I walked to the Metro (Newcastle underground) station two stops away from my work as I often do but saw nobody of interest but today I was particularly disappointed because I’d had a rejection at lunchtime that I hadn’t enjoyed and I really wanted to "bounce back". So I was really pleased when I saw Gabriel in the station – he was pretty much the first person I saw on the platform and my mind was immediately made up but there was a train drawing into the station which was of no use to me so I waited to see if he got onto it then approached him when he didn’t. He was open to the idea once I’d explained the reason and so I introduced myself, learned that the gentleman I was talking to was called Gabriel, and then set about trying to take a portrait in what I knew was going to be really challenging (low) light …
When I sized up the shot I was getting a really slow shutter speed and even after bumping the ISO to 800 it was still too slow for me so I tried the pop-up flash for speed but that was predictably horrible. At this point, however, I realised that Gabriel seemed content to humour me whilst he waited for his train. I asked him to move into the concourse instead where there was less people and I fished out my speedlight and pocket wizards and tried again with my left hand holding the flash positioned 45º/45º as best as I could (probably about 10º/10º). Again they did not fail me and thankfully I finally got a decent shot – and I am NOT kidding when I say the others (7 of them – ahem) were awful!!!
There was a moment I really loved when he commented that I had quite a bag load of gear and I said yes "all the gear but no idea" – corny I know but I then raised the camera to my eye … complete blackness … "see what I mean" I said as I lowered the camera and took the lens cap off ;). I have absolutely no idea why I put the lens cap back on – I knew I wasn’t done and I hadn’t changed lens or anything – must just be automatic.
I chatted to Gabriel throughout and he was really easy going, completely comfortable talking about whatever I asked.
Gabriel is from Nigeria and has been in the UK for the last 7 years moving about quite a bit having lived in Plymouth, Brighton, London, Leeds , Wales (Llandudno I think he said) where he did his Masters and now Newcastle to complete a PhD in Petroleum, Geology & Chemistry. If I followed correctly Newcastle is the only place he can do this as a PhD with everywhere else doing it as a Masters only.
In his spare time he enjoys chess and dancing – Hip-Hop and Salsa … at this point I came to the conclusion that Gabriel gets quite passionate about everything he does and when the chat turned to music I realised we really had found a passion of his. It was inevitable that the conversation would go in this direction – the ubiquitous Dr Dre Beats adorning his head were part of why I asked him and eventually I got around to asking him what he was listening to. Once Gabriel started talking about Hip-Hop he was off … Rakim is his favourite artist but I could only look at him blankly before finally admitting that he was talking about a different world to the one that I live in – he mentioned one or two other artists but the names meant nothing to me although I did learn that he likes modern Hip-Hop and older rap doesn’t do it for him as he enjoys the more intellectual style of the modern artists. Our paths obviously didn’t cross with my Rock leaning but we found some common ground as he likes to listen to Classical music on a Sunday, when he’s relaxing … but only on a Sunday! The rest of the time music is to waken him up and stimulate – not for relaxation.
As I heard our train approaching I decided to leave Gabriel alone – my hearing isn’t perfect and I struggle to talk with my mates on the metro so I knew that trying to continue a chat with Gabriel would be strained at best and besides I’d already taken up a good chunk of his valuable time so I shook his hand and thanked him very much then wandered far enough up the platform (and therefore train) to be out of sight and out of mind.
Whilst mulling over the encounter and starting to think about my write up I suddenly realised that my camera was still set to ISO800 … all the gear, no idea ;).
Gabriel, thank you very much for so much of your time today and moreover for your patience – it always amazes me how dim artificial light is but nonetheless the light conditions were right on the edge of my competence I think and your obliging and patient nature really helped me work through how to tackle the situation. I wish you well with your studies and wherever your qualifications take you.
Please feel free to provide constructive critique on the technical aspects of this photograph.
This picture is #77 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page