When we heard that Travel Supermarket was holding their Capture the Colour contest again this year, we were excited. Last year, when the contest rolled around, we had only been on the road for a little over three weeks. We had a brand new blog and a few photos from an unfinished visit to ONE country to choose from. Still, despite all of that, we managed to land a second place spot in the Green category.
This year, things are different: we’ve been on the road for 14 months and have 47,000 (!!) shots to choose from. I’d like to say I was spoiled for choice, but as anyone entering this contest knows, it’s harder than it looks. I spent hours trawling through photos in Lightroom, flagging the shots I thought might work, and then Steph and I spent an evening debating the finer points of each candidate while we tried to narrow them down.
In the end, we came up with five entries and I am happy with all of them. This contest was a learning experience last year, and it was again this year. Slogging through every photo I took and looking at it with a critical eye with regard to story, composition and color really emphasizes what I do and don’t do well, and what I can be working on. It also tells me what kind of photographer I am, and that’s informative too. It lets me focus more on capturing what I see while worrying less about technical issues or my style. I have a style, I know what it is, and I embrace it.
That’s more than enough preamble, let’s get to the real meat of this post: the photos.
We were sitting in a ramshackle restaurant in Kep, Cambodia looking out over the south coast of the country. The sunset had been a splash of red and gold, and a wonderful deep blue had settled over everything as the last pink of the sun died from the sky. Kep is known for its pepper and its crabs, both of which are harvested locally. The crabs are kept alive in cages that bob in the ocean just beyond the verandas of the restaurants they are served in. This old man was taking the remaining day’s catch further out to sea so that it wouldn’t be stranded in low tide the next morning; I snapped this photo as he paused to look out over the ocean, probably contemplating the same view I was, the two of us listening to the waves and waiting for the last of the day to fade away.
High up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam, past Sapa, past Ha Giang, there is a little town called Dong Van. Every Tuesday there is a huge local market that brings villagers in from hundreds of kilometers away where they do their best to sell and trade everything under the sun. The market is also a chance for far-flung acquaintances to gather, gossip and generally enjoy the company of people they don’t see very often. As the only white person for 150km, I drew a fair amount of attention at the market, but after everyone was done staring and taking cellphone photos, they essentially went back to their business and I was able to disappear (a little) into the chaos of the crowd and get some photos of the locals in their element. The market was a riot of color and noise, but I got the chance to take this shot of two old women shooting the breeze over a pile of skirts. They were probably talking about the giant, crazy white man who rode up on a tiny motorcycle. Or maybe not.
While wandering the back alleys of Tainan, Taiwan, we were greeted with many beautiful sights: temples, monuments, ancient homes, and winding alleyways. The main roads are wide and full of cars, but the side streets quickly filtered out the traffic noise and allowed us some space and peace. All the temples we saw were in various states of use—some bustling, some somnolent—and everywhere we looked people were managing to carve out some space of their own, whether to commune with their god or to simply rest. This man sat at the God of War Temple (perhaps an irony, to find such a peaceful scene at a so-named temple), and did not move the entire time we were there. It was nice to see someone so unconcerned with the world at large, especially in such a modern, bustling country, and it reinforced to me the idea that Taiwan is rather remarkable. A place at once modern and traditional, where people are free to choose one or the other as and when they need.
Bali is so unlike the rest of Indonesia, many people think of it as its own country. The people, the customs, the temples, the food, everything in Bali is Balinese. Ubud, in central Bali, is a bit of a madhouse. More like a suburb of Denpasar than its own city, Ubud is being swallowed by traffic and development. We managed to find a little peace at Goa Gajah, the Elephant temple. The grounds are set down and away from the road, and as you walk down the steps into the courtyard, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve left Ubud behind altogether. This little old man was tending one of the crumbled, water-washed remnants of the temple when we found him. He paused in his work and took us around to see some of the hidden areas of the ruins we would have missed otherwise. He was happy to have his picture taken, and happy to take ours. He was also happy to ask for a modest tip for doing so. It is still Bali, after all.
We had been in Phnom Penh for less than a day and we were still trying to figure Cambodia out. One thing was for certain: we hadn’t seen this many saffron-cloaked Buddhist monks since Thailand. Ever captivating to the western eye, we were more than happy to grab any photos of the monks that presented themselves, even if they were doing something mundane, like shopping or talking on a cell phone. Of all the photos I took of the monks in Cambodia, I think this one gets the most right. The yellow and saffron work together perfectly, and the color carries through the entire photograph. Just the right amount of his face is showing: more and the mystery is gone, less and there is no interest. By the end of our time in Cambodia, the monks were much less mysterious (they are almost all very friendly and talkative!) but I think this photo still sums it up for me: they live a life apart from mine, and there will always be something about them that is a mystery to me.
Here are five other blogs that I haven’t seen nominated that I think should give this a shot (or five. Ha!):
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! I know my “captions” are a bit verbose, but I feel as though a photo isn’t really complete unless it has a story to tell. The best photos are a combination of a good story and a good eye, and I feel as though these photos have met those criteria. I hope you, our readers, feel the same.
Whether or not I win anything in this contest, I am still glad for the chance it gives me to appraise my work, and to really think critically about who I am and how I shoot.
Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed it!