The Shot That Got Away

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by jamusu, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Today I went to the public library to check out some photography books. Before doing so, I noticed an interesting looking black man with distinct features and a kinky afro who looked to be in his mid thirties to early forty's seated in a chair, legs crossed, intently reading a book. I immediately ran outisde and retrieved my Pentax K-1000 from my vehicle.

    Upon my return, I promptly sat at a table directly in front of him no more that 10 feet away. I removed my camera from its case along with books from my bag and acted as though I was reading them as a means of learning how to use the camera; all the while sniping shots of him as he read.

    Then it happened. An elderly white woman sat in the next chair to the immediate right of him. She looked to be in her early seventies. Their was maybe an 8 feet gap between the both of them. She was wearing 1960's style clothes and eye glasses, with a hairdo that matched the time period. I immediately knew that I had the shot of a lifetime. I already had visions of the awards that I would win with this photograph.

    I promptly switched to my wide angle lense so that I could get the both of them in the frame. I waited, cautiously looked through the viewfinder; adjusted my aperture and shutter speed. I hesitated a bit, so not to alarm her, slowly advanced the film to the next frame, gazed through the viewfinder. Before I could pull the trigger, she became nervous, and moved to the other side of the library; thus leaving me in the grief stricken frame of mind that I am now in.

    I started to tell her that there was no film in the camera, but I was already feeling guilty for sniping shots of the man who was reading so I said nothing. Along with the fact that I do not like to lie.

    Originally I was not going to bring my camera with me. Half of me is happy I did because of the intersting shots I captured (sniped) of the man reading, while the other half wishes I hadn't because of the shot that got away.

    Does anyone else have a similar story?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2008
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I was riding my push bike somewhere on the East Cape (North Island, NZ), and I met this fellow on the road...an older Maori, with an old hoe in his hand. He was heading to a field to hand-chop some weeds down. He sat down along the edge of the road and we talked for a bit until a car load of locals came by and stopped to talk. I said my good-byes and pedaled off.

    I have often thought about how good of a picture it would have been to photograph the old man, sitting on the side of the road, tool in his arms and a geniune smile on his face. But then I think about how "National Geographic" the shot would have been, and am glad I just have the memory instead.

    Vaughn
     
  3. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Vaughn.

    Thank you!

    Your story has changed my mood for the better. Not because you had a shot that got away also, that would be mean. It was what you said about the having the memory. I guess it truly is about the memory and overall experience as a whole, rather than not capturing a specific part of it on film. At least I was able to capture half of it. I will think of what you said when this happens to me again. Hopefully it will.

    Jamusu.
     
  4. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    so many opportunities have gotten away... I concentrate on the ones that didn't, they're real.
     
  5. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    But, man, Jamusu, I can't remember the situation, but I remember the feeling that what I saw I truly connected with emotionally and was so overwhelmed that I forgot to wind on the next negative and missed the shot and I was so dejected. No, disappointed. And still overwhelmed simultaneously. I had forgotten. It is still a potent memory, sensorily anyway. A most odd memory. But I know just how you feel. Concentrate on the connection part and always be on the lookout for an opportunity to repeat the feeling, the emotion, the connection. And next time, just push the damn button and run like hell.
     
  6. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Chris.

    I wanted to push the button, but it happened extremely quickly, around ten seconds, but it seemed like ten years. Strangely, everything slowed down. It was as if time was moving in slow motion. Plus we were in the public library and I did not want her to make a scene. The K-1000 shutter is loud enough as it is; I dont' know how I pulled it off. I fired off at least twelve shots over a ten minute span with a librarian no more than 5 feet away from me. I guess they were fooled by my acting as though I was learning how to use the camera.

    When the elderly woman made it to her new location and sat down (around 20 feet away), I locked in my zoom lens and sniped her out of spite. I set my camera on Bulb and held the shutter open for 30 seconds. Her back was facing me so she had no idea. :D :D

    Quegita.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2008
  7. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    I sat at the end of a breakwater once watching a really young couple sitting wrapped in a sleeping bag watching a big cruise ship go by just off the end of the breakwater. I tried to shoot it but it was late night - pitch black - and just couldn't do the scene justice. Whatever - it was some artsy-fartsy pseudo-romance kind of message anyway - youth, dreaming of possibilities, cruise ships to faraway romantic lands, that kind of crap. I could have titled it "DREAMING" or something. Hah!
     
  8. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Jamusu,

    We photograph for many reasons. One of those reasons is the ego rush of making an image that others will oh and ah over and make us feel proud. The missed shots really give our old egos a setback.

