Quick Grab Shots

Have you ever walked into the room to see your pet doing something outrageous? Was your child about to dump a plate of spaghettis on his sister’s head? You had your camera in hand but by the time you”got ready’ the shot was gone? How long does it take you to move the camera to your eye, compose, meter and shoot a photo? How long has it been since you read your cameras operators manual?

As a working photojournalist I realized the value to being ready for that one great shot at any time. So let’s get you prepared to quick draw and shoot your one great shot.

First let’s decide what’s your norma stylel, do you shoot often in program mode or manually adjust the camera for every photo? Do you typically shoot at a wide angle or telephoto? Whatever you do normally, you must return your camera to your normal comfort zone immediately after taking any other type of photo. So that when you pick up the camera you know what EI it’s set to, what focal length you’re using etc. You should always know every setting your camera is adjusted to at all times. With that knowledge comes confidence that you can grab a quick shot.

Always be ready to shoot. Can you operate your camera blindfolded?

On an assignment to illustrate a story about a young man who was out saving stray animals I walked into this scene.

By being ready to shoot I got a grab shot of “Sparring cats.”

I usually shoot with two cameras one a body on a long telephoto with monopod and the other with a wide angle on my right side. This way I’m prepared for distant and close in activity.
My wide angle camera is always carried inverted, that is with the prism next to me and the base of the camera pointing away. This allows my right hand to always fall into place with my finger on the shutter release as I move the camera upward. With my 14mm lens I can begin shooting long before looking trough the viewfinder. When shooting sports I keep this camera on my chest so I can grab shots of the players as they run into me.

In the days of films popularity we gauged everything by Kodak’s ASA 400 Tri-X film. We had slogans to remind us “125th and f8” was the rule, when finished with any photo you returned your camera to 1/125sec and the lens to f8. And then you were ready for “f8 and be there”. If you stepped outside and it was really bright you could feel the camera as you went to 1/250sec and f11 for outdoors. And when you walked into a store or commercial building you would open up to 1/60sec and f4. In most homes we would expect to shoot around 1/30sec and f2.8. And if we got a great shot but then discovered the light wasn’t as expected we would push or pull the film during development to get the shot.

Knowing and understanding exposure is the first step in getting an image you can work with. Always being prepared is the next step.

On my first day at a new newspaper job I was out riding around town, before my shift, when police cars began screaming past. I kept up and pulled in to a shopping center in time to see several police officers shooting at a car speeding past them. Right in front of me two police cars crashed into the speeding Cadillac, I grabbed my cameras, rushed past several officers and 15 seconds later shot this image.

You probably won’t be shooting spot news photos so how can we put this to work for you? Let’s go for a walk down a nature trail. Do you want to have your wide angle lens on the camera? We might use a wide angle to photograph the landscape or a nearby flower; these subjects don’t run away so you’ll have plenty of time for them. But that deer you spooked will soon maybe the telephoto lens should stay in place while walking down a trail

Another thing to do, if you use program or auto settings, is to frequently aim your camera at a scene along the trail and depress the shutter release halfway. This will focus the lens and pre set the shutter speed and aperture. This may reduce the time required to adjust your camera for the next shot.

So why don’t you think what you have to do to take a photo. Thinks like a NASCAR pit crew changing tires. What steps can I avoid taking? What preparations can I make in advance? These steps will help you in your everyday shooting also. When you are confident in your equipment you can concentrate on the image.
Have fun happy shooting-Larry

Journal Comments

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