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How I got the shot: capturing working life in Kefalonia

The photographer for our Kefalonia In Pictures feature, explains how he tackled language barriers to capture life on a goat farm

By Nick Warner
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:57 BST, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 15:55 BST

The first morning I was in Kefalonia, I was woken by innumerable goats, all with cowbells round their necks, being herded by an ancient-looking local. This was how I first encountered Andreas, the goat herder. He was leaning on his staff, sweating, and shouting at his goats, which were going to town on vegetation in a neighbouring garden. I approached him with a very British nod, receiving an apathetic grunt in return.

He spoke no English, but with a varied palette of gesticulations, I soon deducted that he had some 150 goats that he took uphill every morning for grazing, and downhill every afternoon for water. Soon, I was passed onto his niece, Frida, who spoke a little English.

When I explained that I was a travel photographer, I was invited to their farm the next day to see Andreas shear and milk his goats.

The sun was surprisingly high and bright for 8am, but they were tending the goats in deep shade, beneath trees with some dappled sun coming through. By exposing my Canon 5D camera by a third of a stop below the shade reading, I got an exposure I felt confident I could work with later by lifting the shadows a third, and pulling the highlights down two-thirds. I replicated these settings on my Contax G2 35mm film camera too.

I shot all images at ISO 800, so I had plenty of flexibility in my shutter speed and aperture. I tried to stay at 1/250 shutter speed to make sure I could keep up with the pace at which the herders were working, so my fine-tuning frame-to-frame was done with aperture.

I ran through my usual routine of shooting everything that was happening as they worked, trying to stay out of their way, and occasionally asking someone (through hand gestures) to pause what they were doing and stand for a portrait. This way, I usually get a variety of shots that tell the overall story well.

Follow @nickjwarner

Published in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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