The wide eyes of a toddler or the cracked, craggy skin of an old fisherman can both tell a story about the person being captured in a portrait. Letting the subject's personality emerge through the image is essential to portrait photography, but it also applies to other disciplines of photography, such as nature, landscape and street photography.
Finding the personality of the scene before you and capturing it with the camera can breathe life into an individual photo or into an entire project.
Of course, capturing that personality can be tricky, and usually requires at least some knowledge of the subject (see my previous blog, Active Anticipation, for more on that). But when you are able to compose a frame that portrays the personality of a landscape or an animal, it gives your audience the chance to connect more closely with the scene you have portrayed.
Much of my work, taken in the areas surrounding my home in Narragansett, R.I., focuses on the different aspects of this town. I think the above photo, which I made at the town beach on a recent summer morning, perfectly captures the subculture of surfers who reside here.
The shot was taken on a Wednesday morning at sunrise, a time when only the most dedicated of surfers are in the water. I imagine this gentleman, who looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s, was likely trying to catch a few waves before heading in to work.
The same scene could have been captured at 11 a.m., while the beach was packed with sunbathers and tourists. However, that scene wouldn't have captured the true personality of the local longboarders, who do whatever they can - including waking up before dawn - to take advantage of the few short months of warm water before they have to don their winter wetsuits.