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Tuesday, 14 November 2017


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The key for me is that you saw the image and your mind says to you there it is, a moment in time that will make a good or great photograph. What I take away from your post is that so many people go through life not ever seeing those moments in time, they just are not wired the same way photographers are. I'm sure many of your readers have had similar experiences, I know I have.

Yes indeed.
That does sound like a good one.

I had one a couple of days ago: It was late evening, I was walking home. A guy came walking, screaming continually and angrily at his German Shepherd, which was off the leash and continually eluding him.
The dog had a huge branch in its mouth, and as it paused right in front of me, backlit by a streetlamp, it looked a lot like a buck with big antlers.
But sadly, although I actually had my phone in my hand, the dog moved on a second before I could get the camera up.

Sounds like an unlikely enough combination that going out to stalk a re-occurrence would be frustrating! I could almost see trying for the combination of two of the three main elements, but all three drives the odds a lot lower.

I only have one real success in going back after an escaped photo, and that one was nearly entirely based on fixed elements (it was inside, but still needed the weather to cooperate as well; but just clear sky with a few interesting clouds, which isn't that rare in summer here.

For a while I tried to always have a camera on me, and it used to bother me that I missed a photograph. I'm not bothered anymore. I still really enjoy seeing something and thinking "that would make an awesome picture...". But now I focus on just enjoying the thing. When I'm photographing, I'm much more deliberate, and I tend to wait for times when I can actually work a scene, build a group of images, or build on an existing group. Partly this reflects me getting pickier about my own work, and partly it's a function of the sea of images we're swimming in today.

Careful Mike. Gorgeous is the word applied to females of a certain persuasion as well as dogs and similar critters...

Photos, not always...

Thanks for the nice story Mike. I know that feeling well...

Mike, Nice piece. Of course it happens to all of us. We all have lives to live, groceries to buy, Dry Cleaning to pick up so it is a fact of life that even the best photographers, can't be photographers ALL the time.
But we can appreciate what we see in the spirit of Dorothea Lange's
"A Camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" And while those 'mind pictures' do fade, they never fade completely. They pop up and inform other pictures we make, months or years later. They are never 'wasted'
Certainly there are some that were so good that we lament not being able to "Be there and Be ready' . But I would venture to say that the scene you described probably recreates itself several times a year.
This is were going back to location to 'mine it' over and over can pay off .
Will the picture be Exactly the same as the one in your head, -probably not, it may be better, or it may be worse, or just different in a good way, but you CAN pursue it if you choose to.....or not.
Good luck

My friend just got me this book. "Photographs Not Taken" which is a collection of essays about just this subject.


You just reminded me that I need to read it.

Like you I have some missed images that stick in my mind for a long time and some that fade away sooner. On the other hand knowing that these images are out there gives me hope that even if I miss most of them that there will be more coming along in the future that I will have a chance of getting.
Also, having the lens cap off and the lens shade on is helpful :-).

If you wanted it, you'd go back there every day when the weather was right. It doesn't happen every time, but there's a fellow with a horse through there pretty often, maybe he's even on a schedule. And behind him, most of the time, there's a vehicle. Sometimes it's white.

A surprising percentage of those Once In A Lifetime Grab Shots are actually one of several taken of an event that happened over and over. This could be yours!

You are NOT old. Like you I have several that I can remember that are decades old. Two of the best I did not get because I simply was too lazy, or as I prefer, disinclined. That makes it even worse. By the time I decided to act they were gone. Walking around seeing pictures seems to be one of the side effects of being a photographer me thinks.

Well, Mike, isn't it enough that your photographic practice has made you a "nocticer"--that you are alert to how the pieces of the world sometimes come together visually in a way that moves the heart? Sometimes I feel that I am being greedy wanting to fix every beauty on film or in pixels. You say the image will fade in your mind, but that does not lessen the beauty you experienced in the moment—were more likely to experience because you are a photographer..

This is the essence of being a photographer.

Ah, the one that got away. It is during those moments that I wish I was a painter instead of a Photographer. You could shoot the corner where this happened, make some notes about ambient light and color, take or find appropriate photos of a horse & buggy and another of a semi, assemble them all and recreate the scene on canvas. Of course, that takes a lot of skill of a different kind but at least the moment would not be lost.

Had one of those moments the other day - missed a great environmental portrait (was driving, needed to be on foot). Moments like that are when I wish I could paint.

An 8K dashcam will give you 36MP stills.

You reminded me of this site -

You've just described the real street photography genre (as opposed to any photograph taken on the street). Somehow the best street photographers have this propensity to capture a lot of these fleeting moments. It's not easy to do, and it's not just luck as they seem to do it over and over again. It's a combination of skill, eye, preparation, mindset, and trying.

For years now, every so often I see the sunlight reflect off the New York City high-rises at the Golden Hour as I ride in a commuter bus on the other side of the Hudson River.

