the photoshooter's journey from taking to making



PHOTOGRAPHS CANNOT TRULY BE MADE AT THE SPEED OF WHIM, but, in the busiest shooting environments, it can certainly feel that way. In the digital era, we click off bursts within bursts, racking up frames at a rate that was prohibitively expensive for all but the most monied among us back in the film days. This means that, even as we shoot more and more in less and less time, we have to force ourselves, in the editing process, to slow ourselves back down, lest we miss a shot. Not a shot we neglected to grab in the moment, but a shot that we failed to notice in reviewing our work in haste.

It’s really common for me to fire off a fussilade of exposures on something that I fear I may not have long to work on, and completely miss the fact that, even in a wave of so-called “wasted” shots, I was accidentally blessed with a little Easter egg that, upon more deliberative consideration, gave me something I didn’t even realize had been snagged at the time. It’s the surprise joy of finding out that you accidentally did something right for a change, even when it’s a something that you weren’t actually going for.


Run For It, 2023

The tree you see here is, for a variety of reasons, one of my favorites ever. It’s also within a mile of my house, and so I have literally unlimited access to it whenever the fancy strikes me. On the occasion of this shot, I was trying to show the unique sweep of its branches (which are far demonstrably dramatic in monochrome), giving the impression that the tree is swept up in a windstorm even when the weather is dead calm. What you see here is one of about six frames I cranked out in rapid succession. My first review of the shoot being too hasty,  I rejected all of the images I got, going back for a different angle on a different day, convinced that the earlier day was a washout.

About a week passed before I had enough time to pore over the first sequence with any real patience, and that’s when I saw them; a sizable flock of starlings which, just an instant before the snap, had apparently been completely hidden in the tree’s canopy, and which, during this one exposure, were spooked into flight. There was no sign of them whatever in the shots either immediately before or after this one, making the moment uniquely alive with movement in a way that static images of the tree had failed to be. And yet, the shot might have lay forever unnoticed in a large general folder of pictures, had I not allowed it to reveal itself by slowing my roll and paying as much attention to the aftermath of the photograph as to its birth.


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