Discussions: Commonly encountered photographers’ dilemmas

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Choices, choices

Today’s post is a series of open topics to be discussed in the comments: ten choices we we regularly encounter as photographers I suspect we have our own general stand, but tend to adapt to the situation. Nevertheless – I find these sometimes philosophical choices can have a huge impact on the outcome of the image.

1. Create or document
A fundamental question: are you a found scene photographer, or one who rearranges elements and brings their own light – or creates the scene from scratch? Most people I talk to are predominantly one or the other; it’s rare to have both qualities because I suspect one relies more heavily on observation, the other on imagination.

2. Intervene or shoot
Suppose you’re in a situation where something unrepeatable/ interesting/ unique is happening, but that same event is probably a disaster of sorts waiting to happen (at least for some of the participants). Or perhaps it’s a disaster in progress, like any manner of civil conflict: do you intervene and help out, or do you get that once in a lifetime shot to raise awareness to a wider audience?

3. Better the devil you know or the one you don’t
Also known as ‘the upgrade dilemma’, GAS, etc. You have a perfectly good piece of equipment that has served you well and is as familiar as the back of your hand. But you can’t help wonder if adding or replacing might get you some new images that you otherwise would have missed…an expansion of the envelope, an inspiration to shoot…etc. Personally – I mostly buy only what I need in a very objective-oriented fashion, but that doesn’t stop me from idealistic notions of ‘what if’ or ‘if only…’

4. How much to carry?
I prefer to think of this as: do I need endurance/range or flexibility? Do I need or want the ability to cover all possible photographic eventualities (e.g. on an assignment, where not getting the shot is inexcusable) or is there more to be gained in travelling unencumbered, sacrificing some capabilities but having a bit more stamina and the desire to keep walking to see around the next corner?

5. Professionally, to experiment or not to experiment?
Intentionally, a question those of us who shoot for a living face more often: do we try to pitch the work we want to do and excites us and potentially lose the job or not be able to execute (if something very, very unconventional) – or do we go with delivering the safe, tried and tested result?

6. Wait or move on?
Simply put: the chances of something exceptional happening while you’re watching are very slim, since the observation period is almost always extremely short compared to the lifetime of the subject. For example, to witness a once in 10 year storm event while on vacation for a week – that’s only seven observation days in 3,650, without taking into account seasonality. If you spend five minutes on a street corner and expect something interesting to happen, chances are, it won’t; even by staying an hour you significantly improve the odds – and not just because you’re probably becoming more observant during that time, too. However: spend too long and you could miss chances elsewhere, slower events that are already in progress now and only require observation to highlight.

7. Plan or wing it
To randomly wander, or to research and time a specific route with a specific objective in mind? The latter works if you have a shot list – client or self-imposed – but not so much if your photographic style benefits from serendipity. Yet without planning you may stop one street short or arrive fifteen minutes too late for the light…

8. Go in or not?
The building appears deserted, with no guards or restrictions or fences. Yet it’s probably not public access, but there’s an incredible tableau just visible through the door…it will only be a few minutes, right?

9. Where to spend it?
You have a fixed hobby budget. It can be spent on travelling to find new subjects; buying or renting access to new subjects or locations; education to improve your ability to translate your vision of a subject into a final image; or hardware. What do you do?

10. Sneak the shot, or hold social graces?
I’ve saved the best for last: you’re in a situation where it would be socially frowned upon to take a photograph – perhaps of a very arresting set of characters in a restaurant or bar, who are clearly aware of their surroundings (and you) and look none too friendly. Yet it’s the best composition you’ve seen in months – light, expression, atmosphere…it’s all there. Do you risk a stealthy shot? Ask if you can shoot and risk losing the moment? Or just photograph with your mind?

Discuss! MT


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  1. Oh, I agree — I meant “pack” as a general term for the amount of equipment I bring with me. Sorry! That was unclear! I almost always use my shoulder bag, otherwise it gets very cumbersome in a crowded/tight enviroment. But actual packs can be useful if you’re hiking or traveling a long way 🙂

    • Ah! That makes sense. I abandoned backpacks for those situations too, just impossible to work smoothly with. Shoulder bags need to be carefully managed though lest the weight imbalance you…

  2. 1.) In nature, I like to just leave the scene like it is. I prefer candid shots almost every time, but if your desired subject isn’t accessible, then I think it’s commendable to try and be creative with your surroundings.
    2.) I’ve never been in this situation before, but if someone is in trouble and you’re able to help them, I feel that you definitely need to intervene, especially if you’re the only one around. If you are needed in order to put a stop to it, but you don’t, that would make you into a bystander. Now if there are other people present and moving to take care of the situation, that’s another matter.
    4.) I like to work with a light pack — it’s easier to move through a forest or blend in with a crowd that way, giving you more opportunities to take the shot you’re looking for. But additional equipment definitely has its use.
    5.) I always start out with a general plan in mind, but it never quite works out the way I think it will and I end up winging it, which is fine by me.
    8.) Food for thought! I’d probably be more likely to do it if I had a friend with me 😉
    10.) I definitely find this the hardest to decide on! I see the “perfect shot”, but I’m too afraid of upsetting the subject and infringing on their privacy. I usually end up debating whether or not to take the shot for so long that the scene moves on and is lost . . . But sometimes, if I’m not immediate surroundings, I can sneak the shot in.
    This was fun to think about — Thanks! 🙂

    • How do you find working with a pack in crowded spaces? Obviously best for comfort/ weight distribution, but I’ve always found them difficult to access quickly – and worse in tight spaces…

  3. 1. I tend to create after spending 20 years as a commercial photographer where that is what you’re paid to do. If I am out in nature – then I will use whatever I can to get a better shot – like position, lens selection, timing etc. I’ve been known to reposition leaves and pine cones to get a better composition…

    3. I buy what I need and know I will use for a long time. I still have a gaggle of Nikon glass that has served me for many years. I am now switching to video and just upgraded from the DSLR’s to a Black Magic Ursa Mini – and boy do I now have GAS in a big way. I need everything! I’ve already made a few wrong choices – so I am being careful what I get!

