Photographing children is sometimes more fulfilling and exhilarating than having seized the perfect opportunity for a great landscape shot. In children photography, you have to be constantly on your toes, while keeping your wits about them. That was the case with photographing Eve and Deborah, both cousin sisters.
We arrived rather late at about 5.30 pm at Central Park, Bandar Utama. It’s a nice great park where a lot of dog owners bring their dogs out for some obstacle course training and exercises. The sun was coming in strong towards the end of the day, casting strong contrasty shadows. It was both hot and humid.
Hence, we started off in a shaded area of the park, with low hanging branches. I wanted the chatty kids to get comfortable with me around while I let them get used to “just hanging around doing nothing”. I wanted them to sink into the atmosphere as much as possible. I did not want to direct them too much, lest I take the fun factor away from this outing. Just letting them be was the order of the day, unless I really needed them to re-enact a pose or look at me in a certain manner.
Being naturally inquisitive and curious, the low hanging branches worked their wonder on them. I let Eve fiddled around with some leaves, while occasionally calling out to them or making strange noises or exclaimation of surprise; anything to get their attention. When they turned and looked, snap!
We walked further down the park towards the pond, where there was a brief opening in the trees. Rather than going with the usual full body shots, I cropped in close for most of the shots.
Here’s Eve, who couldn’t stop peeling away at some leaves.
As we moved nearer towards the pond, it was almost heavenly for me. A perfect natural setting that never ceased to amaze and steal their attention. Ripples of water, a tortoise’s head breaking the surface of the water, shimmering light across the pond, strange creatures or insects by the water edge etc, everything and anything caused them to transform into a state of excitement.
Eve and Deborah were busy pointing out to each other, their discoveries at the pond. That’s the great thing about photographing a duo; with a “great distraction” thrown into the equation. You don’t have to direct or get them to do anything. They pretty much can get themselves occupied most of the time, chatting away between them, while analysing their observations among themselves.
The warm golden hue of the setting sun served as a great edge or accent light, as seen above. Deborah was scanning the edge of the pond while Eve was surveying her dress, both caught in a brief quiet moment of respite from a mesmerizing and glaring pond in the harsh late afternoon light.
A steady stream of bright warm golden light provided just the right atmosphere, perfect for a backlit setting, as seen in the above two pictures. I used partial metering to achieve this backlit atmospheric effect. Partial metering will meter for the central (often darker) area of the viewfinder or main backlit subject upon which you focus, disregarding the overall brightness of the scene. This will expose for the slightly darker backlit subject. If evaluative metering had been used, the overpowering brightness of the entire scene in general would have won the majority consideration, thus yielding an underexposed scene, with a pitch black silhouetted subject.
The sky in the first and second picture would undoubtedly be overexposed. However, this dull dead space can easily be minimized by composing for a lesser sky, throwing focus instead to glowing subjects for a good majority of the frame. For the second picture, I asked a co-operative Eve to twist and turn for my camera. Putting the sun behind her also helps in preventing her from having to squint at me. Having the sun just right above the distant trees throw a raking light across the bright green patch of grass, created strong contrast and depth. Had the sun dipped further, the foreground would have been dull if not totally dark.
“Why don’t you guys dance around the pole, like you would around a camp fire?” I suggested to them. They went right at it after a slight hesitation. I was lying on my back on poo-covered grass (fingers crossed) making sure to get at least one of their faces sharp while balancing myself hard on my abs. Not pretty. The speed with which they encircled the pole threw Eve’s hair mid-air, creating a sense of motion.
The last trick I manage to pull off my sleeve was to get Deborah to hold the speedlight for me, while Eve sat on the grass.
They were both clearly thrilled at the way with which the flash worked. I’d earlier told them if they were to co-operate, they get to play a “toy”. That helped take the edge off their growing impatience. They were obviously looking forward to it, though having not the slightest idea of the “toy”. I guessed kids were just all too trusting.
So when the moment came, I took a shot at Eve while Deborah held the flash, before they switched role; with me shooting Deborah while Eve held the flash. It was quite difficult getting them to hold it at the right angle and height, but they were simply too amazed to disobey me.
We ended the shoot at about slightly more than an hour later. No wonder I thought it felt like a little rushed job. Nevertheless, we had a great time and strangely, I enjoyed the conversations and interactions I’ve had with the kids more than the act of actually taking pictures.
After all, it was all the furious talking, thinking, deception, convincing, dumb jokes, riddles and often times “intelligent” remarks (at least to kids) that helped elicited the picture-worthy responses from them.