Sometimes successful people aren’t necessarily the best at what they do but a trait that is found in a lot of them, along with many others of course, is an ability to recognise when an opportunity comes their way. Opportunities come to all of us but we often don’t recognise the fact until it’s too late. The same can be said for photographic opportunities especially when they involve good old mother nature or other things that can vary over time.
Weather events are often relatively short, rainbows, rain storms, hail storms and so on – how many of us photographers have said, after the event, I wish I’d gone out and taken pictures. Similarly, as the seasons change, annual events come and go. Certain flowers come out at certain times of year, tree leaves change colour and drop as autumn progresses and so on. We need to pre-empt these events with a photographic plan or at least recognise what’s happening early enough to give us time to make a plan.
As I write this bluebells have come and gone, as have poppies.
Soon lavender will come out, or already has, so make a plan to photograph it and then the autumn colours make boring green hedges come alive with golden browns, yellows and reds.
As image makers we need to recognise these opportunities to make images and plan what to do. At the very least see it happening and work quickly to make use of the situation with which we are presented.
The above examples are nature driven but so many other things happen so fast we need to act fast to capture them. The classic example of this is the popular photographic genre of street photography. By it’s very nature street photographs are fleeting moments in time. Any that involve people are by their very nature situations that cannot and will not ever be repeated. Never again will that person move that way through the frame. Never again will that light pattern shining through those grills make the patterns they do on that particular person’s back.
The art to street photography, I think, is the ability to recognise a photographic opportunity and act on it. Of course you can set up a scene to a point, compose your shot and wait for the right person to walk through, but you need to see the picture before it’s in front of you – anticipate what’ll happen and act accordingly. The other end of the spectrum is when a picture happens right in front of your eyes. Then the ability to instantly adjust your camera setting if needed along with the ability to compose and shoot the picture in an instant comes to the fore.
Sometimes there are situations where you need to act slowly, ask permission, carefully calculate your settings and wait for the right moment but I think there are many more situations where it’s more important to act quickly, seize the opportunity. Get the shot, or what you think is the shot, and then go with it to a finished image in post production, or realise it wasn’t quite what you wanted and delete it. I’ve heard so many street photographers say you end up deleting most of your shots before you edit down to the ‘keepers’ but at least they got the shots to allow the self-critical editing process to happen.
Sometimes in photography you need to be careful and sometimes you just need to get the shot. Recognise the opportunity and go for it.