Snapshots to Superb Shots
How to take the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary.
By Jon Cox
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, Grezi, 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.
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.
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.
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 Caf in Dalat, Vietnam, is one of the most charismatic
people Iāve met. I stepped into his caf 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.