Capturing The Moment
To me, photography is all about capturing “the moment”, an endless search for what some call the “decisive moment”.
I admire the effort put into taking beautiful landscapes, appreciate the imagination of the creator of a still life and admire the skill with which a fashion photo is created for publication.
However, to me, the pinnacle of photography is documentary photography. The most interesting subjects are people in their environment. In that kind of environment, the photographer does not wish to interfere in the scene and a split second can make a difference.
I find most satisfaction in taking photographs of people in their environment. Due to the subject matter, I realise that unconsciously I am always searching to capture that “moment” – that elusive fleeting second of time that presents the subject in a powerful way.
In the past, at the beginning of my interest in photography, I needed to learn the rules. Rule of composition, rules of exposure and so on. Then I realised that I was restrained or slowed down by these things. Well, not exactly, but my consciously dwelling on these things made me miss many of these shots. In addition, it was recently that I realised that zooms may sometimes hinder instead of help me.
What is important is that fleeting second that I am looking for. When I understood that, I started to trust my feeling. This feeling that tells you that you are looking at “that moment”.
You will know it when you see that moment. If you have been searching for it, you will know when you see it.
You will see it at your family gatherings.
You will see it at your regular church service.
You will see it at your local eating place.
You will see it at a crowded market.
You will even see it in your own home.
I have learned to react immediately when it appears. There is no second chance. That moment will never come again. What you just captured has just became the past and it can never be re-created. We do not take photos for the here and now, we take photos because we want to grasp the wind that is time.
The Leica / RF Myth?
Leica likes to promote itself as the camera that will allow one to capture that decisive moment. I wonder though. I don’t have a Leica and use a Epson R-D1 rangefinder. I have been shooting with it and the D200 back and forth and I realise that the manual focusing has caused me quite a few shots. The operation of the R-D1 is just not fast enough.
I noticed that as long as I have access, the D200 with its AF helped me to capture shots like these more successfully. It is just fast. I am also not too convince about the hype that the rangefinder window will allow us to see action outside the frame lines and anticipate the action. When I am shooting with the D200, I will open my other eye periodically and see that is happening around. As for opening both eyes to shoot with the R-D1, I find it difficult to achieve accurate focus and have stopped doing it. Using this method forces me to concentrate even harder and thereby slowing me down even further.
The M9 with its exposure compensation dial (the rear wheel used for this function) will definitely be faster than the R-D1’s “look up, press the lock button, twist the exposure compensation dial and shoot” routine, but the manual focus will slow down the operation.
The D200 does not have the mystic of a M9. It is produced in quantities and its current used price probably couldn’t buy a nice M9 half case. However, when it comes to catching the moment in documentary photography, a dusty, out of date D200 will stand a better chance at giving us “the” shot.
Is the M9 hopeless at catching the decisive moment? History says no. If I use the R-D1, I have to prepare before hand. I can still capture nice shots with the Epson, but it is more difficult. I would need to be happy at missing maybe 5, 6 nice shots for each shot I managed to catch.