Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Moment critique!

I am always amused when new digital photographers and photojournalists talk about the newest, latest, all-singing, all-dancing digital camera able to churn out six to 10 frames per second.
I find it even funnier when they tell me how it's impossible to shoot sport -- or much anything else -- without a camera that can fire off photographs faster than a machine gun.
They seem to forget many of the world's greatest news photographs were shot using thumb-wound cameras with just a standard, manually-focussed, lens. At the same time, many of the great sports photographs were taken with similarly wound-on cameras fitted with a single-focal-length telephoto lens that also had to be focussed by hand.

How did we do it back then?

So how did we do it in the old days before feaures like autofocus, matrix metering and wizz-bang motordrives were even thought of? And how did we do it when we couldn't check the rear LCD screen to be sure we'd got the picture?
It was, and still is really quite simple. We worked like snipers rather than machine gunners. We anticipated the action, prefocussed or zone focussed, understood exposure and only needed to take a single shot at the critical moment.
To illustrate the point, last Saturday, I took a trip to Mandela Square at Sandton City, armed with a simple Minolta X300s and a 50mm and 28mm lens. There is a large statre of Madiba there that naturally attracts the attention of locals and tourists alike.
I took up a position near by, took a meter-reading off the palm of my hand, gave one more stop of exposure, pre-focussed and waited for magical photographic moments to happen.
Over the course of three hours I got a number of really good shots that captured wonderful vignettes of life in the Square and though I was only about 10 feet away from the action, not one of my subjects even realised the were being photographed. At the moment critique I simply brought the camera to my eye, pressed the shutter and lowered it. No shutter-lag, no whirring autofocus, no grinding motordrive to attract attention -- just a single, clean shot and kill.

Look closely at this image!

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