Notes on Photography is a blog series all about images. Each month, Daniel Milnor will revisit an old photograph and share his notes on what works within each shot, what he would do differently, and why.
This was an image I made while teaching in Peru. The class was in the plaza in Cusco during Easter ceremonies. One of the things I always look for in my photographs is good spacing. Using a 35mm lens allows me to look for depth by attempting to combine solid foreground, mid-ground and background elements, which I believe I was able to do in this particular image. These two local women, who were not really part of the ceremonies, were moving from right to left through the middle of the event. I quickly changed my shutter speed to a 15th of a second, picked up the women through my viewfinder as they entered the frame from the right. I panned at the same speed the women were walking and exposed one frame of the moment.
I love the fact I panned at a 15th of a second and captured the women in focus, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. We call this low percentage photography, but often times the best images come in one or two frame moments.
I also like how I was able to build depth by using layers, which is really one of the most important ways to best utilize a wide-angle lens, which in this case was a 35mm f/2 Leica lens, on an M6 body, with TRI-X film.
The last small detail I like is the gesture happening between the two women on the left. One is reaching out for the other. These small moments add to the uniqueness of this 15th of a second in human history.
What could be better?
I shot at a 15th of a second but could have probably used a 30th and perhaps had slightly more sharpness.
I also don’t like the fact there is no detail in the sky. This is a tough thing to achieve, however. Film has a wonderful latitude, but that sky is at least four or five stops hotter than my subject matter. I chose an exposure that would best represent the area in critical focus and just let the sky blow out. It is for this reason that this image utilizes a black background.
What do you think makes a great photo? Share your thoughts below. You can also read Episode 1 of Notes on Photography here.
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