NEAR MISS/NEAR SAVES
By MICHAEL PERKINS
THE PICTORIAL POTENTIAL OF SOME EVENTS, PHOTOGRAPHICALLY, TURNS OUT SOMEWHAT LESS MIRACULOUS THAN ADVERTISED. That is to say, a few of the things that you assume will certainly yield stunning image opportunities come off, in reality, with the majesty of, well, a flea circus. Sometimes, you think you’ll come home with the Seven Wonders Of The World inside your camera. Other times, you have to fight a strong urge to give up all this “pitcher-takin'” nonsense and take up honest work, like bank robbing, where you can at least set your own hours.
We’ve all been there.
Fairs, festivals, commemorations, parades…..these are all happenings which are ripe with potential, for which we have all camped out on the perimeter of what we hope and pray will be the Next Big Thing, only to come home with crumbs. Leavings. And the best thing to do when an event becomes a near-miss is to seek out what I call the “near saves”. That is, when the story at a given event is disappointingly small, go smaller….toward the intimate detail, the human component, the pertinent bit of texture or atmosphere. The overall panorama may fail, but a single face, a structural element, a series of shadows may deliver where the overall scene fails.
The above image happened almost by accident. Around early sunset, I rushed into an over-hyped cultural festival which failed to achieve full wonderfullness (trust me), and, hours after sunset, I was leaving in defeat, when, near the exit, I spotted a genuine, weirdo-beardo-freak-yourself-out gypsy fortune-telling machine, right out of Tom Hanks’ Big, wonderfully lit by ambient neon on the midway and the device’s own built-in “spook light”. The deepening dark of night was suddenly my best friend, boosting the mystery with oodles of deep shadow. With a 35mm prime lens, I could open clear up to f/1.8, keeping my ISO low at 100 and allowing me to get plenty of light at 1/40 of a second. I was amazed that I had walked right past this treasure when I entered the festival, but I was grateful for a second chance. Snap and done.
Thus,my best shots from the night were of anything but the main “attractions” of the event. Going small meant going beyond the obvious, the difference between a near miss and a near save.