Thursday, January 10, 2008

Slow and Thoughtful Vs. See and Grab

Largely the things I photograph don't run away. I use a tripod, cable release (OK, radio remote these days) and mirror lock up. Sounds like I am thoroughly entrenched in the slow and thoughtful style of photography.

There are times though that suit the latter see and grab style of photography. Sometimes you see something wonderful and like waking from a good dream, you want to capture it before it fades.

On a practical level, it's remarkable how often a shot dissappears before you can get set up. The wind picks up after being calm for hours, almost as if mother nature didn't want you stealing the image. The light may change, a leaf falls or someone parks their mountain bike right where it spoils the image and proceeds to set up lunch. I remember once setting up to photograph a lovely cornice of snow, admittedly in a city park. Over came some kids and proceeded to knock them all down. Good thing you can't be jailed for thinking of murder. Even with still lifes I have had something slip out of position and never quite get it back right again.

There is a lot to be said for the grab it while you can, then reshoot with care and analysis if you can. It also means that whatever the subject, speed can be important - how good are you with your tools? Can you find every button on your camera quickly, with your eyes closed and with gloves on? Can you set up your tripod likewise? I don't tend to change lenses after finishing a shot, but perhaps I should replace any special purpose lens with a general zoom to increase the chances of capturing fleeting moments.


David said...

The quick grab can result in some of the best pictures....You always have to on your guard!
The best piece of advice I ever got was when shooting, even in a studio setting is to never take the camera away from your face. You never know when the model, not really paying attention will produce the perfect look, it may only last for a second but if you miss it you know you will not be able to reproduce that look.

I am really enjoying your blog here George...Great stuff!

George Barr said...

Thanks David, and sometimes if you think your way to a photograph it just isn't as good as the instinctual one. You start second guessing yourself, you decide that thing on the left isn't quite right, so you fuss and move around and end up not getting the original shot which was in fact the perfect one.


G Dan Mitchell said...

It is funny to me that people imagine landscape photography, for example, to always be a fairly static sort of thing. Not at all. Frequently stuff is changing so fast and in so many ways that one can barely keep up. Cloud shadows appear fleetingly, light comes and goes, wind drops and picks up, the surface of the water changes, and so forth.

One example...

(Sorry for the raw html, but this comment field won't take my img tag.)

I found this floating ice on a small tarn near the Sierra crest. I spent a few minutes figuring out how to shoot it, set up, and fired one shot... AS IT FELL OVER!



Tim Gray said...

Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape gets a fair amount of ridicule on that "other" review site when he talks about useability with gloves. As a former Calgarian, and current Torontonian, I know it's important.

I try to approach something unexpectedly interesting first by grabbing it as quickly as possible camera to the eye, frame, press the shutter - then consider ev +/-, brackets, tripod, alternative framings etc. in a more contemplative manner.