3 More of My Favorite Photos and the Stories Behind Them

By Ralph Velasco

This post is part of an ongoing series where I’ll feature some of my favorite photos and the stories behind them.

This is a continuation of the series I started where I’m featuring images from an eBook I wrote called Essence of a Place: A Photographer’s Guide to Using a Shot List for Capturing Any Destination.  This is one of my favorite books that I’ve written as it explores a behind-the-scenes look at a variety of images I’d made up till that point.  Each image represents one of 30 different categories of a shot list.

That eBook, in turn, is based on the app I created called My Shot Lists for Travel, which is still available on the app store for download to iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone (and it’s FREE!).

For those who don’t have iOS devices you might like to pick up one of my other eBooks which is titled 52 Categories of a Shot List: Create Images that Tell a Story.  In this book I list each and every photo found in the app, along with an explanation of its representative category.

Man with a Coin in His Ear - Trinidad, Cuba by Ralph Velasco
Man in Trinidad, Cuba, with a coin in his ear.
Man with a Coin in His Ear - Closeup - Trinidad, Cuba by Ralph Velasco
Closer up you can see that it's actually a 25 centavo CUC, or Cuban convertible peso.

Culture & Customs Category of a Shot List

This image was made on the streets of Trinidad, Cuba, and the opportunity, as most, happened very quickly.

What first grabbed my attention was this man wearing a straw hat often seen in this part of the country. The fairly solid pink wall behind him had a bit of welcome texture, but it was still simple enough to offset his dark skin and blue shirt. This made for a wonderful contrast between the subject and background.

Instinctively I used the Rule of Thirds and placed my subject on the right side of the frame, giving him ample “negative space” on the left to look and walk into.



It’s funny, but for a long time as I quickly sorted through and began processing the images from this trip, I assumed that he had a hearing aid or a piece of cotton in his ear. However, upon closer inspection I realized that it’s actually a 25 centavo Cuban convertible peso (CUC) coin.

I later learned that the men hold a coin between their thumb and middle finger, blow on it, make a wish and then put it in their ear for good luck.

Frozen leaf in Yosemite National Park in California, USA by Ralph Velasco
Frozen leaf in Yosemite National Park in California.

Details Category of a Shot List

After some schedule shifting I found time to make a trip out to Yosemite National Park, just east of San Francisco. At this point I hadn’t been there in over 25 years. It was winter (January to be exact) so the tourist crowds were minimal.

Just having one morning to be there I drove around from lookout to lookout, and as I did I realized that many of the classic photo opportunities immortalized by Ansel Adams and others are today conveniently located right off the main road, complete with parking lots and public toilets. But of course this meant that everyone was getting the same big landscape shots that I was seeing–I mean they were right there staring us in the face.



These are wonderful places to photograph, and they give everyone a chance to get the “postcard” shots, but those weren’t exactly what I was after. Of course while I’m there I’m going to go for that low-hanging fruit, always trying to put my own spin on it, but I also wanted to be sure I was making an effort to look deeper into the scene to find what for me are the more interesting details that make up the whole. Parking my car on the side of the road and hiking in the snow just a hundred yards or so, I was able to find and hone in on this single leaf covered in hoar frost.

By zooming in on my subject and using a wide open aperture, I purposely exaggerated the shallow depth of field, which blurred out the background and brought attention to the leaf itself.

"You can't get worse at photography...but you must continually practice your craft."

Overview of the Charles Bridge on the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic by Ralph Velasco
Overview of the Charles Bridge on the Vltava River in Prague

Color Category of a Shot List

The term “establishing shot” most likely has its roots in the film industry, and you’ll notice that a movie often opens with that big overall shot, and then the cinematographer will inevitably follow up with the medium and detail shots to continue the story throughout the movie.

It’s the same for telling a story with still photography, and here I was looking for a vantage point from which to give an overall sense of one of my favorite cities in the world, Prague, in the Czech Republic.



I’m always looking for the highest point from which to photograph a place. I’ll climb up in the tallest building, or take a cable car or walk up the side of a hill or mountain to get such a perspective, as I did here when I hiked up Petřín Hill, located on the left bank of the Vltava River. From there I was able to get an unobstructed view of the river, the Charles Bridge, parts of Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and the iconic buildings that line the Old Town Square on the other side.

Taking my cue from movie makers, I’ll often start out my slideshow presentations with an establishing shot of the place I’ll be discussing, and like them I’ll progressively bring my viewers in closer by then showing the medium and finally the detail shots to complete the story.

Essence of a Place eBook by Ralph Velasco
Download my Essence of a Place eBook by clicking above.

Please Leave a Comment Below

Are you working from a shot list when you travel?  Even one made in a notes app, spreadsheet or with a piece of paper and pen?

Let us know in the comments below, and please Subscribe to the blog (you’ll even get a free eBook) and to my YouTube channel so that you can follow along through the written word, photographs and video, I’ll be providing.

You can even choose to be there in person should you like to join me on a future tour.  Simply visit my PhotoEnrichment Adventures or Alla Campagna Experiences websites.

Finally, don’t forget to tell us in the comments below what your thoughts are, and be sure to let me know what else it is you’d like to learn more about.


Now remember, DRIFTERS,

life’s too short not to travel!

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