Photography Travelogues – Mournful Gentleman in Sanliurfa
July 5, 2012 8 Comments
Sanliurfa, Eastern Turkey
Sanliurfa, also called Edessa in the Bible, lies in south eastern Turkey and today is a mix of religions and politics. I have now made two trips there and on both occasions, I frequented a small outdoor cafe secreted away in the middle of a labyrinth of alleys and market stalls.
On this occasion, I returned with photographs taken from the first trip. It was a buzz to hand out prints to the people I had photographed a couple of years earlier, but I am sure they had completely forgotten me. It was also a great introduction for more portraiture.
I was travelling with a group of ten photographers, and our subjects, the men (there were no women playing dominoes or cards that I could see) were surprisingly accommodating for our cameras.
Of course, not everyone was keen to have his photograph taken, but I noticed that when they said no to me, they often changed their mind when the women photographers in our group approached them.
This photograph was taken after several of our group had already been given permission. I was really pleased because this gentleman’ s face had earlier caught my attention and I was disappointed after my first pass of his table had been fruitless!
I don’t think the man’s expression changed the entire time we were there. The photographs taken by the other photographers look exactly the same.
When I asked if I could take a photograph, he just nodded his head slightly. There was no rapport with me and I didn’t know if he was extremely shy or very sad.
Mindful that he had already been posing for some time, I hurriedly took four or five shots.
My capture technique was designed to focus carefully on my subject’s wonderful eyes and throw the background out of focus as much as possible.
On the Phase One 645 DF medium format camera, I used an 80mm Schneider lens set at f2.8. Larger format cameras have shallower depth-of-field than DSLRs, so an 80mm f2.8 lens is very similar to a 50mm f1.4 lens for a DSLR camera.
And a 50mm f1.4 lens is probably the least expensive accessory lens you can buy for a DSLR, yet it is absolutely wonderful for portraiture.
Light levels were low, so I rated the P65+ back at ISO 800, allowing me to hand hold the camera and keep the shutter speeds fast enough to avoid camera shake and subject blur.
Of all the photos I took in Turkey, this portrait haunted me and was one of the first I worked on upon my return home. I think it shows that when it comes to great portraits, all the camera techniques and post-production tricks in the world don’t help unless you capture a great expression.
The photo was taken in Phase One’s Sensor Plus mode, so the 60-megapixel sensor delivers the equivalent of a 15-megapixel file in return for a faster ISO setting. And as you can see, there is absolutely no problem with the file !
In processing the image, I have darkened down the background and lightened up the gentleman’s face. This is one of the aspects of photography I really love, being able to re-light a scene after the event. For a professional shoot, you’d light it, but when you’re on the road shooting from the hip, sometimes the light isn’t perfect.
But the subject is.