I recently wrapped up a tour in Nepal, an annual event for me that is always a little but challenging yet immensely rewarding. Nothing ever quite goes according to plan in Nepal but we always work through the surprises and things end up in a good place one way or another. Often the solution that gets the job done is not the solution you imagined. That's life in Nepal.
We did have a few new treasures on this years tour, and one of them wasn't Nepal itself. Actually the entire group was fabulous so I feel bad singling out just one person, but Tim was something of a stand out. He's a spritely fellow from Perth (Australia) and he possesses a great sense of humour, immense patience and a deeply held love of chilli. I hadn't met Tim before this tour so I had no idea what to expect.
I knew he had an interest in birds, to the point of taking my advice and giving the Lumix G9 a serious look. Turns out he sold up his DSLR gear and went all in on the G9, so if he went home from this trip without some cracking shots then a good deal of the burden would weigh on my shoulders.
I needn't have worried. Tim took some great shots. On this tour I seriously challenged his ideas on what "good light" means and opened up a new world of expression in the process. Tim is good natured and gives everything a go whether he thinks it's a winner or not. Turns out this one was a winner. My philosophy on light is to work the angles. Flat days and flat light is not my jam. I like contrast and shadows and back-lighting and all the things that film struggled with because today's senors are very generous with dynamic range and you can belt them up with sunlight and still get a result in the RAW file.
Angle of light is all about control of contrast for me. Soft light at a sharp angle gives contrast. Harsh light at a gentle angle gives contrast too. You pick your contrast and find an angle that delivers some joy. You can't always see this through the lens though, and you have to imagine what your processing skills will do with that RAW image to make it sing. Tim was willing to push his boundaries in that regard as well. We even got him using the 80MP pixel shift mode on the G9 and made sure he didn't waste the effort to drag that tripod all the way into the Annapurnas.
I need say a few extra words here because this is really important. I do everything I can do make these journeys wonderful, from meticulous planning to spending a little extra on "just in case" scenarios. But at the end of the day it's down to the spirit of my companions as to whether they get the best out of or not. Tim is a nice bloke and so he gets the best out of everything.
Every so often I get someone really dreadful on my trips, someone who goes out of their way to be difficult as if they *want* to ruin their holiday. Typically they end up creating a tonne of needless work for the leaders and also have a serious detrimental impact on the rest of the group. These people are typically oblivious to their actions. Such people are rare and that's why I wanted to talk about Tim instead, because we need to focus on the positive things in life and try not let the negatives drag you down. Tim is an easy win for me, he took everything I had to give and gave it back in smiles.
At the top of a short hike to visit a chorten one morning Tim and I took in the view of the surrounding snow capped peaks, and Tim let out a sudden scream of "Wooooooow!" Then he did it two more times before quietly saying to me, "I don't often give three wows but this is special." Moments like this make it all worthwhile for me.
I love Nepal. I love my team over there and I deeply respect them. I want every photographer to visit Nepal at least once in their lives. The portraits, landscapes and culture offer endless inspiration. Tim has learned just how wonderful Nepal is now. I know he'll share the word with his fellow travellers and friends. If you half the spirit and a fraction of the enthusiasm as Tim then you might enjoy Nepal as well.