PHOTOGRAPHING NEPAL

Land where Buddha was born, region in which eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains can be found, home to the only living goddess and with the densest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s no wonder that it attracts almost a million people per year.

However, it’s the organised chaos of the cities, the calm and untouched rural areas that take you back hundreds of years and it’s smiling people that make Nepal a place like no other.

But, what’s taking photos in Nepal really like?

Storytelling and editing

It’s exceptionally easy.

Nepal is an extremely photogenic country, with an extraordinary mixture of cultures and its people are particularly friendly and surprisingly guileless.

Another quality of the Nepali people is that they have absolutely no problem whatsoever in being photographed (contrary to Morocco. Read more about taking photos in Morocco here), so much so, that often times they don’t even notice that you are taking photos of them.

However, this also gives rise to a “problem”.

Let me explain: due to all of these qualities, it’s easy to feel like you have “carte blanche” to shoot nonstop, and while it’s a good thing because it allows you to experiment, compose and work each scene etc., it also means that by the days end you’ll have hundreds of photos and by the end of your trip possibly thousands of them that you are eventually going to have to edit*.

*Editing: Contrary to what many people think, editing a photographic work is not its post-production (Lightroom, Photoshop…). Editing consists in deciding what story you are going to tell, how you are going to tell it and selecting the photographs that best tell said story. It’s one of the most difficult things to do when it comes to photography and particularly so when doing documentary photography. Who hasn’t encountered the dilemma of selecting one of two very similar portraits and not knowing which to choose?

Samuel Aranda (“The New York Times” photographer and winner of “World Press Photo”), recently told me that when he contacts the editor of a magazine (one of those magazines that we all dream of having our photos published in), he sends 9 photos accompanied by 3 lines of text.

Now do you understand why I was saying that having “carte blanche” can be a problem? When photographing Nepal, and many other countries for that matter, you’ll often find yourself with 3000/5000 photos by the end of your trip. Now imagine that you are given the task of choosing only 9 photos to represent your entire trip! It’s not easy!

Ok, so what can we do about it?

It’s actually quite “simple”. To make the most of the situation and of this incredible country, what we should do is prepare ourselves a little: research the country, speak to people who have already been there and/or read articles like this one, all of which will help us have an idea of the story we want to tell before even reaching Nepal.

You need not choose one single story, you can choose to tell several and they can even be related. Furthermore, they don’t need to be very complex either, but having an idea of what story you want to tell will allow you to make the most of that ‘carte blanche’ and editing your photos afterwards a little easier.

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