    We (or at least, I) also photograph in order to learn how to see the world around us in a more clear manner. The "missed" shots are not really missed...they become part of our mental collection of images that we can draw upon to further ourselves in this quest to see more clearly. That old Moari has been part of my visual vocabulary for the past twenty years.

    Before I spent the 5+ months on the push bike in NZ with my 4x5, I had traveled to NZ 5 years earlier -- hitchhiking around NZ for 3 months with a 4x5 with a massive light leak. Talk about shots that got away (talk about being an idiot!) But I had looked at the light, exposed the film, and then printed the images in my mind while waiting for the next ride -- usually walking for miles along the roads. The success of the second trip was made possible by the seeing, the photographing and the memory of the images that "got away" on the first trip.

    Vaughn
     
  9. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Hmmm .... thinking if I should write what I'm thinking ... hmmm ....

    Regards, Art.
     
  10. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    I ALWAYS keep a camera with me - except ONCE. I'd had a late evening shoot in the studio and had to be back in very early the next morning. As I was packing up from the shoot at about 10:30 pm I thought: "No point in taking the camera - won't see anything between now and 7 tomorrow morning." WRONG!! Next morning, I was sitting at a traffic light looking at the sky which had that pre-dawn light. I noticed a plane with its lights on heading my way. The lights on it seemed excessively bright and suddenly a light appeared at the rear and a beautifully lit contrail came from the back. I leapt out of the car, (it was clearly a UFO??!!) and went for my camera - wasn't there! The thing got brighter and brighter until, almost above me it exploded - just like the images of the shuttle tragedy - clear dark blue sky, sunrise illuminating the the white explosion and the contrails. And I could only stand there like a dummy! Turned out it was the re-entry of an old Russian space craft. Needless to say, I have a loaded P&S in the center consoles of BOTH my cars now!

    Strange, (and highly embarrassing) what happens when you don't take your own advice!
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    unless i am forced to by an employer,
    i don't usually photograph people without their consent ...

    it wouldn't have been hard to ask the lady and the guy if they minded
    if you took their portrait(s) ...
    and the lady would have stuck around ... and you could have waited for just right moment
    without being sneeky ...


    great perspective!

    john
     
  12. Alden

    Alden Member

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    The more you're out there, the more you'll miss. Comes with the territory. You just have to suck it up, and let it drive your passion. And shooting candids can be very hard on your psyche. I'm not unfamiliar with that feeling of spite, and you'll have to get it under control. You have to convince yourself
    and hopefully truly believe that you are trying to bring beauty into the world, and not just sneaking around looking for prize winners. If you can manifest that feeling and honestly believe it, you will project a calm that might work magic on others. At least you won't come off as a hunter. Again maybe.
    The camera brings up so much selfconsciousness and suspicion you have to learn different ways to mitigate it. In your situation, I might have very quietly said, " how beautiful" just enough that she would have thought it coming unconsciously from within me, and been charmed enough to preen a lttle.
    See, I'm sneaky too. But I also believe in what I'm doing. Sometimes.
     
  13. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    These are the two shots that got away... still think about them both now and then.

    First I was working in northern Cambodia as a photographer for Doctors without Borders. There was still quite a bit of fighting going on at the time. We were driving to the hospital when we noticed a few fighters sitting in the shade outside a garage. I had the driver drop me off and said I would walk to work and try and get a few shots of the fighters. They were a rough looking crew but didn't mind me shooting up close. Most of them had their faces covered with bandanas anyway. At the time I was in a very pure photography stage.. no set-ups, don't change anything, Kodachrome on a M6 with a 35mm, etc... so although I noticed one of those on the shoulder type rocket launchers against the wall I didn't feel it was proper to have the guy throw it over his shoulder. The shots of the faces were great, and they all were holding AK-47's but boy I wish I'd have gotten him to hold that bad boy.... still can see it in my mind.

    The other shot was at a pro-choice rally years ago when a group of pro-life supporters decided to hold a silent rally at the same time. One of the rally leaders was yelling into a megaphone right at the ear of the other party... I was only about 4 feet away but when I brought the camera up a wall of people formed between us and I got shoved out of the way. It would have been a great shot from up close with a 24mm but lacked the impact from a few feet back.

    Anyway, missed them both... would-a, could-a, should-a I guess.

