My wife, Mary, and I went to Pontevedra Spain last week to compete in the ITU (International Triathlon Union) world championships. It was a tough race. The swim portion of the race was cut in half because the water was so cold. The bike portion of the race was all hills. The only flat part had sharp corners every 300 meters with speed bumps in between the turns.
Even though the race was challenging, the town of Pontevedra is amazing. I love Spain and towns like this are a good reason why. What I really love about Spain are the people. They’re so fun to watch and interact with because they seem to be so animated and full of emotion. Plus they get out. I’m sure there’s some homebodies not getting out, but it seems like they all gather in the evening to hang out and interact. Parents bring their kids out too. So the tradition gets passed along. The kids get socialized in a way we don’t really see in America. The parents don’t really helicopter over their kids. They run wild for the most part.
One downside, we noticed, was the rampant graffiti. It’s everyplace. We even saw some at the base of a crucifix in a park.
One of the first lessons we learned in photojournalism school was the art of making contact with strangers. You can’t really do good portraits if you can’t get people you don’t know to relax while clicking away with a big camera. It’s really a challenge to learn and a skill a person needs to practice whenever possible. Making contact and getting people to relax is to open a door to creative possibilities.
Everyone is different and first impressions are important. I have to approach a banker differently than a cowgirl.
My coach, Jaime, and I were taking an after dinner walk through the old part of town and I was wanting to try for some photos. We walked through a courtyard empty except for two teenage girls. On one side was a building with old Roman style pillars and I was hoping to get a picture with people in it somehow.
So the challenge for me became: How can I get those two Spanish kids who speak a foreign language to pose near the pillars? Even for just a couple quick snapshots I wanted to try.
So I walked over and in a very American accent said “Como está? Donde esta la biblioteca?”
They started laughing until tears were running down their cheeks.
In high school Spanish all we ever learned about was going to the biblioteca. Or the playa. It’s like everyone in Spain hangs out at either the library or the beach. So for the first time in my life I actually used something directly learned in high school.
It worked. We did a couple pictures and then moved on. I wanted to go into one of the closet sized pubs and do photos of the old timers having beers but we had to get to sleep and do a race.
I highly recommend going to places like Pontevedra and taking chances on meeting the locals.