Photographs that got away!

How many of us have missed photographs that could have been captured? That fleeting decisive moment of Henri Cartier Bresson or the perfect landscape of Ansel Adams! Even the exact pose of that beautiful bird that happened a moment too soon. Even among the hundreds and thousands of photographs captured everyday, missed photo-opportunities always keep coming back to upset us.


Large Oak

(While capturing the large oak in front of the distant hills, I missed out on the squirrel that came to see what I was doing)


Here are some pointers to avoid some of those missed photographs –


Understand the limitations

Know what your camera is capable of capturing and what it is not. Our eyes are wonderful and cameras are not able to cope up with the way we see our world. On a dark cloudless night, all we have to look at the sky and we can see millions of stars twinkling there but for a camera to capture the same, it will require a really long exposure. We can track a flying bird with our eyes. It remains in focus. Cameras even with their advanced auto-focus systems have a hard time coping up with such movements, especially if the movement is erratic, as is the case with small birds. Knowing the camera goes a long way in making full use of its potential at the right time (Knowing my camera).


Don’t be tied to your subject

Quite frequently, the quest for something specific causes us to miss many beautiful photographs. On my visits to national parks and tiger reserves, I have seen hundreds of photographers getting disappointed on not spotting the tiger. To me, tiger is just one of the wild animals in the forests. Sure, they are big graceful cats but then does that make the other animals and birds less desirable? While waiting for the tigers to be spotted, photographers miss out on various other animals and birds. With the preconceived idea of wildlife, a lot more of them do not capture the beauty of the forest itself.

I had planned on capturing some waterfalls on the recent trip to the hills. It was rainy season and I had expected lots of water. As it turns out, the tripod remained in my car all the time. The waterfalls were there but it was raining so heavily that I had to let those photographs go.

Sometimes tourists visit high vantage points on the hills to see the distant snow capped mountains. Some tourist destinations are famous just for their view-points. What happens when the fog sets in? The tourists return feeling sad or cursing the weather. Very rarely have I seen them making use of the fog and capturing its beauty rather than brooding over the hidden mountains.


Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier Bresson has said (and multiple times in various ways) – “In photography there is a new kind of plasticity, the product of instantaneous lines made by movements of the subject. We work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment on the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.” This is the concept of decisive moment that makes or kills a photograph. According to him, in every scene that unfolds before our eyes, the drama is at its maximum at one particular moment and that is what gives the impact to the photograph.

Learning to see how various elements interact with each other in front of us is the first step. Next comes the conscious recognition of the change that seems to be happening in the scene. It maybe the change of ambient light, change in the posture of a person in the frame or simply a child walking in into the frame. A change of expression, a fleeting smile or even a momentary tilt of the head is all that may make the portrait one of its kind.


Interacting with others

This is something with many of the photographers avoid. I on the other hand love to discuss photography and the techniques that I use. After all my way of seeing things will still remain my way. However what does happen on interacting with other photographers or casual snapshooters, especially after a common photograph session or a photo-walk, is that we get exposed to new ideas and things that we missed. This helps in improving the awareness of our surroundings.

Few years back, I had visited the city of Taj, with my family and friends. The beautiful Mughul architecture in red stone was awesome. There was a row of red pillars that caught my attention and I was able to capture a lot of beautiful photographs. However later in the evening when I saw the photographs clicked by others, there was one particular photograph of stairs leading to a closed door with a parakeet sitting on the topmost of the stairs. It was a wonderful composition which had been there all the time next to the pillars that I had photographed.


Photographs are all around

One piece of advice to all photographers – do stop and look back while walking around with your camera. Sometimes the best photographs which are waiting to be captured, show themselves behind our backs. Look up and even see the ground. Cloud formations that can add the missing oopmh to the otherwise mundane scene, or abstracts waiting to be photographed may reveal themselves on the ground. Look all around. Do not rush directly to your preconceived compositions.


Cloud and Church

(Captured on an inexpensive compact camera by a family member)


Photographs will get away every once in a while. It is important to enjoy that moment more than feeling sad on not being able to capture it. However with persistence and practice, chances of such missed photo opportunities can be reduced.

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