Week 44 of the 52 Week Challenge: “Leather in Morocco – Part II”

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This week is a continuation of my topic Leather in Morocco. Last week I focused on the tanneries while this week I focus on the craftsmanship of the leather, a leather market in Marrakech, and some of the finished products.

Here are some of my favourites:


Shooting from the Hip:

During my trip to Morocco, I attended a fantastic private photography tour with photographer Suzanne Porter. One of the fascinating places we visited was a hectic and chaotic leather market in Marrakech. Suzanne cautioned against being obvious when taking photographs in this area in order to avoid confrontations with some of the leather vendors and their customers. Tempers and testosterone run high in that market lol. Suzanne recommended using a technique called “shooting from the hip.” With this technique, you don’t hold your camera up to your eye to take photos. You leave it hanging down at your hip and quietly take photos from there while you walk through the market. You can even adjust your grip on the camera to make it look like you are just holding the camera rather than taking photos (e.g. use your thumb to press the shutter button rather than your index finger). This way you can discretely take photos in interesting situations where you wouldn’t normally be able to take them. It’s a technique that comes in handy with street photography, especially when you are aiming for candid close-ups of people. However, there are a couple of challenges to overcome when using this technique:


1. Composition:

This method prevents you from seeing through your viewfinder or LCD screen while taking a photo. Your only way of adjusting the composition while taking the photo is by turning your body to move the camera. If you turn the camera itself it becomes obvious that you are taking the photo. Turning only your body to direct the camera is tough – it’s so tempting to move your camera when you see an interesting subject!

I would recommend using a wider angle lens for this technique – this way you have a better chance of getting a decent composition and can crop the photo in Lightroom later. I used my widest focal length (24 mm) for taking photos in the leather market.


2. Camera angle:

Afterwards, I found that a number of my shots had been taken at an angle due to the accidental rotation of the camera on my hip. In order to straighten the photograph, many of the photos had to be cropped considerably during the straightening process in Lightroom. Using a wider angle lens at least gave me the option of cropping them without removing my subject’s head or other important parts of the scene. Ideally, it would have been better to avoid tilting the camera in the first place; however, I imagine that this is something that comes with practice. Suzanne had many more useable shots than I did – practice makes perfect in this case!


3. Depth of Field:

Using a shallow depth of field can be difficult with this technique since you cannot check that your subject is focused until after you have walked through the market. I would recommend using a larger depth of field so that you have a better chance of your particular subject being in focus. We only went through the leather market twice (walked to the far end and came back). Going through a few more times or stopping in one place could have made it obvious we were taking pictures. Plus we were getting in everyone’s way! The market was packed and there really weren’t any good spots to stop. So, in this case, we were limited in the number of tries we had to get a good shot. Using a larger depth of field gave me a better chance of getting my particular subject in focus rather than ending up with a focus on the background and a blurry subject. 
It can be a lot of fun to experiment with this technique. I found that I was never quite sure what I would end up with until after I had walked through the market, and it was exciting when I was able to get a good shot. It definitely requires practice though! I hope you give this technique a try and have fun with it 🙂

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