Skim Boarders, 2010
I don’t know how it is with you. But when I “see” a picture, or a “moment” forming I take a quick shot with the camera and then stay in the same place for a while waiting for a better version of the same shot—say, a shot with better light or composition—to come along.
Every now and then this pays off, which I why I guess I keep doing it. But usually the follow-up shots turn out to be the photographic version of “You should have been here yesterday.”
Case in point: while standing on the beach the other day waiting for the skim board competition to begin at the East Coast Surfing Competition, the crowd between me and the rope line separating spectators from competitors cleared for just a few seconds. I had just enough time to lift the camera and take the picture shown above before people started walking back into the scene.
I didn’t really like the composition of the first shot. I liked the elements: the colorful pennants in the foreground, the skim boarders and the surf in the middle and the dark sky above them. Three nice layers to the photo. But the skim boarders didn’t quite form the shape I wanted. So I kept shooting, as shown in the sequence below.
Follow-Up Shots to Skim Boarders
But each shot got worse than the one before it. Somebody would walk into the frame. I tilted the camera too much. The huddle of skim boarders spread out as they got ready for their heat to begin. I even unwound the pennant on the righthand side.
In short, the original moment was the moment worth photographing. It was what it was and I couldn’t wish it into something better. What came afterwards was just mindless documentation. You have to capture those moments when you see them because after that they’re gone and no amount of waiting will bring them back.
(This is probably a lesson about how to live your life, too. But I’m too tired to learn from it now.)