I have marveled at how perfect a photo the scene would make and have vowed to capture it. I have even made it my business to have a camera with me on my commute

But it haven't managed to do it yet. Not only are the windows of the bus always filthy, they are usually further obscured by semi-transparent advertising shrink-wrap on the outside of the bus. Getting out anywhere in that area is not an option.

And so the dream continues.

"I'll think about that picture-I-missed for a few days,..." But you didn't miss the image. You just can't share it.

The featured comments pretty much say it all for me, but add to that the slowness of age, and those times when you think your ready, but find out differently when you see your results!

Don't forget those which just couldn't be taken. Like the wonderful series of street and vehicle lights fading into the mist which I spotted driving at speed in the fast lane of the M40 (the motorway between London and Birmingham)....

So, if you were Jeff Wall, you would rent a horse and carriage, a large truck, some actors, a lighting crew with equipment, a master photographer and a large format camera. Then, you'd arrange with the county to block off the road, painstakingly re-create the light artificially and arrange the actors and props until you had the photo that you're carrying in your head. All that stands between you and that photograph is a hundred thousand bucks give or take :-)

With the passing of the years, all the things that got away from us (the girl that got away, the moonshot stock that got away...) start to pile up in the attic of our minds.

I used to, but no longer, fret over a lost shot. Been to a few transcendent musical performances, and had a few memorable meals, which I had no means of capturing, either. We should let go. Seems to me serendipitous moments in one's life should be fleeting. Trying to make/keep a poor copy kinda ruins them.

Familiar experience for a photographer. When, camera-less, I spot a worthy scene, I just think, "click!" (And smile.)

I've always been intrigued by the fact that many quite ordinary scenes can make extraordinary photographs when framed 'just so', and many extraordinary scenes look ordinary as photographs.

Seeing a photograph is not the same as looking at a scene. Sometimes, it's nice to just look, and leave the camera by your side.

Two weeks ago my wife and I were in NYC. Every time we went out I took my camera and did shoot a lot. Early one evening I headed out to go to the International Center for Photography. For some stupid reason I chose not take my camera with me. Well as I approached the subway stop I looked up and there was a partial Moon right next to the lit tower on the Empire State building. As I thought about taking what would have been a beautiful shot I realized that my camera was blocks away back in the hotel room. At this point I said some bad words to myself.

BTW the ICP has a great show going on right now called GENERATION WEALTH by Lauren Greenfield . If you are in NYC it is well worth viewing. https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/generation-wealth-by-lauren-greenfield

On the other hand I keep a notebook next to my living room chair and draw sketches of photos that I would like to take someday.

A conceptual photograph. Is it any less a work of photographic art because no shutter was tripped?

I'm being cute, don't want to start a debate on this. I'm already getting a headache. :)

Wow, I didn't even think of trying to restage the foggy road shot movie-style. I should have! Not that I could do it, any more than Mike probably could really, but I should have thought of it.

The joy of seeing ...

"I would have to have been on the lookout; because I am often lost in thought, I'm not always alert."

"I don't know about you, but as I go about almost every day, I see far more photographs than it's possible to even try to take."

Put together, those statements seem self-contradictory, but I understand. \;^)>

What I've found is that I tend not to get lost in thought when walking - if I have a camera with me. (Otherwise . . .) Especially if it's a "real" camera and in hand or around my neck. Cell phones don't work, and a camera in a bag or pouch are less effective. I "SEE" more with camera in hand.

OTOH, seen with camera in hand, ready to take advantage, most of those ". . . far more photographs than it's possible to even try to take." reveal their flaws as actual photographs.

In the face of actual picture taking, the fantasies collapse, and the number of actual shots available is manageable.

Those spectral images fascinate me too. I can recall several such 'wonderful momentary scenes' from many years ago when I didn't have a camera with me -in one case a shaft of intense golden sunlight poured through a gap in the roof of the old Manchester Victoria station (before redevelopment) spectacularly illuminating the massed ranks of evening commuters. In another unforgettable case it felt unsafe to take the photo. Some weeks later I found out that the group of rather dramatic looking young men hanging around their car by a remote rural reservoir had committed a horrific murder the previous evening. Thankfully I trusted my instincts and played safe.

Street photography, more than any other genre, seems to entail struggling with the inevitabilty of missing many, if not most, potential pictures for a variety of reasons, including our own limitations and/or ethical judgements. Fortunately though there are also photos that surprise us by working much better than we had expected.

In my case one of the benefits of developing a photographic 'eye' has been that I've noticed several species of wild flowers and fungi that turned out not to have been recorded in our area before.

As a film photographer, occasionally a film gets screwed up or lost... it's ALWAYS the one with the best photos on it!

I have a great portfolio of Ones That Got Away sitting in my biological hard drive. It's way better than my actual portfolio sitting on my computer.

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