My Best Shot

Oc­to­ber, 2009 Varanasi, In­dia Nikon D3x

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wilson www.dig­i­tal­cam­er­a­

Dis­cover the poignant im­age that is travel pro Steve Davey’s favourite shot

Of the 90 coun­tries that Steve Davey has vis­ited for the world’s best-known travel mag­a­zines, one stands out as his favourite. “In­dia,” he says with­out hes­i­ta­tion. “Pho­to­graph­i­cally, it’s stun­ning, partly be­cause the peo­ple re­ally get pho­tog­ra­phy. They get why you want to pho­to­graph them and they tend to re­ally en­joy be­ing pho­tographed.”

Five years ago, he was in the back streets of the holy city of Varanasi, look­ing for a café. “I’d been out on a boat with a group on the Ganges to see the sun­rise over the river.” It was now mid-morn­ing and Steve spied a lit­tle beg­gar boy, dressed as Shiva, the Hindu god of cre­ation and de­struc­tion. “He was stand­ing with his hand raised as Shiva is usu­ally de­picted, but with th­ese sad eyes. He didn’t rush out. He looked frail and was quite sub­dued, which is odd for a beg­gar.”

Be­cause the boy was stand­ing still, Steve had time to com­pose the pic­ture in the way that matched how he vi­su­alised this im­age on first see­ing the boy. “When I in­struct peo­ple about com­po­si­tion I tell them to stop and think about what they are try­ing to say and what tools they should use in or­der to say it. So, it’s the choice of lens, the view­point,” he says. Steve chose the wide end of his Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom and a high view­point to em­pha­size the boy’s face and hand. An aper­ture of f/5 re­duced depth of field so his eyes are in fo­cus, and the tin of coins in his other hand de­fo­cused yet recog­nis­able.

The re­ac­tion

Although the pic­ture is one of Steve’s favourites, it hasn’t been a com­mer­cial suc­cess. “I think all pho­tog­ra­phers have their favourite shots that they love and they keep putting them out there – and they keep get­ting knocked back! Maybe that’s one of the rea­sons I like it.”

While beg­gars in In­dia are will­ing to play to the cam­era, Lit­tle Lord Shiva was with­drawn. “There are other street urchins who are laugh­ing, chat­ting, and you know they are go­ing to do quite well in life, but this kid looks so frail. To be hon­est, there aren’t many peo­ple who want pic­tures of beg­ging chil­dren. It’s not go­ing to make it into a travel brochure. It’s not the im­age pub­lish­ers want to show. I keep be­ing asked for a hack­neyed shot of sun­rise over the Ganges!”

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