125 second at f8, ISO 50. I took a number of shots, many allowing the young warrior to rush at me and hurl his spear, but this is the photo I had in mind. The other exposures simply allowed me to interact with my subject so I could get what I wanted.
The straight exposure has detail in the background and the controlled light of the softbox can be clearly seen on the subject. However, the intention was always to have a very dark, moody background. Some of the fine detail may be lost on the internet, but it is certainly there in the print.
To achieve this using Capture One, I darkened down the base exposure. While this isn’t a good starting point for an exposure, when working on a raw file in Capture One it works very well and it allowed me to set exactly the amount of detail required for the background.
The next step was to lighten up the young boy. As with a lot of ‘dodging and burning-in’, you don’t have to be pixel accurate with what you’re adjusting. The masks that I paint using the Local Adjustment brush use a soft edge (usually with a hardness setting of zero) and are approximate. You also need to add in a little ‘spill’ effect to make it look natural. For instance, if the young warrior really were being illuminated by a break in the jungle canopy above, the rays of light would also lighten up the water surrounding him. For this reason, my mask (shown in red on the screen grab) spills onto the water as well.
Further layers were added to increase the exposure on the warrior’s head, to add more detail into the rocks below the water, to desaturate the background and finally to tone down highlights on the warrior’s chest, so this area didn’t compete with his head.
Oh, and the real story? I was travelling on a luxury expedition ship, Orion, and so at the end of each day, I could return to my air-conditioned stateroom and enjoy a drink at the bar each night. And while the warriors were simply re-enacting how they used to live, it did take me eight days to get there.
Peter Eastway is a professional photographer and photography magazine publisher based in Sydney, Australia. To see more of his photography, visit www.petereastway.com. Peter also offers an online Landscape Photography MasterClass. Details can be found at www.betterphotography.com.