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Snapshots to Superb Shots
How to take the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary.

By Jon Cox

Itās easy to fall into snapshot mode, especially when youāre traveling. However, with a little effort you can turn your snapshots into superb shots. Photographing people on the go isnāt as difficult as you may think. On a recent trip to Vietnam I tried to do exactly what Edward Weston had stated. Taking time to get to know the people I was photographing paid off. At the end of the 18-day trip I didnāt have a thousand snapshots. Instead I ended up with just a handful of superb shots. Rather than focusing my effort into capturing everything in front of my lens, I watched and waited for the perfect moments. The language barrier can be the biggest obstacle when photographing abroad, but only if you let it. Iām always amazed how well people can communicate without speaking the same language. Whether Iām in the African bush, the mountains of Patagonia or the rainforests of Vietnam, the human spirit is alive. Like a picture, a smile is worth a thousand words and will open up lines of communication with your fellow man. If youāre in another country, learn at the very least how to say Hello, Xin Chao, Jambo, GrŸezi, Hola, etc. Donāt be afraid to approach people and ask them if itās okay to photograph them. Chances are good they donāt mind. Like with all photography projects, be courteous, take the time to get to know your subject, and the images will follow.

Motorcycle: A trip to Vietnam isnāt complete without a ride on the back of a motorcycle with one of Dalatās ćEasy riders.ä Mr. Hung guided me through mountain towns, farming villages and the gorgeous countryside. A Veteran of the ćAmerican War,ä Mr. Hung, learned English from an American soldier. As the day faded my memory cards were almost filled along with my belly of Vietnamese cuisine. My sides hurt from laughing! I understood why Mr. Hung chose to give tourists rides around his beautiful country. It was the open road ö and thatās the moment I made this image. A wide-angle lens allowed me to shoot while sitting on the back of the moving motorcycle.

Red Fan: At 5:00 am the streets in Ha Noi, Vietnam, are bustling with activity. The entire city population seems to be exercising around the various lakes and parks and using any paved surface for soccer, badminton and martial arts. Watching and photographing women dancing with fans on the lakeās edge was one of my favorite morning activities. Instead of trying to photograph the entire dance class I singled out just one person and waited for the fan to be backlit by the rising sun. Using a long zoom lens enabled me to sit on the edge and not interrupt the class.

Duy Viet: Charisma canāt be bought, sold, or learned; you either have it or you donāt. Duy Viet, a poet, painter and owner of the Stop and Go CafŽ in Dalat, Vietnam, is one of the most charismatic people Iāve met. I stepped into his cafŽ out of the pouring afternoon rain and felt immediately at home and curious to get to know this man. After admiring his bonsai tree that he trained to look like an elephant, I asked him if it was okay to photograph him. Without hesitation he picked up his old guitar and started jamming. After a few shots we walked over to the open door and I moved in close to capture the countless stories written in the lines in his face.



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