A Portrait I was not looking for...

A Portrait I was not looking for...

Portrait of worried woman portrait, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Published on 2016/02/03 - Text and Pictures by Alberto MateoTravel Photographer for The Last Footprint. [624 Words]

This portrait is something I was not looking for and I have to admit I felt very strange after I just had taken it. When this woman went away from my position and left me with the camera in my hands I spent many seconds with the camera in my hands, wondering what problems might this woman have in mind, what was she thinking of when I pressed the shutter.

Some years ago I spent some months living in Bhaktapur, a small town located some kilometers away from Kathmandu. I had got used to wake up every morning just before sunrise to go shooting to the beautiful cobblestoned old streets of Bhaktapur.

I remember I was next to a big pond located at East extreme of the town where buffaloes were taken daily to drink. It was an open space, buildings around were not high and were not present next to the pond, so dark shadows were not still casted by the hard sun that lights Kathmandu Valley at noon . In addition, the sun had just risen and lit the scene from a very low angle, producing a very appealing soft yellowish light that can be seen in the tanned face of this woman.

... she lifted her face looking at me and saw the expression you can see on the picture, she was frowning, she looked really sad.

I saw her coming in the distance dressed in the traditional red share, the colorful traditional dress nearly all women wear in India and Nepal. For any reason I ignore most men have lost the traditional way of dressing, but women continue using traditional clothes, which is great for photographs. She was walking lost in thought, looking to the ground, so I didn’t notice her expression in the distance. When she passed next to me I asked permit to take a picture; she lifted her face looking at me and saw the expression you can see on the picture, she was frowning, she looked really sad. However she nodded without saying a word. Still surprised had time to take one picture, only one,  and without saying a word, she went away walking at a fast pace. Those were the times of film when shot film had to be developed when we were back at home some weeks or months later. Most actual digital camera users haven’t experienced the sensation of not looking to the screen on the back of the camera to see the last picture they’ve taken, and most of us who lived the ending of that era, have forgotten it. [pullquote]It would also have been out of place to ask anything… being one way or another, she gave me one of my favorite street photographs ever.[/pullquote] [dropcap]The[/dropcap] expression that was registered on that piece of film has always dramatically disturbed me. As you can see in the picture, she was really worried. I’m afraid this woman did not speak English; she simply heard the word “photo” or “picture” and saw a foreigner with a big camera (that huge Nikon F4 and a 105mm Micro I believe) and understood my proposal. It would also have been out of place to ask anything… being one way or another, she gave me one of my favorite street photographs ever.

I have recently read that “Street Photography” has always to be VERY related with human condition, and I agree. I believe this is one of the most soulful and poignant pictures I’ve ever taken. I will never know the reasons why this woman was disturbed and why did she accept my picture request, but I only can be extremely thankful even when I know I will never see her again in all my life. What about you?


Have you had a similar experience with a person who has given you a once-in-a-lifetime picture? Do you usually shoot portraits to strangers when you travel? Or are you afraid to ask permit to take a photograph? Have you ever missed a person that you know would add meaning to the picture you were going to shoot?

 Map Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.[/caption]

SHUTTER SPEED 1/125 Light intensity was relatively low at the end of the day, so measured with the camera at Matrix Mode. Used f11 to have enough depth of field and took some exposures to stitch them together.
APERTURE f4 I closed my lens to have some depth of field.
ISO Fuji Velvia 50 Did not want to get a noisy picture, so kept the ISO as low as possible. 200 was enough for this situation.
MODE A When a tripod is used, no mode is needed. Manual is always the most comfortable option.
LENS USED Nikon 105 mm Micro I wanted to be in the scene, so opened up my Nikon 12-24mm wide angle and tried to locate the camera as near as possible to the scene.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS - I wanted to take a panorama of this impressive scene with so nice lighting, so used my small Gitzo 01 tripod, light enough to allow me to work in to the mountains. I shot some panoramas. If you are going to shoot panoramas you must level the head of the tripod, which is very difficult if yours do not have a bubble. This was the hardest part of shooting this picture.

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