    -Rob
     
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  15. Antje

    Antje Member

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    A sparrow hawk swooped down on my feeder one winter and caught a sparrow, maybe three meters away from my blind. What made me miss that one is that I had a teleconverter on the lens... No way of getting it off in the few seconds it took the bird to sort everything out and get away with his prey. I got a few badly cropped reminders of a sparrow's demise instead of thrilling hunting scenes. That was years ago, and I have spent many many cold hours in the blind since then, hoping for better luck. Needless to say it's a strong driving force for me now, and neither I nor the hawk have had that much luck again, but we both had quite a lot of other thrilling encounters. :smile:

    Antje
     
  16. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Jnanian.

    I agree with you 100% in theory, but maybe 90% in practicality because I did cross that line. Honestly, I feel guilty about doing so.

    This January/2008 marks my two your anniversary as an amateur photographer. Until that point, I had never loaded a peice of film, let alone used a camera. I remember a conversation with my Photo I instructor on how it is not against the law to take pictures of people in the public without their consent.

    I told her that I would never cross that line. She responded by saying, "Yes you will, with time it becomes easier". I once again told her that I would never go down that path.

    Until yesterday I had never photographed someone without their conscent. Had I asked for it I am absoloutely positive that it would have ruined the shot. The scene was perfect in my eyes; untainted.

    I felt guilty while snapping the shots. All I could think of was that conversation that we had two years ago. That one sentece, "Yes you will, with time it becomes easier", replayed in my mind over and over again.

    I knew she was right. During that moment it did become easier; and at an instant, I had become the photographer I said I would never be under no circumastances. Next week I will shamefully bite my words when I see her while informing her of this situation.

    I do not plan to make this a habit, but now know that if necessary, I might cross that thin line yet again if the situation calls for it in my opinion. I plan not to, and hopefully I won't, but I refuse to say I will never do so again. We see where that has lead me. Once out of two years isn't all that bad. I guess?

    Jamusu.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2008
  17. Alden

    Alden Member

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    If I may add just one more thought to this dilemma of should we take pictures of others without their consent. I once had this arguement with a person who was very adamant about the wrongness of this activity, having grown up in the political correct era, and finding victimhood at every turn.
    I said if photographers don't photograph real people, who will? And what will be left of our image of ourselves as a culture? Answer, advertising, movies, TV. Certainly there might remain the posed pictures of consent. But documentary photos of people in the world, unremarkable, and without pretention? Gone. So get out there and learn how to manage this difficult task with confidence and a sense of mission. You are saving us from the painfully false image presented by commercial media.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    you gotta do what you gotta do ..
    just make sure u don't get punched
    in the nose for doing it :smile:

    -john
     
  19. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Alden.

    I thank you much.

    Both of your post's have been helpful as well as insightful. The shot that I took of the woman out of spite is not going to be usable anyway. It was on bulb for thirty seconds with people walking in the line of the shot the entire time. I will never do that again.

    It was and still am surprised that I reacted in the manner that I did. I believe it had a lot to do with guilt, and the fact that this was the first time that I had taken documentary photos without the person's consent coupled with the fact that I did not get the shot that I wanted as a result of it.

    I was attempting to bring beauty in the world as you stated rather than trying to be sneaky. I am glad you brought up that point. That is how I will view it in the future if the situation arises again.

    Jamusu.
     
  20. Alden

    Alden Member

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    Jamusu, you're welcome. With the right frame of mind, you'll discover what value there is in photographing people in the real world. Documenting the human condition is a serious calling. All the best.
     
  21. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    I've bitten my tongue for a day after reading your initial post, but I must tell you that -- in Australia at least -- a public library is not a public place where aspiring street photographers may practise their cliches. A library is a place for reading and where many seek some solace from the streets and their denizens (I've worked in a few).

    A fairly significant number of our clients in a CBD library were homeless and other indigent folk looking for sanctuary -- probably great subjects for yet another colourful folks shot, but I'm pleased to say that a photographer chasing some sort of glory by exploiting them would be promptly tossed out on his or her ear.

    Regards - Ross
     
  22. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Ross.

    "Chasing Some Sort of Glory"???

    Maybe you should re-read my original post. Nowhere did I say that any of the subjects were homeless or looking for sanctuary. Nor did I say I was an aspiring street photographer. I went to the library to check out photography books as a means of bettering myself as a photographer.

    You make it sound as though I left my home and entered the libary with my camera around my neck with the intent of taking advantage of some poor soul who was down on his or her luck with full passion and vigor which is false. It was not until I saw the gentleman reading that I went and retrieved my camera.

    I have never taken a picture of a homeless person. I can say without a doubt that this is something that I will never do. I do not take joy in exploiting the pain and mysery of the less fortunate for the sake of capturing an image. Furthermore, if I were to do so would it be wrong? Are those who have and will wrong?

