You get one shot

One of the things that I most enjoy about being a location photographer is that nothing goes as planned. In a studio you have almost perfect control over your situation: lighting, camera placement, background etc. But when you step out into the 3 dimensional world things get odd fast. That tends to play havoc with the studio control freak dudes. However I love it and think that it adds a whole bunch of new options, surprises, inspirations and the ever popular “NOW what do I do?!?”. Add to that the fact that when you are not working in a controlled portrait kind of situation if you missed the shot you missed the shot and there is no re-do. The wind will never again blow her hair that way while she makes that perfect expression. You can try to ask the cloud to go back to that perfect place in your composition but I don’t think he’s going to listen to you.

There maybe more good shots to be gotten but that one you missed is gone. Sometimes it really bugs you that you missed it for whatever silly reason. Just like how you sometimes cringe to think of how you really should have kissed that girl back in ’96 and how that might have changed your life if not just that weekend. You can’t go back – only forward. Sometimes it haunts me but I try to push on and find new situations to try and get right.

To better my chances of not missing a great shot I’ve learned to do some things like: never eat when I am shooting because as soon as I take a big bite of something I notice a perfect shot unfolding about 50 feet away, shut up – if I’m talking I’m not giving my 110% attention to the shots around me, try to research the subject and pack a few more pieces of gear for “just in case”. You know, that kinda stuff.

Given that when you are shooting news especially and to a large extent sports, you are not ever allowed to not bring back the goods. You have to get the good shots and that’s a lot of pressure. With sports something is always going on and that really helps. You might not get the game winning catch because it happened on the other side of the field or a ref got in your field of view but you had better bring back good shots of the guy who made that catch. If it’s a news situation you have to bring back something that tells the story. Period; no excuses. There was a Police roadblock? Get shots of that and then try to find a way around. The subject didn’t show? Find a way to show the story without him. Make it happen and on deadline no less. If you fail to bring back the goods you will most likely never work for that client again. Seriously.

I saw this today and it made me think of all the practice and planning to make it happen. It’s a single five plus minute shot and everything perfectly fits into place. It’s not news photography but it’s darned impressive. One guy, one camera, one shot. Ok maybe they did 83 takes but they got it and it looks totally natural.

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