Thought Process – Making of a Photograph.

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“Shoot from the gut, edit with the brain” – Anders Petersen. 

Should have blogged on what I am about to a year back, but nevertheless, looks like this is the apt moment.

Good Morning

This blog revolves less on how the photograph above was shot and more around the thought process involved in reaching the image.

The above image was shot during the 2012 edition of Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk – Dubai Edition hosted by a good friend Zameel Hamza.

Those who have no idea who Scott Kelby is, click here. Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk is one of a kind global photo walk which somehow ‘Team-Scott Kelby’ pulls off year by year with grand success. ‘One day – One world’ is the kind of theme they follow. Whole world participates in this photo walk and the best image from each city is passed on to Scott Kelby to choose the best and award them. Most challenging part of the photowalk is the fact that the participant photographers have just 2 hours to create their best shot. After 2 hours its wrap up. Its a true test of ones photographic experience.

This image of mine not only was chosen as the best photograph of our walk in UAE but was also chosen by Scott Kelby as the ‘Top 50 photographs’ from across the globe in his list of ‘Honorary Mentions’. Click here to view the list.

Heres what Scott Kelby had to say on why he thinks these 50 images deserved a recognition despite not winning the competition.

“I think these images, and the one’s you saw yesterday, are actually even better than they first appear because:
The photographers weren’t able to choose the location (it was chosen for them).
Or the time of day (also chosen for them).
They had to shoot in whatever lighting conditions at that time
They couldn’t go back later (or earlier) to shoot in better light.
They were only able to shoot for two hours.
Compare that to most any other photo competition, where the photographers can choose any photo from your photo library, or any photo taken in the past year, etc., but in this case, the photographers hands were really tied. Yet they came away with images that are totally inspiring and very creative. Two hours. That’s it. And look what they came up with! To me, that makes these images all the more amazing”

I am very much pleased to organize this years edition of Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk in Dubai through my group Photowalk Dubai. This blog is for each of the members who have shown interest in attending the same and challenging their skills.

Getting back to where I started, Here’s how this image was made – The thought process involved from the word “Go” to “Bingo”

Zameel Hamza – The leader of the walk which I was participating in, guided us to Al Rams Fishing Village in RAK. About 70+ photographers crowded the silent village just around sunrise. Within minutes the crowd dispersed and photographers were out all guns blazing to get their winning shot. On the contrary, me and my good ol’ streetographer friend and my partner in running Photowalk Dubai – Oldfashioned AJ, decided to take it easy and relax a bit with a smoke and a coke.

Thought Process 1 : Never Rush

I had literally no clue on what image I would create. So instead of rushing through the process, I decided to give myself time and knew things would turn out well. Decided to let my Nikon D3100 + Tokina 12-24mm click star trail. Light pollution around the area + almost sunrise, led to a lazy composition ( Knowing it wouldn’t work out well ) but the music of shutter is quiet essential for the warm up . Below is the first image of the outing.


Thought Process 2 : Think Different

There were photographers literally across the shore shooting long exposures. Long exposures didn’t look like a good idea for two reasons :

1. Every vantage point was occupied by atleast 5 photographers.

2. For a simple reason that it was being done in excess.

It was time to think different. Thats when I thought of softboxes and flashes – my not so good buddies in my camera bag. Never fancied using soft boxes, somehow just not my thing. But this time around, I knew this would be my only option to create something new. Got the Nikon SB 910 and the softbox ready for action .

Got my newly acquired D800 + 50mm f1.8D into the party. Fishermen were just about warming up to the fact that their village was being invaded by sharp shooters. Bit of smile – few kind words and they were ready to pose for my camera. Though I still didn’t have much clue on what I was upto with the softboxes n etc, I had the sense of warming up to something awesome. Zack Arias One Light DVD playing back in my head – The mantra – “Aperture controls flash exposures, Shutter Speed controls ambient exposure ” on repeat mode as I shot my first few shots with the D800. Below are the results.



Thought Process 3 : Never Settle

Those images above weren’t bad but the intention was to not shoot a “Not-So-Bad” image, intention was to shoot a “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” image. So what exactly is a “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” image ??? Its not what I expect people to say when they look at the image, its something that I would say to myself when I click it – that ‘One Image’ which could create a tsunami of satisfaction within my heart. Above images – Nope, they didn’t even create ripples, Tsunami Aside. Its simple – Never settle till you get that ONE IMAGE from each of your photowalk. It will eventually happen – all you need is “Just a little patience”

This made me wander further away from the crowd to a not-so-popular-non-fancy corner of the fishing village. Glimpse on how it looked.


Good to have instagram’errs around you 😉

Oldfashioned AJ was still with me and he was shooting film ( now you know the source of the title ‘oldfashioned’ ) . Yet again, smile and few words helped me gain confidence of another fisherman to pose for me. Images below.


All I had running through my mind was “Not yet there – Keep Looking”. I needed something even better. Just then, came across this other fisherman who was cleaning his boat before heading for early morning catch. Moment I saw him splashing water on his boat, I knew why I had my softbox with me this very day ( Most often softbox rots in some corner of my home). Bingo, I could see my image right away.

Thought Process 4 : Gear Doesn’t Matter.

Dumped my D800+50mm and grabbed the D3100 + Tokina 12-24mm without a second thought. Asked AJ to help me with softboxes. Smile and few words didn’t convince this shy fisherman. Initially he strongly refused. I just said a cheeky one liner which came out of blue “If you let me shoot, I will win the competition”. No more objections. Next set of words were “Thank You” after I got my shot. I knew this was THE “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” shot I was looking for. 3 shots is all it took to get the right one.


First Shot…


Thought this was the one, but the clutters were too much for my taste.

Good Morning

And the one I was looking for – Clean and Simple.

So the winning shot, the image appreciated by the maestro ‘Scott kelby’ was made on a Nikon D3100. Like its said a million times over and over again, Gear’s don’t really matter. Camera you got is more than sufficient to create stunning images – all you need to do is practice practice and practice. Experience creates great images, not gears. Embrace these facts and see magic happen.

Looking forward to the event on October 5th 2013. Its back to square one – leading the group to the very same fishing village and with the winning image printed, to be handed over to the man who let me get my winning shot.

Hope this blog inspires atleast a few to think right and to think different.




About subodhshetty
This entry was posted in Flash photography, Honors & Recognitions, Long Exposures, Photographic Locations, photography, Tips and Tutorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Thought Process – Making of a Photograph.

  1. Great article Subodh. You are really an inspiration.

  2. Russell Dmello says:

    Very inspiring article bro, beautifully written … god bless u…..

  3. PS says:

    Dear Subodh,

    Another great post and it couldn’t be more well timed for my end of the world. I have amazing events lined up starting this month till end of this year with great photographic opportunities and hence naturally its the time for some introspection, however your words touch the very sentiments I have been struggling to spell.

    Thanks for sharing.

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