Becoming a member of the club


When I travel, along with commercial portraiture, I still try to shoot personal work.  When I was traveling in Barcelona, as I explored a local village, I walked by this cafe several times and an opportunity presented itself.

I witnessed this older gentleman inside, many times alone.

It was unclear to me if the cafe was open or not.  And if open, why no customers?  And the expression on the face of the man was of concern. Was the business failing? Was it just a long day?

You see, being an obsessive photographer, I wanted to capture this expression in a portrait.  And to do this I had to get to know him and his cafe.  Basically use my techniques for commercial portraiture on a personal project.

So Saturday morning, I went inside.  And there I met Michael.

Michael’s laugh is contagious at he greets everyone with a high five and serves unique coffee drinks.


OK, in the US coffee is everywhere.  But here, an espresso shot, a little froth milk, and a shot of alcohol seems to be the norm. And a pretty good idea, it seems to me.

After witnessing two police officers down one with Kailua and an older man take one with whiskey, I felt that I should too.  I quickly rationalized this decision with the logic that, clearly, I did not want a to offend the traditions of this fine establishment.  And besides, it’s an excellent way to ease the stress of a Saturday morning. Heck. It was 9:30 AM after all!

Carmen, Michael’s wife, runs the kitchen.  She would come out to great friends throughout the morning.  She is a delight with her warm, quiet personality.  A little shy. Both are dressed very nice with Carmen wearing a traditional cooks uniform.

OK, in the US coffee is everywhere.  But here, an espresso shot, a little froth milk, and a shot of alcohol seems to be the norm.

The dynamic between these two was great.  She minded the kitchen, he the front.  Both came out to warmly greet the people of the small village when they came in.  Clearly the town loved these two.

My original intent was to only photograph Michael, but watching the warm dynamic of these two, I knew I had another image to make.

To capture a great image, I must get to know the subject on a personal level–which is the part of portraiture that I absolutely love.

Well, the situation here was just a tad unique in that we didn’t share a common language!

But you know, they have an app for that!

Using a translation app was quite an icebreaker. We had a great time conversing with the app as I ate breakfast with the “special” coffee.  All the while planning the shoot in my head.

The warmth of the couple and the engaging conversation led me to finally pop the question:  “Can I photograph you two?”  I explained the process and even downloaded a picture of a photoshoot to show them what I was talking about.  They were more than willing, they were excited!

For the image of Michael, my strategy was to casually tweak the light and soft box all while coaxing out of him the expression I wanted.  After several frames using gestures to direct, I got the image I wanted.


Now for the couple shot. Carmen was shy to the camera. I knew I only would have a minute or two with her. For this image, I wanted the fun dynamic of this couple to be seen. So I joked with them as best I could and played upon her shyness. Only a few frames were needed to capture the perfect image of Michael and Carmen.

After the shoot, I met many people from the town that wandered in.  I became quite a hit with my photo equipment and the translator app that was translating feverishly.

It was a very gratifying shoot.  In the end, I knew I was in the club as the towns people were high-fiving me when they left.  And the hug Michal and Carmen both gave me was the highlight of my trip–friends I had made in the quest for an authentic image that I will never forget.