For me, the perfect moments aren’t posed, but happen in a second of life being lived. This portrait of a nomadic headman and former trader was in some ways a question of simply waiting.
Our expedition team had been with him and his family in China for a couple of days already and they were used to our bumbling about. I was sitting in his tent sipping butter tea, when he looked up and that little beam of daylight lit his face. I had my moment.
Getting close to faces intensifies a shot. If there is a light source such as a window, tent flap or beam coming through trees, I try and get the subject so that the light touches them. Then I spot meter the most lit portion of the face. Often I simply take a light meter reading or test shot ahead of time so that if that precious moment happens, I’m ready. I love to have a really shallow depth of field when the background is dark, so shooting at f/4 and even f/2.8 doesn’t worry me too much.
The faces that attract me are ones that show their efforts, their pains, and their joys – people who cannot hide their character. Their features are of a life being lived full on, as though repeatedly touched by the elements.