Jeremiah Rogers

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Six Things When You Can't Photograph

When you see that the chicken sandwich is finally back on the menu at Burger King after three weeks of being gone — don’t order it. Hold off for a few more weeks.

I’m recovering from the worst bout of food poisoning since my trip began. After spending about 18 hours entirely unable to look at a computer screen and another three or four days feeling weak and tired I’m back. I feel human again.

Cutting fish in the market. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

My best meal was asking the women at the local restaurant “what do you eat when you get sick?” They brought me a bowl of rice porridge and a boiled, salted egg for dinner. It was amazing and only about $21.

After this bout I’d say always pack antibiotics and immodium. At one point I was so sick that I knew I should take the drugs but was too sleepy and woozy to walk myself across the room to do it. That’s bad. That’s why you want them in your house instead of at a pharmacy.

Down a Shaded Alley. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Chicken processing plant at Orussey Market. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Boy fresh after swimming in the Tonle Sap River. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Man sweeping. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Quiet moments at the Diamond Island Carnival. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The sickness coincides with a slow break from blogging. I’m resting while starting up freelancing for an NGO, helping some local photographers market their work, and planning a huge multi-month project documenting the Mekong River with my friends Luc Forsyth and Gareth Bright. You can read Luc’s introduction here. It’s the biggest independent project I’ve been a part of and I can’t wait to show you more.

Just like you, I can’t always photograph. Sometimes it’s night time, sometimes I’m sick and sometimes I just don’t have the energy to walk around with a camera. So here are some strategies I’m using to get better at photography lately without having my camera around. They might be useful for you as well:

  1. You can walk around and look for photographs without taking them. This means seeing a scene and figuring out how you’d frame it and post-process it. Think of where you’d stand, when you’d click the shutter, and what the final image would look like. How would the final image feel? The best part is you can do this without people knowing you’re doing it, and you can do it anywhere at any time.
  2. You can look around wherever you’re sitting right now and ask yourself “what picture would I take here?”
  3. You can think of the emotions you’re feeling and how you’d capture them with a photograph. What if you kept a diary without words and just photos, just for yourself, and it was all related to the feelings you have today? Or just related to the meaningful events of the day. What would photos look like if they weren’t shared?
  4. You can sketch photographs. As I get more into street photography and living in an area there are symmetries and compositions that I look for. What would the ideal scene of Phnom Penh look like? I may never find it in reality but I can get some ideas by sketching them on paper.
  5. You can watch movies and think about how each cut is a photograph. People who make movies are in general very good photographers (they certainly make more money from visual arts than most photographers). What can you learn from their framing, how they arrange the scene, and how they use different cuts to arrange a scene?
  6. You can look at photographs from other people, visualize the original scene, and figure out what their other options for post-processing could have been. If the image is in black and white this can be a bit harder — but in color the options are countless.

One of my favorite recent finds is Sally Mann. Her photos are just remarkable, especially the ones of her children. They are all remarkable but two of my favorites are below.

Two pictures by Sally Mann.

Finally here are a few recent shots of Phnom Penh. All of these were taken with an EOS 6D and 28mm f1.8. I keep it around ISO 400 using 1125 shutter speed and vary the aperture (set to the top control) to take pictures.

One of the things I love about the 6D vs the Leica ME is that it fits in a single hand well. I carry it around like a brick in my right hand strapped on tight with a short neck strap. This gets painful after about two hours but lets me keep the camera always ready and also move it up to and away from my face with one hand.

If I’m going to take a picture I often keep the camera to my eye for an extended period. Previously I would pull the camera down and then up again right before I shot — but that makes people flinch. Having the camera always up in photo mode makes it less obvious when the shutter will go off.

This sounds aggressive — and it certainly is. To somewhat compensate I’ve made prints and started handing them out on my photo rounds. The same people are generally in the same places every day. Walk by the next day at the same time and you’ll find them, give them a photograph, and they’ll smile and be happy.

Selling down by the river. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Family out for a walk. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Serving Breakfast in Kandal Market. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Rustling Pigeons. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Aspara Dancer. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

  1. With most food in Cambodia you can get it for half the price or less on the street. I accept paying twice the price for a place to sit and WiFi. [return]