One afternoon last week, we spent a pleasurable few hours shooting some classes at this grand mosque in Riyadh. We had asked to shoot some video for our documentary series, The Arabs – A People’s History, and the mosque kindly let us in on a Saturday afternoon. There were several groups were spread out around the mosque, reading and reciting from the Koran, they seemed to be divided by age, the youngest being about 4 or 5 years old, going up to men who were well into middle age.
Stepping into the mosque from 40 degrees C, the atmosphere inside was wonderfully cool and calm. Everybody seemed happy to see us and we were met with smiles and nods wherever we went. At one point an official from the mosque came over looking quite grave and I was worried that I’d done something inappropriate or insensitive. In fact he wanted to make sure I was getting all the pictures I needed and to introduce me to a group of students who he thought would make a good set up for our sequence: we wanted footage that would illustrate how mosques can be centres of education.
When we’d finished, the Imam invited us to his offices for coffee, tea and sweets and as we left, presented us with several booklets and DVDs.
While we were working our way through the back streets of the old quarter of Jeddah, shooting video for a TV documentary on Arabia, I saw the strong afternoon light catching this bicycle outside a bakery shop. It was around 3pm and very hot and quiet as many people were at prayer. I made the rest of the crew stop and wait, handed my C300 to the producer and shot a sequence of pictures. Even though I knew the others were waiting I tried to work the scene and to figure out the best shot. Looking back at them in Aperture, it’s possible to see how the sequence developed to the final shot which I think is the best.
First I tried working with the bright yellow of the bike’s rack and its reflection in the window, lit by the strong shaft of sunlight.
Then I tried switching to landscape format and including more of the street scene.
I liked the way that was working but wanted someone to bring movement and some back light into the top left of the frame. So I hung around for a few minutes and waited for some people to come by…
That seemed to be working well. But then I saw a small boy, wearing a yellow top, come out of the bakery and run off up the street. I took a couple of shots, tracking him as he ran, switching halfway through from portrait to landscape, before capturing the final frame that I like the best.
Canon 5Dii, 50mm 1.8.