La Paz is one of the most colorful, vibrant places I have ever been. Ranking high on the list with such photogenic darlings as India and Cuba, the endless opportunities to take pictures makes you never once put your camera away for fear that you will miss something great. You could seriously spend a week just walking around the winding, lively streets of the city taking thousands of photos. Unfortunately I only had a few days meaning I had to take as many as possible without the correct lighting or framing of the shot. Nevertheless, I am happy with the colorful captures I was able to get despite my hasty, rushed approach.
It took me weeks to sort through and edit my collection of photos. When I finally edited the very last photo, I was elated. However, at first glance I was also a tad bit disappointed. Looking back now, I realize that La Paz taught me a hard lesson in street photography. It is not as easy or simple as it seems.
Trying to capture random pictures of everyday life without attracting too much attention is difficult. I love to photograph every day people yet there is often a fine line between asking for their permission to get a shot or just taking it on the sly. It can feel like an invasion of privacy and if you are caught you may get an angry stare or worse.
My general rule of thumb when photographing people is that if they are only a part of the scene I am taking, then I generally don’t ask. I take the photo from far away and get the entire scene. If I want a closer view of the subject, I crop it later when I am editing in Lightroom. If the photo is exclusively of a person and I need a close up shot, then I always ask their permission. The unfortunate part is that sometimes a shot that is not candid just doesn’t turn out as well. But I’d rather be respectful and ask permission than chance upsetting someone.
Another lesson I learned about street photography on this trip is that timing is everything. I may see the perfect photo but if my camera is not ready at that exact moment in time or if a bus or car drive through the photo, then it is ruined. La Paz is a very busy place with people, cars, buses, and tourists everywhere. Oftentimes I would try my best to get a shot when all the sudden a pedestrian would walk right past my camera as I snap. If I was traveling on my own, I could try again but I’m usually always with an impatient non-blogger who doesn’t want to spend the entire day stopping every step to take pictures!
Timing is also important when it comes to the location of the sun. When you are only in a destination for a couple of days, you just have to take your chances on the photos. The sun may be in the worst spot possible but if I really like something than I take the photo anyway knowing even if it is not the best, at least I got it.
The last lesson I learned is that to be a true street photographer takes incredible talent. I’m just an amateur photographer who loves to capture the world through my eyes. Sometimes I get lucky and a photo I take turns out really great. But I acknowledge the fact that I am no expert. If my photos aren’t perfect that is ok. As long as they show the world through my eyes and help me share what I have seen, then I’ve done my job.
The next series of my Bolivia posts will all revolve around street photography. Here is a preview of the different subjects: