Shooting Standing Still

As a journalist I respond to news, and cover stories as they happen. Sometimes I do a more investigative piece, or a character portrait, but usually it’s a matter of keeping up with a story as it happens, and getting ahead of it. I’m often shooting from the hip. Don’t get me wrong, a good photojournalist is well trained in the finer points of crafting images, but that expertise is often applied in a very quick, improvisational way. Here are some examples of the best.

Of course you try to think, as something is happening, about where it is going to go, and put yourself in position for it, but that only works part of the time. I’ve lost count of the times I had a great shot set up and then the subject changed direction at the last second, or the moment changed, and I was left with the back of a head, or the side of a van.

On the other hand, a lot of photos that look straightforward were difficult to get because of an uncooperative light source, or the need to get past a physical obstacle (say, climbing a street sign to get above a crowd), or a situational obstacle (talking your way past a traffic cop to gain access to a crime scene). And then, after dealing with settings, light, angle, etc. there is still the matter of capturing the moment. Sometimes you get the happy accidents, when a shot emerges where you never expected it. But you can’t count on these.

Shooting news is a combination of showing up in a new situation, trying to craft an image out of whatever you are given, and accepting the image you end up with – sometimes it’s better than the one you were planning.

When I set up a tripod the other night (thanks for the loaner Ed), stood in one place and shot a landscape — with a 25 second exposure (ha!) — it was like photography meets spa day.

Ps. I still had to illegally park, run across a busy, windy mountain road in the dark and shoot from private property without permission.

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