Once a year I shoot street scenes at night in the middle of winter (in canada). I've worked out how to do this very well.
step 1) frame up
step 2) focus (on af cameras half press the release)
step 3) inhale deeply
step 4) begin to exhale
step 5) slowly press the shutter release the rest of the way as you exhale and fire a shot.
step 6) hold down the release and fire a second time as you finish exhaling. (motor drive)
This works best when the camera is at chest level, and your hands are both supporting it. Your centre of gravity is fairly precarious when the camera (not to mention all of your weight) is dependant on the top of your body such as when you have the camera at eye level. Keeping your head clear does help, as it keeps you calmer and thus less fidgety.
I should point out, continuous AF is terrible for this because the camera might see a bird or random object and decide to refocus mid shot.
The process takes about 4 seconds and yields two shots usually one perfectly sharp at slow speeds. I once pulled off a sharp image at 1/1.5's (2/3's)of a second on my nikon F80 when I was really in a zen space.
Elbows tucked in, push camera against face, inhale, exhale and push release gently til you feel the break
I prefer the electronic release to a heavy mechanical shutter release anyday
This reminds me of the perennial article in gun magazines about how to pull the trigger. It shows up once a year, just before or just after the article discussing whether or not the .30/.30 is adequate for whitetails.
A discussion about how to press to shutter may seem very trivial to some, but it is a very important action in photography and I have seen so many people jab it, thus moving the camera at the same time.
I realise that, see my hint about attaching a laser pointer to the camera and projecting it on a wall to see if you're jiggling the camera.
Originally Posted by cliveh
The "devoid of thought" bit reminds me of John Daido Loori's (I think no connection to Daido Moriyama) discussion of photography as a Zen student. And of course it's a well-known aspect of Zen Buddhism generally, though I've heard people suggest that it may be overstated in many Western views of Zen. I'm unsure of it myself; maybe I just don't have the knack of doing that no-mind state well, or maybe I actually disagree with it, but my experience is that I need to keep my mind checked in and focussed in order to feel that sense of the right time to release. I guess the "listen to *it*" frame makes more sense to me than the "devoid of thought" frame.
Not a trivial subject at all, IMHO.
It isn't so much "devoid of thought" as being utterly in the moment and engaged with the task at hand, with no internal dialogue going on. I get there very easily doing some things, one of which is target shooting.
Originally Posted by ntenny
At my photo club, I am regularly amazed by how many people express surprise and gratitude when we discuss these issues, because they have never had anyone help them with them before.
Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh
I tell people the following (this assumes a prism finder):
1. stand with weight evenly distributed between your feet, and weight on both the heels and balls of your feet;
2. square your body so it is facing directly toward your subject;
3. raise your camera to your eye and help support it by tucking your elbows into your body comfortably;
4. the camera should be resting comfortably in your hands - not gripped tightly in your hands;
5. all adjustments for focus and exposure and framing should be made to your satisfaction before moving to the instant of exposure;
6. self-assess whether you feel any unusual tension in your body, and deal with it by relaxing it;
7. inhale slowly but steadily, until you are comfortable, and then pause slightly;
8. exhale gently until you are about half way, then pause slightly;
9. squeeze the shutter release smoothly and carefully until the shutter releases, then pause very slightly thereafter;
10. finish exhaling; and
11. look again at the scene through the viewfinder, to see if something has appeared that may cause you to want to shoot another.
Most of the above can be done far more quickly than it takes to type it or read it, and it can easily be reduced to near unconscious habit.
As I understand it, the breathing part of the process is recommended by those who shoot firearms.
EDIT: as mentioned below by E. von Hoegh, it can help to take several deep, unhurried breaths before the "half" breath at the time of exposure.
By taking several deep unhurried breaths, briefly holding then partially releasing the last, you can slow your heart rate considerably.
Originally Posted by MattKing
Thanks - I'll add that to the list!
Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh