Chiang Mai Photo Workshops

Learn How To Create Effective Photo Essays … and Read The Ongoing Story Of Our Long Neck Friends

It was a special experience to arrive at Baan Thong Luang and see Malu having her neck rings put back on. So when we arrived again a few weeks later taking another workshop there we were amazed to see Malu’s mother having her rings wound around her neck. Masu had just returned the evening before from her journey home to her village in Myanmar and the grandma was at work wrapping the brass coil around the younger woman’s neck.

Chancing upon a juncture like this it’s important to take stock of what’s happening and work quickly to ensure you capture the action as it’s unfolding. The first thing I do is to ascertain if it’s appropriate and polite to take photos. I never like to just assume that it is. Because we have a lovely existing relationship with these people it would be easy to assume taking photos is OK, but it’s always best to ask.

Kayan long neck womenGiven the go ahead I started taking a few initial shots. My immediate thought was to create a series of photographs that would tell the story of this event. I’ll always be looking to get great single images that will stand alone, but I also like to make collections of photographs that provide a record of the situation.

We’d arrived when the old grandma was already a good way through the process so I knew we would not have so much time. I know the light in that particular location is lovely, as we’ve taken many photographs there over the past few years. I also know the background can be a problem as it’s fairly cluttered and has some areas of bright light where you can see the sunshine through the gaps under the house. So, as usual, I moved around and found various points of view so as to avoid most of the distracting bright areas.

I was then looking to capture interactions between Masu and the grandma and anyone else who may enter the scene. Masu’s youngest daughter, Naam Cha, was there, (as usual,) and enjoying having her mother back home. She was quite intrigued by what was happening and this made for some lovely photos. I always like to look for this type of interaction when there’s a main activity taking place as it adds deeper meaning to the photo essay.

It’s important to anticipate the flow of the activity and the likely associated expressions you might see on people’s faces. I aimed to photograph various facial expressions as Masu sat there having her appearance returned to it’s customary state, (she had not had the rings removed for about 5 years prior to this time.) In this situation there’s a number of factors that make it easier for me:

    • Knowing my camera well
    • Knowing the location and lighting well
    • Knowing my subject well enough that she’s comfortable
    • Capturing a number of different expressions of your subject will enhance the narrative you are creating.

 

Kayan long neck woman and childI was able to shoot 89 photos in about 15 minutes before grandma indicated to us she preferred to continue without our cameras present, so we thanked them and went on our way. Bringing the photos into Lightroom and working through them to choose five or six for my picture story was fun. I knew I had some interesting photos, some fun interactions with Naam Cha and some good expressions from Masu.

To choose just one image to illustrate an activity like this is very difficult. When I worked for the newspapers this was most often what I had to do. These days it’s great to have the flexibility to share a small series of images giving a clearer account of the experience.

If you’re interested in learning more of my Lightroom workflow and how I go about choosing which images to include and which I discard, please check out our online course on the subject here.

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