Abandoned Desert Village Photo Shoot - Photo Biker 10
After the wonderful sensory overload that is the Xposure International Photography Festival, I chose to stick around for a coupe of days, digest all the extraordinary images, inspiring conversations and explore a bit of Sharjah. When people think of the United Arab Emirates, they usually think Dubai or possibly Abu Dhabi and haven't heard of their smaller cousin Sharjah. Personally I love the place. It's less 'bling' than Dubai and from the city to the desert villages, people are so very warm and welcoming. I also love exploring a desert!
As I'm sure you know already, exploration is synonymous with 'Motorcycle'. To be honest I really wanted to get something around 500cc, relatively inexpensive and easier to handle if the roads got tricky. A bloody great Harley Davidson Super Glide was not on my top ten list, but due to a big international bicycle race through the UAE, the only bikes left were Harleys. In case you're wondering, film crews and marshals use motorcycles to leap frog the cyclists...
But hey, as I had a 1986 Harley FXRC Evo back in the day, it was kinda fun to ride a Harley again...
Now here's a thing about exploring new places and trying to shoot images of your journey. It can take time to find the best most photogenic places. Someone suggested I ride over the mountains towards the east coast, but via which route? Where on the east coast? The route I chose on Google Maps it was marked as 'avoiding motorways and tolls'.
I imagined winding little roads up and over mountain switch backs passing through small villages with goats running about. I didn't expect it to be quite such a highway. But who cares, the sun's shining so lets go see what we can see. It's always a learning experience.
Incidentally, next day I ditched the cameras and in the mickey taking company of three legendary Photo-Bikers, director of Xposure Simon Newton, motorcycle journalist and philanthropist Neale Bayley and photographer film maker Bjoern Lauen, just went riding for fun. And of course, found some spectacular scenery thanks to Bjoern's local knowledge.
Here's a little iPhone video Neale made. You can count on it - we'll be coming back here for a Photo-Biker shoot next year...
Enough about what we didn't get and onto what we did. Of course we all want the long shadow shot of camels walking majestically across sand dunes and if you do your research and show up at the right time of day, its completely do-able. Either that or you get lucky. That's not always possible especially when travelling so we have to make the most of what we have.
It begins with being aware of your surroundings. Seeing the small building in the first place is vital, then working backwards. How can it be used? How to lose the fence? This automatically leads to zooming in and moving back to narrow the field of view, then making the background just a bit soft with a wide aperture and watching and waiting for the right moments. Oh yes, and moving fast. You gotta keep pace with 'Camel Face'!
Remember, whatever the subject, composition's a dance with your camera. Move your body top the beat of what's happening around you and try new angles and ideas. Sometimes the things you think won't work - do!
Yes I know, there's extra pics here that weren't in the video. I'm good like that. All joking aside, off camera I took way more than these, finding out what did and didn't work. Dancing with the camera and trying stuff out.
My favourite images are in the abandoned desert village with the old mosque; ripply sand dune in front and bright pre-sunset sky behind. Our eye is usually drawn to the brightest part of the picture. This is a great aide to composition and so easy to implement. Move your body until it aligns with whatever you want folks to look at first. What's your picture about? If there's bright light to line up - use it.
Don't be a camera snob either. If you don't have a wide enough lens and the GoPro in your pocket does, use it. I mean really, can you tell the difference between the Fuji and Go-Pro images above? Maybe you can because there's a difference in side by side comparison. But if the Fuji one wasn't there?
Now let's be real, if you're shooting on assignment and image quality for end use of the image is important then a Go-Pro might not be appropriate. No super wide lens? Shoot a pano and stitch it together in post. When you know the camera, light, composition and the options open to you, there's always a way.
Being 100% confident in your settings and general camera controls and the fundamentals of using light and composition is the beginning of the journey into photography. Once you master them the next step is to think like a photographer so you can bridge the gap between the technical and creative aspects of photography.
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Best wishes until next time...