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How do you do it?

Published November 23rd, 2012

This is a short story about composition and storytelling and how I came to find mine from a recent trip to Lanzarote.

I was armed with my new Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji 35mm 1.4 lens, which I was using for the first time and I wanted to share some of my thought process and style and what led to me taking these images.

It's not meant to be an article on telling you how to do it, nor is it meant to show off brilliant composition, technique or post processing – but rather – hopefully it might offer some inspiration for you – or better still – you bouncing some ideas of your own back with me and sharing your own methods and ways.

You will see some progression of thought and what was going through my mind. Some of the images didn't quite work out and I've included some straight out of camera without any processing at all. The Fuji X-Pro1 delivers stunning JPGs straight out of camera, but I still need to master it and am frustrated by the lack of proper RAW support.

Anyway I think this journey sums up my style, you'll see as I stroll along that I start to warm up and get more in my element, and that often tends to be the case for me. I have a little period where I need to "get going" so to speak, as my mind starts to kick into gear and my eyes really start to see properly. Usually this results in a few pictures before everything starts to click and fall into place.


Poser on the beach

The first day we arrived we walked past the beach. I took a look around and took one of the first shots with my camera, spotting a man well into the distance with a striking pose.

It made me want to get down there and take more photos and see what other opportunities there were, so I went back the following day and this was the start of a short hour long walk along the sea front of where we stayed.


The start of my journey

An unedited look at my own feet as I embark on an hour long walk with my new camera in hand.


Beach front

The first thing I did was scan the beach from afar in both directions. I took this photo to show what it looks like and give you an idea of how many people were there

I decided to walk down to those rocks that lead out into the sea and start from there, working my way back across the sand and over to the other side of the beach.

Before doing that I also looked out towards the sea.


The first seeds of potential

I liked the lonely feel of this, despite there being a lot of people in view, but my position from up high made it difficult to eliminate people from the sandy beach in front.

The composition gets a little lopsided as a result and there are perhaps too many people and objects in view to achieve what I really had in mind, which was something a bit more lonely and surreal.

This is straight out of camera.


Cat rock

I sat on one of the rocks by the sea and scanned back across the beach and up where I was stood before.

But I also saw this cat on the rock, and the strays around the area were all friendly and unintimidated by human contact.

I thought I could get an interesting image out of this, and tried to get the cats attention while hoping the man would stay as he was. It didn't quite work out, mainly because of all the clutter behind and I did a poor job of the composition and technicals in my view.

Perhaps an opportunity missed – unedited again and straight out of camera.



I realised the photo wasn't really working so I "psst psst psst" and the cat came running towards me a little more quickly than I anticipated, so I had to take a picture quickly.

This is an instinctive reaction that was planned, but unplanned at the same time. You get what you get and because it's a bit clumsy I actually rather like it.


Beach front news

I made my way back up to the path and walked along the sea front from upon high. Then I saw this old couple relaxing and reading the news in front of me, and thought it might make a decent picture from behind.

I took three frames, this is actually only the second best of the lot in my opinion, but they were all quite similar.


A quiet moment

As I continued to walk I came across another middle aged couple who were sharing a quiet, but brief moment on the rocks.

I began to compose this in my mind as I approach and raised the camera to my eye to take the shot, but as I did, I noticed they were just about to turn around so I fired too soon and hence, didn't quite capture the lower part of their body in the way I intended.


Fisherman capture

As I snaked around a curve on the sea front, I leaned over a wall where I noticed and could hear something was going on.

I saw this fisherman, who didn't notice me and earlier I had seen other people fishing on the long snaking rocks out into the sea, and had an idea of capturing a shot of them at work.

I quickly took this to get an idea of exposure and then walked around to the right side in order to see if I could find a better composition, seeing as he was placed rather awkwardly and with his back to me.

Sometimes I take these unedited type of shots that mean nothing to prepare my mind for what's coming next.


The fisherman

I walked to the right and looked out in the rough direction of the fisherman, sometimes pointing my camera and pretending I was taking in the scenery in front of him.

But I was actually waiting patiently for him to swing his fishing rod and at that moment I swung my body around, composed and grabbed the shot and that's how I got this.

I like it, although I still envisioned it to be a bit more epic than what the final result was.


Scanning the beach

I popped back down onto the beach for my next part and scanned around, spotting a couple of potential opportunities that would lead to two very different pictures.

I took the next two photos side-by-side. On their own, they are quite different, and tell different stories. I'd like to think that there's a bit of a "we're all alone" feeling about them, yet how did the scene look when I was there? How did I spot these moments?

I saw a father and son sitting and interacting with each other and a family playing right by the shore. I decided from here that I needed to go back up and shoot from the wall behind them to get what I had in mind.


Father and son

I was up above on the wall and looked down and composed this. I like the way that by removing all of the clutter that it feels like a very private and quiet moment of interaction, almost as if nobody else is there and you're in their world for a brief moment.


Mother on the beach

The family I mentioned were still playing and originally I tried to get the mother in a shot on her own, to give that lonely feeling looking out by the sea. But the angle wasn't great and I didn't like the clutter in the background that made it lose that appeal.


Family on the beach

I waited a little bit and changed my angle more out to see and I immediately got what I wanted, but this time I decided to incorporate the entire family as it was not only easier for the composition, but also told a better story about this family.

I had to time and compose this right to avoid others getting into the frame and often that's the case with so many photos I take.


Climbing the ladder

It's not all about the beach and sea front though, one of the reasons I went down there and looked back up was if I could spot anything interesting and moved on and walked along I saw these two guys.

The one at the top looked at me rather confusingly when I took the shot, but he didn't complain.


Father and son again

I knew on the way back that I'd have an opportunity to see some of the same people I shot, but perhaps get a different take or angle on them and that was the case with the father and his son.

They were still in roughly the same position, but this time the boy hopped on his fathers back and I had a completely different shot and still composed it in a way that it looked like they were on their own.


Two portraits in one

Further up the beach there was a market, which had all sorts going on and lots of opportunities to find images, but this was the one I liked best and I really liked how she looked at me quizzically as I raised the camera to my eye – it gave the perfect connection.

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