Monday, March 7, 2011

24/52 Fidel Aldana

Welcome to the post about the best photograph I will likely ever take.

The cliche suggests that photography is about being in the right place at the right time. If that holds true, the right place was Wendy's father's dairy farm in Chiquimula, Guatemala. The right time was at 5:30am on February the 5th. When we arrived, all of the cows had been milked and fed, and were in the process of being put out to pasture. All the work was done by this man, Fidel Aldana.

Fidel Aldana is a 45 year old farmer from Izabal, Guatemala. He's been farming full time since the age of 14. He's lived in Chiquimula, Wendy's home town, for the past nine years. Fidel is a man who wears his character and a life full of work on his sleeve. He and I don't speak the same language, so I didn't get to talk to him much. He seemed genuinely flattered that someone wanted to take his picture. How foolish I would have been to have not done so.

When I set up to take his portrait the sun had already risen, though it was still behind the mountains that can be seen in the center of the frame. The lighting was simple: one SB-600 in an umbrella high camera right with 1/2 CTO. The subject was anything but. I had him lean up against a tree to which a cow was tied. Animals can make shoots like this more complicated, but mercifully our bovine friend was complicit in the process. Fidel has so much character. His skin has been weathered by the elements and his clothes show are well worn from many days of hard manual labor. All told I took maybe 15 frames, and I would have been very happy with any single one of them.

I also got the chance to take some portraits of Wendy's father. I had him step in to the lighting setup in which I shot Fidel:

Wendy and I took a bunch of pics around the farm. I caught one more awesome snap of Fidel as he chopped up grass for the cows:

I wish I could say that I timed this picture perfectly, but to be honest I probably just got lucky. It's just about as textbook as you can get to show how a picture can convey motion. I also did a portrait setup of just Wendy's dad, which turned out really nice:

Throughout this whole process, I was barely awake. Very few neural pathways in my brain were firing, but whatever neural activity was going on served me well. I ended up with some pictures I'm extremely proud of, and quite possibly the best portrait I've ever taken.

Oh, and a final note on post processing: Wendy saw this photo and said something to the effect of "it's really great, just a little heavy on the unsharp mask." This photo has no unsharp mask, no adjusment to the fill light or exposure sliders and only negligable increase to the clarity, contrast, and saturation sliders. What you see is all in camera. The exposure came out perfect, and the d7000 is just that sharp.

Strobist Info:
SB-600 high camera right through white-over-silver umbrella with 1/2 CTO

Camera Settings:
1/80 f/4.5 at ISO 800
Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 @ 24mm

1 comment:

  1. barely awake indeed.