Seeing & Thinking: Overcoming Harsh Sunlight on a Pineapple Farmer

While in Dominica this past July, I came across this man fishing on a riverbank. We struck up a conversation, and he invited me to see his pineapple farm…

This shot of Jerome was taken with my favorite portrait lens, a Ziess 85mm/f1.4 lens. Since it was midday and we under a bright direct sun, I asked if he would stand under a tree to help diffuse the light and prevent dark shadowed circles from appearing under his eyes. I then threw the background out of focus by opening up the lens to f4 to keep the focus on him. I liked the contrast of textures, colors and the way he popped out from the jungle.

Then to show more of his enviroment and the farm that he was so proud of, I switched to a 28-75mm lens. This is what I saw with my naked eye:

Not too flattering, right? Sunny highlights and horrible shadows on his face for starters…and then that grass was just a little too messy for my taste. It was competing with Jerome’s attention…and winning!…and not adding any real interest to the scene.  But steps away was a better background, a tall palm that added another dimension to the composition. So we walked a few paces left, and I changed the f/stop from f9 to f4 to lessen the impact of the vegatation. Since we were still standing under a bright direct sun, I took out my flash and reflector. Note the difference a little bounced light can make in transforming a scene! The light helps him stand out and softens the shadows on his face.


I took another shot using the same settings:  f4, 1/200, ISO 200 and the previous flash output but this time I also used a polarizer. The effect was rather perplexing. I expected the polarizer to remove any glare in the vegetation, but it appears to have lessened a good deal of contrast in the greenery too. I think the humidity of the jungle was beginning to affect my lens as well. Which one you prefer is pure personal taste!

I love meeting and interacting with locals when I travel. You never know who you’ll meet or what photographic opportunities await. I tend to take more risks then maybe I should at times…according to my husband! But I really enjoyed my time with Jerome, who proudly showed me the many fruits on his farm from limes to coconuts, and invited me into his kitchen where he hacked open that sweety juicy pineapple and a breadfruit roasting in the open fire (yes, it did taste like bread!) 

When you get home from traveling and look through your pictures do you sometimes say–“Well, there’s a jungle that could have been taken anywhere.” A jungle is a jungle. A mountain is a mountain. A beach is a beach. Without a specific feature, landmark or local person it could be anywhere! Why not include people in your shots? It’s human nature that we like to look at pictures of people. If you’re like me, they’ll be your favorite shots of the trip. And sometimes the interactions alone create wonderful memories. I think of my time in Bhutan. Both times I visited, I was invited into numerous homes and left with photos of locals simply living life as they did. But how does that happen? Simply by being friendly, and showing an interest in their lives or whatever they happen to be doing outside…Of couse it helps when locals are receptive to tourists, and have a equal fascination with us!

I’m getting ready to travel to China and Sri Lanka in a couple weeks…and wonder what kind of interactions I’ll have.

Have you had a impromptu interaction that led to a special photo of a local you met while wandering around a foreign land? If so, share it here! I’d love to see it and hear about your experience…


  • Kris Koeller - This is a great series. I like the third photo personally, because as you noted I think the filter or the humidity (or both) really flatten the vegetation. The third is a bit warm, but I like the detail. Nice work.

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