Card games in Nako

Nako, Himachal Pradesh, India - 2011 | Canon EOS 5D MKIII 16-35mm@23mm, f/5.0, ISO 800, 1/200s

Background story

Nako is a small Himalayan village in Himachal Pradesh, India. There isn’t much to do in Nako, except drink chai, interact with the locals and watch life go by. We (my wife, my friend Hardik and I) did a lot of the above. The restaurant where the photo was taken became our regular tea-drinking spot over the few days that we spent in the village.

I hadn't seen the restaurant too lively while I was there. Usually people would get their dishes, eat, chat and leave. When I heard all the commotion one day, I couldn't resist stopping to see what was happening. Inside was a group of very photogenic characters playing cards around a table by the window. This was a scene that was begging to be photographed. 

Generally, most people in India are very open to photography, so, I came up to the table, smiled and started shooting. 

Main reasons it works

@@...weird details can make an image a little quirky and ultimately, more interesting.@@
— mitchellkphotos

The first reason above all is the moment–the frozen gesture of a man about to slam the card down on the table. The choice of angle is important here too. I intentionally composed the shot so that it would make one feel like they are with the card players, right there amidst the action. Finally, the sideways window light also plays part. It shapes the faces of the men nicely and creates a sense of volume in the scene. 

One small detail that I like is the man with the sunglasses. Everyone is busy doing their thing, but, the man with the sunglasses seems to be looking my way. Sometimes such weird details can make an image a little quirky and ultimately, more interesting. 

Main tip

Generally I feel that you can’t do justice to scenes like these with one or very few frames. Things are constantly happening. It’s important to study the scene, to let the action unfold. To see who’s interacting with whom - to find visual connections. 

I suggest waiting and shooting. Waiting some more and then shooting some more. In 5-15 minutes, you might end up with over 50 frames. I ended up with something like that in this case. I think this is worthwhile. Why limit ourselves? We have memory cards that cost next to nothing. There’s always the chance that the next frame is your best one. By sticking around and making all those frames you’re giving yourself a higher chance to get the peak moment, or, a decisive moment when everything comes together. 

Don't just "spray and pray" meaning–don't just press and hold the shutter button and hope you get something. Study the scene as I've mentioned, then press the shutter and hold it as you anticipate that something will happen. 

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