    I said that the man was interesting looking with a kinky afro, the woman; dressed in clothes from the 1960's. This was an significant shot to me because three decades were clashing at once; the afro (1970's), the womans style of dress (1960's), and now, the 2000's. I viewed this as a merging of the three era's as well as a sign of progress, which is why I revealed what I believed to be their ages as well as their race.

    I live in the Southern Hemisphere of the U.S. You would have never seen a white woman sitting that close to a black man in 1960. In fact, the library would have had separate sections, one for blacks and one for whites, or even worse, blacks would not have been allowed in the library at all. 1970 is around the time when things slowly began to change.

    As I stated, their appearances and style of dress reflected 1960 and 1970, a negative time in our society, for race relations and equality. To see the pair of them sitting together in 2008, but dressed in clothing as well as adorning hairstyles from those two eras showed a step in the right direction; a positive reflection of the merging of three separate eras; 1960-1970-2000, but this was not the driving force behind my wanting to capture the image, but rather the two decades in between, 1980-2000; a twenty year gap that brought about a still ever growing positive change in the manner by which blacks and whites relate to one another in the South.

    It would have been but nothing more than essay; a narative reflection of the human dynamics of change, and I felt it my duty to document it; thus sharing it with the rest of society. If this is what you meant by practicing a "CLICHE", then shoot me in my back with arrows as I walk away because I stand guilty as charged. Do not we all?

    Thank you for responding.
    Jamusu.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2008
  23. jamusu

    jamusu Member

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    Rob.

    While working for Doctors without Borders, were there any shots that you refused to take?

    Jamusu.
     
  24. Alden

    Alden Member

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    Because there has been such horrible inequality in the past, people, very well meaning people have done all they can to make up for it. Then they go overboard. They regard humans as innocents that need protection from the baddies out to exploit everybody. Yet this exploitation is ingrained in human society anywhere you care to look. The earth is exploited, and everyone who wants to eat has to play a certain game. It's a game of give and take. Not perfect.
    This awful market economy has done some nasty things, but more good than evil. So down on the ground in the everyday world where we interact , to a minor extent now given the effect of the car culture, may I say one of the worst forms of human suffering comes from isolation. Polite ignoring. Hands off. That's one reason that alot of people fall thru the cracks. So honestly, a little push and shove ain't so bad after all. Telling a bum he stinks, and he's not welcome in the library, is much better than that horrible tolerate/avoid thing that librarians who turn the library into homeless shelters accomplish. I'd like to know what harm a photograph does compared to that.
     
  25. Ralf

    Ralf Member

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    Wanted to write a lengthy post here, but decided against it. To make a long story short: Had you asked the guy and the lady in a friendly way, you might have gotten the perfect shot. Talking people into stuff like this, however, is an art in itself. If you like photographs like this, you've got to learn that talking thing just like mastering your camera. :smile:
     
  26. rcoda

    rcoda Member

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    Seven years ago we were in DisneyWorld (my wife, 6 year old daughter, myself, and my recently widowed father-in-law). While my wife and daughter were on a ride, my father-in-law and I were sitting on a bench waiting for them. Along rode these two obese women on scooters. The scooters each had baskets on the front for personal items. Those baskets were filled with several bags of potato chips and other junk food and gigantic sodas. I had my camera and so wanted to take the photo. Out of respect for my late mother-in-law, who had passed away from complications of a lifelong struggle with obesity (she eventually got it and dieted and exercised, but too late), I decided not to take the shot. Since then, with the advent of "reality TV" and "The Biggest Loser" I have decided to never again pass up a shot like that again.

    We were in Disney again for the holidays this year and it was worse than it was in 2000. Very few handicapped people in scooters... but a great many obese people, with junk food in tote. I even found one fellow with FOUR plates of egg rolls in front of him. This country will never get it unless it is publicly presented so I have decided to make a project out of this. We saw a man with ONE leg (and a prosthetic one) running to catch a Disney bus with his children. We saw a gentleman in the employ of Disney with NO legs. We saw another fellow with one leg (no prosthesis)... all getting around no problem.

    We were waiting in line for one of the night time Disney shows at MGM and when the gates were opened we were almost injured by someone in a scooter (not handicapped I'm sure). I heard the guy behind us with his family (who were also almost run over) say... "How handicapped do you have to be to get one of those?"

    My project will be called "No Handicap... this is not about Golf".

    If I have offended anyone or anyone who is politically correct, I apologize. Just remember... your body is a temple.