Category Archives: Brenda Tharp’s Photo Blog

Photographing People when Traveling

I love photographing people when traveling. When I visit a country for its culture, I love wandering around on the streets, capturing the daily interactions of people, the day-to-day activities. It’s the people that can make the place feel alive, when you are in the cities, towns, village. On this day in Cuba I was wandering around a farmers’ market, and came upon what had to be the country’s largest squash for sale. It was the biggest I had even seen there. He was so proud to show it off, too! I noted that he had already cut it in half – no doubt because even the largest of families in Cuba would not be able to prepare or eat a whole one at one time. He assured me it was organically farmed, and I believe him – because pesticides and fertilizers are expensive and hard to come by unless you are farming for the government. Good thing, in this case. 

My Spanish didn’t account for agricultural terms, but I did know the word calabasa meant squash, and I managed to have enough conversation that he was relaxed and happy to be photographed. Travel photography is about capturing a sense of place, both in the landscape and the people that live in that place. Not everyone likes to include people in their landscapes, and I agree – the natural landscape can stand on its own for its stunning beauty. But a place that is inhabited with so many people just feels empty if you capture the street without anyone there – unless you are trying to express the emptiness, a feeling of loneliness, etc. Yet for me, Cuba represents a vibrant culture, and it’s a great place for street and cultural photography. The people living there are so friendly, and genuine, and often visually unique, with their complex ethnic backgrounds. (African, Russian, and Chinese mixed in with the traditional Cuban genes). Cuba is about the people as much as it’s about the decaying buildings, cars, even though I love to photograph those, too! This just makes the place even more visually rich! I know that not everyone feels comfortable photographing people, even if interested, so I teach this on my cultural photography tours, helping people to become comfortable interacting with locals, making portraits, and working the ‘street scene’.

I’ll be returning to eastern Cuba, the oriente as it’s often referred to, in December 2018, co-leading a cultural, people-to-people photo tour that combines an experience of the eastern part of the island with the  streets and environment around Havana. We’ll explore the diverse landscape and cities/towns and interact with and photograph the people of both sides of this intriguing island. The tour is co-lead with pro photographer Jed Manwaring, who has a great eye for the street and the unexpected photograph. We hope you’ll join us for some tropical fun and adventure next December!  See details and more photos here and then go to Strabo Tours’ page to sign up. 

 

 

Brenda Tharp is an award-winning photographer, photo tour leader, workshop instructor, inspirational speaker, fine art photographer, and writer. California photographer, landscape photographer, nature photographer, travel photographer, people photographer, worldwide photographer, western, usa, cuba, morocco, ireland, italy, namibia, myanmar, spain, bhutan, alaska, photo workshops, photo seminars, photo tours, photography workshops, photography tours, keynote speaker, author, photography books, photo books, inspirational.

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A Journey of Giraffes in Namibia


Giraffes visit a waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Giraffes seen on our Namibia Photo Tour.

In colloquial terms, a herd of giraffes is called a journey of giraffes – and it’s appropriate, since they travel over vast areas on a journey to find food in the savannas and bush of Africa. On our photo tours in Etosha National Park, Namibia, I had only ever seen a few giraffe together at once at the water hole or on the grasslands. Yet this past summer, giraffe numbers were high – and we saw many grazing and visiting the waterholes. So when we were driving towards Chudob waterhole in eastern Etosha, we were very excited to see a bunch of heads and necks from a distance away. We started photographing, but that’s when the challenge began – how to compose such a group! I talked to the group in my vehicle about watching all of them, in terms of their positions, to watch for overlapping bodies, heads, etc., and do the best you could at trying to make a photo when it looked pretty ‘clean’ and organized.  

We talked about the ‘moment’, too, and it seemed that when all three went down to drink that it was as good a time as any to get some photos. But many of my images still had problems with overlapping giraffes in the background. So we kept photographing and watching for a time when they might all be either seperated enough, or if together, that they were interacting in some way. Not easy with 10 live subjects of anything! Patience, I kept saying – and telling myself at the same time – patience. Finally, the two in the background middle separated enough and the ones on the right were ‘necking’ and it all just felt like it came together. At least as together as it could in that moment! We hoped the fourth giraffe in the foreground would spread to drink, but it was nervous, being young. But in the end, I liked this result. It was worth waiting for, and feels like a diorama in a museum, with the layers of animals suggesting depth. You have to work with what you have at the waterholes, which is both exciting and challenging every time I visit.

Etosha is the culmination of our Wonders of Namibia Photo Tour this July, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with those joining us, as it’s a very special place to observe and photograph a variety of wildlife of Namibia. If you want to join us, go here, and also visit Strabo Tours page on this tour. Just a few spaces remain!

 

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Looking for Love in All the Right Places

OK, so it’s a play on the song, but it still rings true. When I am out in nature, I am seeking not only photographs, but the love that is out there in nature. By love, I mean that connection to natural things around me. I celebrate the sounds of babbling brooks, the light pouring through the leaves, the frost on dormant plants, the freshness of a crisp autumn day, as well as the bears running after the salmon, the elephants rejoicing in the waterhole. The photographs I make are all gifts that remind me of those experiences, images that I can return to to feel the love, so to speak. And sometimes, I find special gifts, like these hearts of nature – here in the cottonwood leaves of Capitol Reef National Park, and in the Presque Isle River in northern Wisconsin.

They are like little rewards to showing up and being present, and open, to what’s around me. And a reminder that life is good!

 

 

 

P.S. Check out my latest book, Expressive Nature Photography.

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Cleaning up my Act

Cleaning up my act, getting stuff done, losing weight, re-evaluating my goals, – we all know the phrases we use for the beginning of a new year. But this year, I can say I’m achieving at least one goal! It was quiet the month of December 2017 around my office, and I tackled my library of over 188,000 images and cleaned up the clutter. I have only three years to go now, but I have successfully eliminated over 12,000 images from the catalog. I feel lighter already. 🙂  Continue reading »

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