Compose the picture and then wait

I have a folder full of images on my hard drive that I use for teaching. They aren’t always my best work but they help to illustrate a point better than others from my portfolio. This is a perfect example of that idea.

Sometimes you can see the potential for a picture but the picture isn’t happening. This is a common issue for news photographers who have to shoot pictures to go with stories about something quite specific but aren’t allowed to set a lot of shots up. This picture was to go with a very small story about an art exhibition that had been put on by some young female artists on a very tight budget. The venue was a shopping centre (mall if you are from the USA) and I could see that some human interaction with the work was the best way to cover it. I grabbed a tripod from the car and stuck my camera on it. Composing the frame was pretty easy and all I had to do was wait for the right people to walk past and look at the work. People came along and I tried various shutter speeds to get some blur in order to keep the ‘focus’ of the story on the art. Soon I was happy with my plan (1/10th of a second at f4.5 on 200 ISO) and I waited, shooting frames as people came past in ones, twos and threes.

©Neil Turner/TSL | London | October 1999

I could see these two women with very similar pink in their outfits coming. I could see that they were in perfect step and so the plan went from the occasional frame to a full burst (about 3 frames a second in those days) and got this shot. Of course I did a few more but the deep joy of those early digital SLRs was that you had great confidence in what you saw on the rear LCD.

The idea remains one that I use over and over again. I see pictures and I compose them around what’s there and then I just have to be patient and wait for someone or something to come along and complete the photograph. You can see the same idea here in an old post about walking with speed lights which has pictures taken a lot more recently!

For those who love detail, this was shot with a Kodak DCS520 camera (1.9 megapixels of class) and a Canon 17-35 f2.8L lens at the 35mm end of the range perched on a Manfrotto 055 tripod (which I still use).

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