I was walking down "Mall" street in downtown Denver and I saw this man playing cards at one of the tables in the middle, park like area between the two bus lanes. At first I walked by. I was feeling a little shy. But then I realized that passing up a nice portrait because I'm becoming chicken shit will be the first step in a long flight down to the point where I'll never be able to ask again. Reticence builds on itself.
I turned around and approached the table and, when the subject and his friend at the table had a break in their conversation, I asked the man with the headscarf if I could make his portrait. I introduced myself, told him (truthfully) that photography was my hobby and that I was visiting his city and I noticed he had an interesting face. He smiled and gave me permission to continue. At that point his friend stood up and let me sit in his chair, across the little stone table from my subject. That was a very nice gesture. It allowed me to be at eye level with my subject and I'm pretty sure that made both of us more comfortable.
These are the kinds of portraits I like to take on a full frame camera with a medium telephoto lens but I wasn't dragging a rig like that around today. Instead, I relied on my Pentax K-01 with its little 40mm 2.8 lens. I had the camera set to shoot black and white. And I'm pretty darn happy with the way the image turned out.
The entire exchange took a minute. When I'd finished I thanked him very much. Touched his jacket sleeve and told him (honestly) that he had helped to make my day better. He smiled, his friend sat back down, the deck of playing cards came back out and they resumed their game. And, at least for now, I have regained my self confidence where approaching strangers for photographs is concerned.
It's strange, when you photograph people for a living you are always in a safe zone. You've been asked to make a photograph of someone. There's a total buy in by all parties. It makes taking the images so easy and that ease makes it harder when there is no external purpose for the images. Harder when there isn't the certainty that people will say, "yes." We get too complacent when we have our subjects delivered all primed and ready. It's a good exercise to venture out into the big, wide world and learn to ask nicely again.