By Paul Prescott, Shutterstock Contributor
I am very lucky that travel and photography have become my way of life. To date, I have been through South America, Asia, Europe, India and New Zealand, to over 41 countries. Along the way, my faithful companion has always been my camera. I often dreamed of getting sponsored for my travels, but it was only when a friend suggested I sell my photos as stock and sent me the crucial link that my photographic adventure with Shutterstock began.
In 2006 I gave up my job and became a full-time photographer, living off little more than my savings. That funded my first official trip in my new career, beginning with two months cycling through Israel and Egypt followed by a trip through Turkey. I realized that constantly moving wasn’t necessarily the best way to see things, so I settled in Old Delhi, India for ten months. It was an eye-opening experience – living with a limited water supply, washing in a bucket, observing the consequences of industrialization on the rivers and waterways and watching traditional life evolve alongside modern influences.
Throughout my stay in Delhi I frequently saw construction operations where, over a day or two, a borer and a small team of men would start to flood the streets with muddy water. Only a wooden plank helped pedestrians to cross precariously cross the street. The hotel owner explained that he couldn’t rely on government water alone and needed his own private water supply to sustain his hotel’s needs.
I loved the way my camera broke down barriers and became a means of communication. People were fascinated and invited me into their homes to take pictures, proud to be photographed. Digital photography allowed those images to be shared, even if just for a fleeting moment, on the LCD screen.
This vegetable stand was on the street where I was living in Delhi. I was a regular customer, and the vendor enjoyed me taking his photo and sharing the images. Neither of us spoke the other’s language, but the photographs became our means of communication. He was proud to show me his produce and have me photograph it.
This photo was shot at 17mm on a Canon 5D with a 17-35mm f2.8 lens. I had just returned from the camera market with a well deserved upgrade from the 350D. I thought when I first bought this lens that I would only use it occasionally for wide angle shots, but I now use it most of the time as it gives great flexibility for people, landscape and architecture shoots. Also, as an f2.8, it allows the diaphragm to open wide, enabling great shots without flash in low light.
Photography is now a lifestyle and one that finances my travels, although I’m not exactly traveling in five star luxury – nor would I want to. The photos and experiences are worth much more than the money. I try to portray a story and mood through the images, and it is this I seek to capture in those fleeting moments of being on the move or through building relationships with the people I meet and the environments they live in.
This was one of the first images I submitted to Shutterstock in 2005, and was also my first “organized” photo shoot. I was on an ayurvedic massage course in South India and asked Jochen to accompany me up this magnificent hill to reach the top in time for sunrise and enjoy the 360 degree view. Despite the increasing heat, Jochen seemed happy to sit cross-legged and meditate, watching the sun move over the Western Ghats, its reflection intensifying in the crocodile-inhabited Neyyar Dam below. At the time I had a small compact 6MP Fujifilm and with the low light, it led to a pixilated and noisy photo which led to my first rejection with Shutterstock. However, after using a noise reduction filter in Photoshop and editing the image to bring it up to stock standard, it became my best seller for two years.
Shooting Conceptual Photography
Around this time, I also began to experiment with conceptual ideas, but that wasn’t always easy while on the move. My stay in Zagreb, Croatia for the past 18 months with a small home studio allowed me to experiment with some new ideas.
This was one of my first conceptual ideas. I thought it would be amusing to put cars into a jam jar and describe it as a traffic jam. I wasn’t sure if it would work or if others would share my sense of humor, but it has become one of my best selling photos.
I was in a cafe restaurant in Delhi with my partner and we were taking photos of each other when I noticed the sign behind us on the LCD screen. So we started playing around trying to align the lips, fingers and cigarette panel so it would look good for the shot. The image was collated in Photoshop so that we face each other.
I have noticed that the stronger the message, the better the photo sells – if you can illustrate your ideas with a camera, you just might have a winner. You don’t need a large studio to create interesting images. I recommend always carrying a camera with you, everywhere you go. Leaving it at home may be a missed opportunity.