Serendipity in Indonesia

Making compelling pictures blends elements of content, composition, light, and color. But trying to keep to schedules and working to meet deadlines when covering stories often makes it difficult to have all these present before shooting.

Sometimes the content is so overwhelming that the other elements are less important. I have also been in great light surrounded by beautiful emptiness and desperate for content. But there are those serendipitous moments when everything seems to come together.

After a singing competition near Banda Aceh, Indonesia, the young contestants gathered before heading to their makeshift homes. The sun, sinking in the western sky, intensified the radiant color of their jilbabs. Not only were the local head coverings of the Acehenese girls colorful, but I also knew they would give the viewer a sense of place.

I made a series of photographs from various angles, exploring the layers of the scene while searching for the right composition. I shot dozens of pictures, trying to find every possibility. It was an exhilarating shoot. As dusk faded to dark and I left the village, all those less-than-perfect situations were but a distant memory.

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