It was fantastic to see my photo given pride of place at Inntravel’s Slow Moments exhibition
. But, in truth, its journey to the Joe Cornish Galleries
– and to winning the competition – was a rather fortuitous one. First of all, my wife Christine and I were not supposed to be where we were when it was taken. And secondly, even having taken it, I was not planning to enter it into the competition until I was persuaded to do so by a photographer friend.
We were on holiday in Sri Lanka, and on this particular day we had to take a six-hour bus trip on narrow, tuk-tuk-clogged roads in tropical heat and humidity towards the capital, Colombo. Our programme included a two-hour break for lunch in the port city of Galle. As we arrived in Galle, we drove into the impressive 17th-century Dutch Fort, with its vast, fortified ramparts – erected to ward off colonial invaders. Once inside, we were captivated by the narrow streets, markets, temples, homes and residents of the old city. We came to the realisation that, in our whole lives, we might only ever have these two hours in Galle, and that the old city was too fascinating and inviting for us to spend that time in an air-conditioned restaurant. So, instead, we set off exploring…
After a while, we found ourselves on a narrow path on top of the ramparts with an elevated view down into the busy streets below. We came upon a mosque with an adjoining madrasa
, just as lessons were finishing for the day. I managed to get a photo of the imam
, relaxing informally on the madrasa
steps surrounded by his students, and believed I had captured an intriguing travel photo. Many of the boys dispersed on foot across the city, but six of them (those who were to feature in the winning photo) appeared to have a longer journey home and crossed the street to a bus stop.
They then did what they probably do every day, and instead of waiting for their bus in the full glare of the afternoon sun, they scrambled up the rampart to shelter in the shade of the overhanging trees near to where we were. I realised that, if I dropped down a few feet, they might make an attractive silhouette against the clear bright sky, dressed all in white. It took a couple of shots to get the exposure right: I wanted to preserve some of the detail from their uniforms rather than rendering them as fully black silhouettes. In fact, the reflected light from their clothing lent an almost translucent quality to the images.
But those first pictures were quite static, with the boys standing like statues in the heat. I kept them in the viewfinder, hoping that something would happen: perhaps one might sit down or reach for the branches above, or a boyish scuffle might break out. Then, suddenly, one of them spoke and the boy on the far left leaned forward, either to reply or to hear better, and the subsequent chatter along the line caused the boy on the far right to remove his cap in a somewhat theatrical gesture. This was the image I had been waiting for. The shutter clicked and we belatedly headed to the nearest café for a very long, cold and refreshing drink!