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Photo : Video : Storytelling

A blog by Paul Bettings

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  • Writer's picturePaul Bettings

The Global Road

While driving down dusty African roads or weaving through the busy streets of small towns of Asia, I regularly pass by incredible street scenes that I wish I could stop and photograph. These scenes are fleeting glimpses that show the regular life of the local population as they buy produce at a market, wait patiently on their bicycle taxi for a customer, deal with the local authorities, fix motorcycle tires, prepare their food and sit in their stores and stare out the store front at whatever interests them.

Trying to take photos from a moving car

These are scenes that are difficult to capture, I know because I have tried. Once I enter the bustling space of the small urban centre outside the car, people stop to try and figure out what I am doing and unfortunately the dynamic of the entire scene shifts. Sometimes I try to take a quick shot out my window, but it is always obvious that the image is taken from a moving car – blurry foreground, no composition and always too wide.

During my more recent trips through these spaces in small urban centres I began to photograph out the window in a more calculated way and, instead of trying to hide the fact that I am shooting out a window, I decided to embrace it. What I knew before shooting was that a high ISO and shutter speed would be required because I was photographing from a moving car, mostly I would need to be in a somewhat busy environment because busy means more action, more people, and more to photograph, but also busy means a slower moving vehicle. As usual, it would help to shoot during magic hour and, of course, I would have to be a passenger – which is almost always the case then I am travelling.


In many of these photographs you can see the window frame in one part of the image, often there is a lot of post-production because the raw images are crooked, off centre and strangely exposed. My method is more random than not and often I am not even looking through the viewfinder and I am unsure what my camera is focusing on. But this is what I love about this project – the images I capture are always unexpected.

So much of my photography is based on carefully thought-out images where framing, focus, exposure, light and movement are constantly running through my brain. In my street photos, although these things still matter, I can play more with the random elements of image capture. My knowledge of photography allows me set up my camera to perform as best it can given the situation I am in, then I just point and shoot – often taking hundreds of photos in a single passing through a town, usually coming out with 3 or 4 that work. However, the ones that do work show realness, they show the world outside unbothered by my camera.

Sometimes, playing with the unknown can achieve exciting results.


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