One of the things I learned while in Nepal, is the importance of observation. Take time to watch and be captivated by the little moments that are happening around you. This photo is when I learned this:
This one of my two favorite images from the trip to Nepal. I got up very early the morning I made this photograph. I had been going hard making photos for close to 5 hrs and the light had started to get harsh, so I decided to take a break. I think it was like 10am or something and I walked down an alley to a restaurant that I had found the day before to grab a cup of tea and a bite to eat. You know, take a breather.
Well, this guy in the photo sat down a few tables over and looked totally beat. Like he had just woke up and wasn't happy to be there. Intrigued, I just sat and watched. He ordered a cup of tea and lit up a cigarette, seemingly oblivious to the world around him. And then it clicked for me: this moment was so ripe with humanity. I think it was because he seemed to be incredibly unguarded about how he was feeling, like he was so worn out that he didn't care if anyone saw how he was really feeling. I would have missed this normally, as I was pretty beat myself and enjoying my own cup of tea and a few pieces roti, but I was intrigued by this glimpse into an intimate moment that was unfolding in front of me of this man trying to get himself moving for the day. How often do we do the same? I think most of us can relate to that feeling.
I picked the camera up, set the aperture to f/2 to give him a little separation from the background, and started snapping until I got the right expression and gesture to convey my message. Just like that. The whole experience lasted about 5 minutes from realization to setting the camera back down on the table. But because I was slowed down to just watch, I caught it. Where I would have not have even noticed this little moment, I was able to capture something so basic, so elemental, all because I was paying attention WITHOUT the camera in my hands.
Jay Maisel has said, "If you want to make more interesting photographs, become a more interesting person." In my limited experience, I would even take that another step farther and say "become a more interested person." If you want to get better at capturing things around you, put the camera down and just watch for a bit. Note what moments and emotions intrigue you, and then work to capture them.