The Grinch who stole Photography

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It was Christmas Eve in Seville. A smattering of tourists were soaking in the last few hours before the city essentially shut down for the biggest family day of the year. As he dropped us at Plaza Espana, our young Italian cab driver warned us – “In another two hours, you won’t get a taxi to the hotel, and will have nothing to eat.” He was himself from Venice and had followed his girl down to Seville, carrying dreams of visiting New York some day. As I tipped him what would be considered a nominal amount in NYC, he remarked – “don’t worry about so much tip. This is not US”.

The Plaza appeared dreamy in the pastel winter sunset, and the coveted blue hour was approaching fast. As I rushed to the center of the Plaza to settle into a comfortable zone for capturing the next hour of captivating color, a fellow photographer and his wife rushed in from the opposite direction, and planted their tripod firmly in geographic center of the Plaza with six 9s of GPS accuracy.

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The spot he chose was probably the worst (best) location he could have picked as far as other photographers were concerned. Any deviations to the left or right of him, and you would get the gorgeous fountain off-center. Take a few steps back, and you would get his unique posture in your images as seen in the above photograph – he didn’t quite blend into the generic crowd. A few steps forward, and you would be in his frame – probably with a similar posture. What is a photographer to do in such a situation?

I waited. And so did 4 other photographers. Minutes passed. About 10 exposures later, all of us inched closer to our friend – maybe he would take a hint – but he didn’t. His wife would glance towards us and say something to our friend, but nothing would change. A few more exposures laters, my fellow photographers starting biting the dust one by one, and pitched their tripods in what definitely must have yielded sub-optimal images. I decided to inch uncomfortably close to my friend and raised my tripod above his shoulder, and started snapping. But subtlety was definitely not his strength, so eventually I had to do the obvious, and ask – “Would you mind if I took a few images from this central position?”

Grudgingly, and with a sense of entitlement, he obliged. I stood on borrowed ground, on borrowed time, quietly took a couple of photographs, and walked away to hunt for other viewpoints.

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