The subject was the Havana harbor early in the morning, with the sun shining through the dark clouds of a passing rain squall. The figures in the foreground were constantly moving which provided me with many opportunities to make photographs that I thought would best describe the situation of the Cubans and their environment, and the frailty of man, or the strength of man in relation to the drama of his existence.


I don’t make many exposures with the hope of getting one acceptable image. Each of
the fourteen exposures of the subject area was done with careful thought about
the many variables that made up the subject and how all these factors
influenced the center of interest. The constantly changing scene, offered me
many chances to make different images of the same subject area as it changed in
the brief time that I was there. The rapid fire technique of some photographers
makes me wonder how many of those quickly made exposures were guesses instead
of well thought out attemps to create a relationship between the various
details that are present in the subject area. Guessing scares me, knowing that
I might miss the best instant because I was too busy clicking away without
thinking enough. In forty five years of doing this kind of work, I have learned
how transitory a subject can be and also how important time is and how crucial
it is for me to catch the significance of a situation in one image.
The subject area changed constantly, giving me new opportunities to make images that would show various aspects of the situation. The available lighting was difficult to work with, as it was very early, with the sun shining toward my lens. The dramatic qualities of the sky encouraged me to keep working the subject as it changed over the twenty minutes that I was there.
I chose the vertical format to include what I thought were the important details in the situation before me. The details are very important, in order to give the viewer of my photograph enough information to perceive the subject as I did. (I did, however, make one horizontal image so I could include all of subjects, the motorcycle, the boy, the man with the hat). I had a wide sweeping view of the area in which the main subject, the figures in the water, were located, so I framed the photographs so that unnecessary details were eliminated.


 My intent was to show the contrast between man and his environment, which in this case was the water, clouds, ship and the frailty of man and his relationship to his surroundings. Too much of any detail would have diminished the center of interest, which in this case, is the man or men. The focus was placed on the figures in the water. The sky was an important factor, because of its dramatic qualities and the dark and violent nature of the clouds.
Over the course of the twenty minutes, the human drama continued to play out before me and since my presence did not affect the subject, I continued to photograph, leaving my mind open to the possibilities that might present themselves to me. The tension is always there in a situation such as this. Constantly evaluating what is before my lens and trying to imagine what my best vantage point and intent is as it relates to the subject. I managed to stay with the subject for twenty minutes, but the situation did not last, as the sky became less dramatic and the figures became less noticeable as more people moved into the subject area.





(I did choose the horizontal format in one image to show the change in the scene and the relationship of the machines – the motorcycle, the boy, the man with the hat and  the ship.)


I photographed this subject, both as a photographer and a teacher. I wanted to show how staying in the same place after the first exposure can result in many valuable images. Why stop photographing after the first image has been made?






This entry was posted in Social Documentary/Street Photography, Street Photography Tips, Street Photography Workshops, The Human Condition, Uncategorized, Workshops and tagged , , , , .


  1. Monica November 26, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    I dont understand that pnhoneomen either. Often they are people who are ordinarily fine but somehow make some sort of connection you are invading their privacy or in some way were not invited so are guarding their space. Whether it is a worry you would give out their details or this is something that needs to be nipped in the bud. It could be just purely marking territory and denying you access to what they regard as their inner circle that you are not part of. To my mind it could be selfish ignorant and downright rude as there is no consideration. How on earth they then expect to do future business with the rules intact when they just broke them is beyond me. Talk about burning your bridges. I think it is a shame because those same people can often have so much talent Just they dont see the two way street the you scracth my back I’ll scratch yours. I guess if they were playing tennis they would see no need to return the ball. Personally I wouldn’t ban people I would just make allowances and take them off the mailing list. Life is to short.

  2. Alex November 18, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Thanks you for sharing this precise and precious moment where we can calmely and quietly almost in slow Motion perceive how the balance of harmony can change in less Than IT take to says it as the Colors of an raimbow can vanish in a sec. The only permanent thing is impermenàncy as photographer we are Like the rabbit in Alice in wonderlands never stop running after. And sometimes with our friends luck and experience we meet beauty. Thanks you John

  3. Tom May 16, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    I absolutely agree – much better to take time, think, watch and then shoot for a while rather than blast away machine gun style. The portrait format works well – better than landscape. Odd how often this is the case with landscape shots. It creates more drama I think.

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