Right place, right time!
It’s very easy to see a situation unfolding in front of you, but it’s somewhat harder to instinctively grab your camera or phone and start shooting images. I know this, because I’ve done it….numerous times. In fact too many times. I have given lots of presentations and lectures to camera clubs, students and specialist societies and they all ask the very same “How do you learn to be instinctive when it comes to shooting the decisive moment”. The answer is not so easy to come by let alone explain. I suppose it’s just a case of keeping your eyes peeled and judging what could happen.
I have a small set on Flickr that relate to an unexpected trip to Costa Coffee in Guiseley when I happened to have my DSLR with me. In addition I also happened to have a 400mm lens too, a great tool for shooting from a distance. Being unobtrusive is the key to the whole setting. The minute your are spotted that’s it. It’s all over. The chance of grabbing people with natural poses and expressions have practically gone. In my opinion this is when people are at their best, when they are relaxed and unaware they are being watched. On the other hand, depending on the type of person they are, it can bring out the inner-self of that individual. It can really make them shine
If you take a look at the full set of images you will see how difficult this task is.. (clicking the image should take you to my Flickr pages in another window).
Street photography is great. I absolutely love it and I am in the process of writing a separate section for my blog that covers my history, ideas and achievements in this field. But, this article isn’t solely devoted the art of reportage and street photography but is more about been in the right place at the right time. Something that neither you or I can plan in the majority of circumstances.
So then, the rules…. Number one rule; there are no rules. If you make your own rules you then only you can break them, so why bother….try and experiment, see what works and what doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter. In the image above of the two ladies having coffee and chatting there was very little light available and one of my rules is no flash. This leaves little option but to use a very wide apertures which in turn leaves no room in the depth of field department. This is obvious from the fact that the lady in the right is clearly in focus as opposed to the other lady who is clearly out of the depth of field.
Sometimes you only get one opportunity to grab a smile, or a fall or even a gesture; and I will admit its very difficult to anticipate whats going to happen but in this day and age most cameras and memory cards are capable of holding hundreds if not thousands of image files. This means you can shoot, shoot and shoot again at no cost to yourself. Should you need to you can merely delete the bad ones at a later time. In my early days this wasnt possible as I used 36 exposure films and this practice could become costly when you had 15 rolls of films at a total cost of £4 each plus processing at £3.99, I will let you do the maths.
On other occasions you get more than the single opportunity to grab the same shot. If you look at the image I took on Saturday I am sure you will agree with me that the image has various elements of interest. Apart from been in a set that is about the demise of a crane, the image gives the viewer a wider picture of whats going on at the scene. You can see the crane in the background and you can see the two chaps in the foreground and I believed that the flourescent anorak linked the two together. As an image, the two gents walking worked quite well but after observing the conversation for a few minutes it began to get quite animated as he seemed to be discussing the size of something. It clearly wasnt the size of a monster fish from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and I am assuming that his name wasnt Chief Brody of the Amity Police Department so I could only assume that it was the crane. As I watched the hand gestures kept coming and this is where the real trick comes in. Whilst doing all these observations I kept my finger on the shutter and took about 50 images. I call it “Thinking with my shutter finger”. Afterall, what harm could it do. The image was framed intentionally so that the figures were to the left allowing a view of the submerged crane and allowing for a little of the two-thirds rule to kick in.
So what am I trying to say here? Well, the majority of photographers would never carry a camera with them 24/7 but most of us now have mobile phones that are capable of the same job. The quality of mobile phone images these days is far superior than I could have ever imagined just 5 years ago and perfectly acceptable for publication should the subject be right. We have all seen images on the TV news where something is happening and people are stood around with their phones at arms length taking shots that could possibly sell. What I am saying is…do it…if you have seen it happen then you are too late, but keep your eyes peeled and one day you will get the one image that sells. Go on, try it for yourself