The Composition of a Seemingly Natural and Organic Photo
19.11.2007 - 19.11.2007 25 °C
A man is walking down a beach in the sun, his sandals in his hands so he can dip his toes in the warm surf of the Caribbean Ocean. He looks out towards the water, letting the light breeze kiss his face. He is oblivious to the photographer up ahead, and can’t hear the snap of the camera as his image is captured on the digital memory card. Posted on the internet, web surfers come across the candid photo of a man on a beach.
Not all, however, is as it seems. Let us return to November 19th, 2007, and examine the events leading up to the photo.
I am walking along the beach beside the road that leads to Pigeon Point. The beach is a thin strip of sand running beside a paved road, and I haven’t seen another human since passing a few booths selling trinkets about 5 minutes ago. I am wandering along, sandals in my hands and bag (containing my camera) slung over my shoulder, letting the waves run up and over my bare feet.
“God, this is beautiful,” I think to myself, and my gaze glances up from my toes in the wet sand to the sandals in my hands, swinging lazily as I meander along. “Wow, this would make a really cool picture – a guy on the beach with his sandals in his hands.” So I decide to get that picture. However, because I am alone and there aren’t any other tourists around to impose upon to snap a photo, I will have to take the photo using the timer on my camera.
I look behind me, and off in the distance I can see a few boats moored near the shore, and a sliver of the rock breakwater built by the Coco Reef resort. “Hmm,” I think, “I don’t want all those signs of civilization behind me.”
I look ahead of me, and see nothing out in the water except a few white caps as waves crash over shallow sand bars. “Much better if I take the photo when I am walking in the other direction.” So I make a mental note to snap the photo on my return from Pigeon Point.
A few hours later, after lounging around at the beach and the bar at Pigeon Point, I am heading back the same way I came, along the thin sand strip of beach along the Pigeon Point road.
“Now, where should I take that photo?” I mentally check off what I need. A nice background, something with a couple palm trees would be nice, and no signs of human constructions (or, god forbid, other humans). Some place where the beach isn’t too covered with flotsam and jetsam. Some place where I can find a flat surface to put my camera on for the photo as well.
I round a nice looking palm tree jutting out over the water, and see a fence post which has been flattened, but which is still anchored in the ground. The fence post, parallel but a few feet off the ground will make a perfect spot to set up my camera. I wander over, get out my Joby Gorillapod tripod and set up my camera, taking time to ensure that the picture is nice and level. I snap a few test shots, making sure that the lighting is decent.
Once I am sure that the setting looks good, I set the timer. I remove the sunglasses and hat that have been offering my pasty white skin sun protection for the last few hours, and leave them with my bag and my 2 litre bottle of water on the end of the fallen fence post. I hit the button to start the timer, and sprint to get into position.
After running what I think is a decent distance, I turn around, and slowly walk forward, ensuring that my sandals are hanging lazily from my fingertips. After counting in my head to 10, I walk back to the camera and check the picture.
“Nope, no good,” I say. I’m looking straight ahead in the photo, not longingly out to sea as originally envisioned. I reset the camera position, set the timer again, and press the button. Again I sprint into position, and take up my slow amble.
After a few seconds, I go to check that picture. “Nope, no good.” This time, my right hand is up near by face. I take a swig of my water, and recompose the shot in my head. “Okay, Wesson, this time you’ll nail it. Hands at your side, look out to sea, walk with big exaggerated steps so that your foot is posed nicely in the air. Let’s get it done!”
Pep talk complete, I reset the timer and sprint into position again. Returning to the camera, I see I have nailed the shot. “Third time is the charm,” I say, admiring my work. The shot looks pretty natural, like it was captured in a complete and total spontaneous moment.
My spur-of-the-moment photo took a good 10 minutes to structure, plan and execute, but it sure looks good.
At least I didn’t photo shop it, though looking at it, I could probably use a little photographic tummy tuck. If I give the guy in the photo better abs, maybe I could sell the photo to a resort for marketing purposes. Though he’d probably need a little more hair as well to be a real beach body walking along the beach…
An actual candid photo. The tree didn’t pose or anything for this shot.