Self-Assignment: Shooting Reflections in Salamanca

I spent 10 days in Spain last October photographing one of JMU's Study Abroad programs. The trip was fantastic and we got tons of great photos showcasing the students' experiences. So all of that was wonderful, but how about personal/professional development as a photographer, how did that play into this trip?

Voluntarily placing oneself in a position to grow and change takes a little bit of discipline in my opinion. Sure, I could show up, do my job, pack up, and go home. But honestly, there isn't much artistic growth occurring in that particular scenario. Doing my job well requires me to constantly grow and develop as a photographer. In fact, if I look back on my early work, I'm practically disgusted. And that's the indicator that I've grown as a photographer - I want to distance myself from my prior work because I know that I could do it better now.

So while hopping around Spain, I gave myself an assignment. Nobody asked me to do this, I chose to do it to further develop my skills. My self-assignment was the following: 'Reflections of Salamanca'. My job was to shoot anything and everything that fell into that title.

Those are my 4 favorite images from the shoot.

The first image was my top pick, I got super-lucky when that bird landed on the ledge giving it that extra bit of life I was looking for. Yes, there are lots of people in the square, but there are always random people in those types of travel photos. What separates that shots is the composition, the reflection, and that bird swooping in for its landing.

I really liked that second shot too. There was just something about the gated-window reflecting the church. Not really sure how else to describe it, it just seemed like a good shot.

The third shot uses a technique commonly referred to as dragging the shutter. Opening the shutter for 1/15 second isn't challenging by any stretch of the imagination, its as simple as setting it to 1/15 second in manual mode. The challenge is knowing that 1/15 second in bright daylight will let in a lot of light. The way to deal with that is to lower your ISO to ISO 200 or lower if possible. The lower, the better. Handholding at 1/15 second isn't that hard, you just need to stay very, very still as your subjects are moving. This third type of shot is very common with photojournalists trying to show a building or location because motion indicates life and activity. 

The last image is another one of my favorites. We get to see the onlooker on the edge of the glass, plus we get to see what he's looking at. I'm low enough not to be seen in the reflection, but part of that is due to the extreme brightness of the background - it makes it that much harder to see myself in the shot because I'm in the shade.

Good times! I really enjoyed this self assignment, time for another.