the photoshooter's journey from taking to making



TAKE ENOUGH PHOTOGRAPHS AND YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF acting more deliberately, and thus less reflexively. Your snapshot mind, the scatter-shot, try-anything part of your brain that acts purely on impulse, is never completely eradicated, but is suppressed, tamed if you like, by a more careful and selective way of seeing things, a habit of taking additional time to size up a situation before you shoot. This evolution in style is to be expected, as you learn, over the years, that a few extra moments of mental prep can yield consistently better results than merely shooting from the hip.

And yet.

It’s not really healthy to let the prudent half of our brains win every argument. Likewise, we should never completely renounce our membership in the “Nothing To Lose” club, that proud aggregation of people who will always, always go for the shot, despite the realizations that I Brought The Wrong Lens, The Light’s Not Exactly Right, or It Probably Won’t Come Out. Don’t get me wrong: I love, love, love to think that my extra seconds of calculation and forethought will consistently give me better results. And, often, I am proven right. But shooting on instinct, in fact being comfortable with both randomness and uncertainty, can sometimes bring home the bacon as well. The only uniformly wise option is: always shoot something, or, as they say in politics, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Stack Of Wax EF

The Vibe On Vine, Los Angeles, September 2022

This windshield shot, taken on the fly during a recent ride down Vine Street in Hollywood, represents such a case. The car was not going to stop: it was not in our plans to get out, set up a formal composition of these iconic buildings, or take a walking tour through the neighborhood. And so I found myself, once again, a member in good standing of the Nothing-To-Lose club, and I got, well, what I got. And of course there are technical flaws galore in the shot, not the least of which is severe color imbalance caused by shooting through glare and factory window tinting, resulting in the loss of nearly a stop of light.

But I can live with the bruises on the peach because, generally speaking, I got to eat the peach. I may or may not be able to return to the scene in future to try for a four-star job, but, in the meantime, I can chalk this one up to what you might call a workable preliminary sketch, and stop stressing about it. Because, in the final analysis, by failing to at least try, I did have something to lose.

The fun of making a picture.


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