Why I Love Hands

By Ralph Velasco

Peoples’ Hands Have Always Fascinated Me

How about you?

Hasan's Upper Body with Grapes in Hands in Vineyard P - Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
First I start with a wider shot to show the owner of these hands.

Another unique opportunity.

Recently, I had the unique opportunity to visit a local man on his very impressive farm in Üzümlü, a fairly nondescript village located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, near the larger seaside town of Kalkan.

Nur, the woman who owns and operates the accommodations I stayed at in nearby Kas, and someone who became a very good friend, knew this man and asked if I wanted to visit his property and meet him, so of course, I said yes.

One of the best parts of my job as an international tour organizer and trip leader is that I often have the unique opportunity to meet interesting people in their homes, at their places of business and workshops, on their farms, in their market stalls and other locations.  To me, this is why I travel.

Hasan with Grapes in Hands in Vineyard P - Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
Here I want to get in a little tighter creating a more anonymous image.

What is it about hands?

Personally, I’m fascinated with peoples’ hands, especially well-worn hands that have obviously been used to create, harvest, build and repair untold things over the course of many, many years.  I have such respect for hands like these, and their owners, and I want to share them with the world.

Mr. Hasan’s hands certainly didn’t disappoint.  Needless to say I noticed them immediately upon being introduced to him, and as he showed us around his vast property, picking and offering bundles of late season grapes, I had to make some photographs.

Hasan's Hands with Grapes 1 L - Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
Finally, I get in really close and use a shallow depth of field.

Get in close.

I’m always talking about telling the story of a place, scene, person or subject, and so in an attempt to practice what I preach I captured a variety of images of Mr. Hasan’s hands.

That said, getting in close is almost always the best way to show the wear and tear and work and toil these hands have experienced.

Woman in Shadowy Sun with Olives at Vineyard L - Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
These contrasty lighting conditions were really tough for photography.

Difficult light is typically not your friend.

As we walked around and I asked questions about Mr. Hasan’s vineyard and other crops, through Nur who patiently translated, I noticed that a woman working for him was crouched next to several crates of olives.  She was sorting them individually, using her untold experience and trained eyes to separate the best ones for market.
As a photographer, the second thing I noticed was the difficult, high contrast lighting conditions.  The sun was up and shining brightly through the many gaps in the orange trees and suspended grape vines.  This created bright highlights and deep shadows, so it was a tough exposure. 
Woman in Shade with Crate of Olives in Hands at Vineyard P - Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
To minimize the contrast I asked this woman to move into the shade.

You may have to ask your subject to move.

Always being cognizant that a person like this is actually working and may not want to be disturbed, if it seems practical and I feel the person amenable, I’ll respectfully ask them to move into better and more even light, if there is any, nearby.  

This was definitely the case at Mr. Hasan’s farm and so I asked the woman if she’d mind moving just a bit and more into the shade.  Without completely interrupting her work or manipulating the scene too much, she obliged, and although there were still some hot spots from the sun here and there, I was able to get some nice images, certainly better than under the previous conditions.

Closeup of Woman with Olives in Hands at Vineyard Kalkan, Turkey by Ralph Velasco
What have these hands done over the course of her life?

Be sure to get in really close

Getting in tighter on those amazing hands holding the deep blue and purple olives, brings to light the incredible life these hands, and this woman, have surely led.

Between her hands, and those of Mr. Hasan’s, I was able to create a nice series of images, as well as add to my ongoing theme of the hands of people at work.



To create a shallow depth of field that highlights what you want to be in focus and blurs out the background, and foreground in some cases, it’s important to use a wide open aperture (low f-stop number), and if possible to zoom in on your subject, which can exaggerate this effect even more.  

Just be sure your focal point is exactly where you want it.  In this case I wanted it to be on the first two fingers of each hand and the olives closest to me.  Because of the shallow depth of field you can see the focus fall off and blur very quickly.

Let me know in the comments below.

Is there a particular subject that you gravitate towards?

What subject or subjects draw you in over and over again?

Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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