Decisive Photographic Moments

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There are photographs and there are photographs with a story.

I took the above photo after tracking the two pigeons for a while.

They were eating berries from a hedgerow at the back of my garden. I’d already taken a few photos of them.

But when I reviewed what I had, they were nice bird photographs and that was it. They were missing something.

So, I waited a while.

I figured one of them would either fly off or do something else.

One of them was more twitchy than the other one. He’d hop about a lot more, while the other one munched away on berries.

Then, it happened. He took off while the other one watched. I was ready, shutter speed set at 1/500s so I could freeze the action.

It was a decisive moment.

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

That’s what Henri Cartier-Bresson said.

Every time I read his quote it makes me shiver. Because it’s completely true. Of course it is, Henri said it, right?

Now, let’s refer to my pigeons photo again. I had a fraction of a second to grab the photo. That’s for sure.

The significance of the event is there, too. Instead of pigeons relaxing and eating berries, there’s a dynamism in the photo.

When it comes to organisation, I caught that, too. With one pigeon watching the other as it got airborne.

The point is: a moment later, this particular photo was gone. The birds had changed position. I grabbed the picture in a decisive moment.

Here’s another example. My original intention was to start adding some ideas I had for a winter photos project.

The view across the rooftops worked. With central heating steam billowing from the houses — it matched my brief.

Then, the seagull flew into the shot. And at the same time, more steam rose from other houses.

I grabbed the shot.

A moment later, the steam subsided and the gull was gone. Now I had a static rooftop scene that didn’t say much at all.

So, the decisive moment is definitely a thing. It’s made me stop shooting static images all the time. I find myself waiting for things to happen before I hit the shutter button.

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