Are you an Opportunist Photographer?

Are you ready when there is a photo to be made? You know, that one that pops up in front of you, or, are you mired in the “I Only Shoot“, “that’s not my thing“, “I don’t know how” . . . . can the excuses! When I was a PJ so very long ago in the days of film it really was “Put up, or, Shut up and go home“.  I had to carry two bodies loaded for the assignment and often shot day and night often without benefit of metering the scene first “Sunny 16 Rule” . . . And . . . there was no “Chimping your shot” . . . you had to make it happen, bracket the really tough ones and pull it out of you ass in the darkroom. It helped to know your film and how it acted  to low light, push processing or pulling early (I am speaking of B&W and hand processing), Tri-X was king of the sports and night photography back then, for that matter it was THE film. Plus-X was for the artsy stuff and Kodachrome ruled the color for full spreads, I often rolled my own (short rolls “12 shots) of film from a bulk 100 foot spool to cut down on waste. That was then, what about now? what about that Opportunist attitude? Why wedge yourself securely (albeit safely) into a niche? Why do you freeze up when that once in a lifetime shot presents itself . . . why, why, why . . . when you should just shoot!  That my friend is the main crux that most of the newbies fall into, and that is what I try to have anyone who asks me that all to often question “How do you [insert whatever type shooting you doing here] and do it consistently? ”  . . .
Definition: Opportunist; “a person who exploits circumstances to gain immediate advantage rather than being guided by consistent principles or plans.”  take what the Muse “Serendipity” gives you and run with it.

Today’s cameras make it so easy compared to the old film days, take the grab shot below of a fiddler playing on a sidewalk late in the evening under awful lighting conditions . . . he was lit by a mix of incandescent & florescent light, the interior through the window was also a mix of the same. My per-visualization of the shot was nearly instant and my actions were as automatic as breathing as to what settings and how I framed the shot.

Fiddling away time

Fiddling away time

I snapped away several shot, scanned my viewfinder info and made a quick adjustment and then . . . the moment was over.  The fiddler realized I was there and stopped and turned to me and we had a great conversation.  He posed for a few more shots [not with the spontaneity or candidness of those first few shots] and we parted ways.  I continued for the rest of the night with what I was doing and with happiness that I had captured a very unique photo.  Had I worried about all the “what if’s” I would not have nearly the feel of this shot, and this is all because I am so comfortable with my camera that I am able to just let go of the technical stuff and shoot!  It comes as second nature.  I normally shoot Landscapes and wildlife or birds . . . street photography is not my norm, at least not nowadays, it is reminiscent of my early PJ days and doing assignment on the street and covering daily news.  One assignment that often fell to me was to (as my boss put it) Go out and find a full spread for the weekend Lifestyle section . . . this task usually came late on a Friday afternoon, and, required it to be shot on Kodachrome and in the Layout department for in house separations and layup before the plates where run late Saturday . . . “oh Lady Serendipity please be kind to me”  . . . was my prayer and off I would run . . . Children were always a prime target because everyone love a cute kid . . . and it better match what was happening that month as well.  Here is an example I shot back in those days of KodaChrome this is a poor scan of the original, following it is a B&W (Tri-X), I always shot a few BW just in case. The color copy of the BW version was the one that ran . . it was pretty close to that.  These were mine, the original that ran was destroyed in the separation process because it was clamped in a holder and by the time the Art Dept was done with it . . . . well it was really mangled . . .







What went through my mind and what were the actions I took to make the fiddler photo.  1) My camera was already in the mode I wanted to use (Manual), 2) I also had a fast lens on the camera (nikkor 35mm f/1.4 G), 3) my ISO was set to 500 which I upped to 1000 later “Grain or Noise in the case of digital can be good“, 4) I used a slow shutter because I wanted some movement in the photo, 5) Lastly I didn’t care about the color of the light as I already knew I’d be converting down to B&W.

Some of the things I do not fear when playing with photography, Digital noise, High ISO, Blur  . . . it doesn’t matter if it’s Street photography, Wildlife, birds, people . . . it pays to be an opportunist and take advantage of the situation . . . take it a step further and get out of your comfort zone and just shoot some photos . . . browse online or a fave magazine and try to deconstruct and then recreate a photo you like.  When you tell yourself you cannot do something because [insert excuse] you will never grow. . . challenge yourself . . .

Be an Opportunist Photographer . . . learn to accept what “Lady Serendipity” gives you and make pictures, keep the camera in your hand and shoot until it is second nature, avoid chimping as much as possible as you WILL miss “The Shot”, sometimes it pays to just keep shooting.  You will get the hang of it and you have an advantage we old film shooters never had . . . unlimited shooting space . . . could you imagine if you shot film what your per shot cost would be!  . . . Let me hear NO complaints, get off your butt and go shoot.

until next time . . . I am off with the Lady  . . . I am Opportunistic


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