    4. Once upon a time – I lucked into a full Leica M system for sale in a small shop up in Alaska. I traded a whole bag of DSLR bodies and lenses plus some cash to get it. I went form a heavy bag of stuff to just the M3 and three lenses (35, 50 and 135, I later got a 90 as well) and it was wonderful. I LOVED that system – and got amazing shots with it. Unfortunately, when film became obsolete and I needed to upgrade to digital for work – I sold it all. Now it is hopelessly out of my price range to get anything like that today. Now I carry a D810 with an old 28-200 (a super small lens) and a 20 2.8 in one bag and it covers everything I need.

    5. I get the job first, and then try some of what I want to do for later presentation.

    6. I’ll wait as long I can see there is something going to happen (clouds are moving out of the way etc.)

    7. I tend to plan for the shot that I want to get – anything outside of the plan is a bonus!

    8. I’d go in.

    9. I tend to go for hardware first, as it doesn’t help to be somewhere if you don’t have the tools to take advantage of it. I spent three weeks in Peru and one day before leaving my D810 malfunctioned and not having a second one at the time, I had to take two point and shoots instead. I came back with some great shots – but I was sure missing the DSLR!

    10. I’m terrible at sneaking shots – generally don’t even try.

    • 4. Is the 28-200 adequate on the D810? I find that camera very unforgiving of subpar glass (or very rewarding with excellent glass)
      9. After you have two, you don’t generally need three 😉

      • I had a bad copy of the 28-200 at first and thought the same – but found one cheap on Ebay and thought I would try it again and this time it was much much better, with good color and good sharpness. Still has loads of distortion and a little vignetting at the wide end – but all easily corrected in post. You might consider it totally crap as you are shooting with some of the best lenses available – but I find it OK for casual shots – and I have made some 13X19 prints from it that look good. I wouldn’t use it for a commercial shoot – just my carry around lens.

        I agree – two is adequate – I don’t go for “three”! But I would definitely get the second one… In this case I had no D810 back-up.

        • Yes, sample variation can be enormously wide with cheaper lenses – a lot of manufacturing cost goes into QC and processes to ensure consistency. I’m not averse to cheap/long-range zooms; if anything the way I shoot tends to work quite well with them if I can find the right lens. I’ve done a lot of my pro work with either the 24-120/4 VR or closest Hassy-equivalent 35-90…

  4. Richard J Bach says:

    1,4,9: Gear has been easy for me this year, as I have very little cash to spend on gear and am relatively happy with what I have. I got a wide AIS lens I use for zone focusing street and that classic old lens look and its been keeping me happy for the moment. My D600 a bit big, but I don’t think about it too much considering its my only real option.

    I find #10 to be an interesting one, as it speaks to the common theme here among the other points: Do you carry on social norms or personal ease (or even personal safety) or do what it takes to get the images you have in mind? Depending on the photographer, this can be a an important issue, and it is certainly something I think about often.

    Some photographers have practically made their career about the tension that happens when these norms are broken (Bruce Gilden is an easy one). I’m not necessarily advocating the destruction of norms or doing anything unseemly, but I think many photographers could benefit from a little reality check as far as what they are doing to get the images they want. I know I’m often held back by some of my inhibitions (I’m not the most socially function person even on a normal day), but I also know that the less I listen to them the closer I get to the images I want. Are we shooting with that long lens for a conscious aesthetic choice? Or are we afraid to get closer? Did we lower the camera because we missed the shot or because that stranger looked our way and we panicked?

    Given that there are photographers that shoot in combat zones or other dangerous situations most of us cannot even fathom and still come home with great images, our personal fears/hangups are probably not that dire. Within reason of course, I see the pushing of these personal boundaries as good thing for the people shooting crowd.

    • Good point on social norms and expectations: in a weird ways though I find these go out of the window if I’m shooting on assignment. If I know ‘this is my job and professional responsibility’ as opposed to ‘I’m verging on intruding into your personal space uninvited for my own personal entertainment’ it somehow feels as though a mental switch is thrown and inhibition goes out of the window. Perhaps it’s like what they say about a uniform: somehow we have the seal of authority conferred in our minds and we act accordingly…

  5. 1. No need to sneak the shot if you do it right. My wife and I were in a Paris cafe. Seated behind me were 2 older women dressed to the nines, engaged in a conversation where their movements were in sync with each other–like watching a ballet. I wanted a photograph, but knew I couldn’t. My wife struck up a conversation. Turns out they were sisters who dined together every week. My wife told them they were so elegant, and asked if she could take an iPhone photograph. They were flattered, and I then made the same request. A case where engaging the subject first worked pretty nicely.

    2. If other people are around to provide aid, document. Nobody else around, save the life.

    3. I buy equipment with a specific purpose in mind that the equipment addresses.

    4. Travel rather than buy equipment.

    5. Wing it. Whether it is street or architectural or urban landscape, I like getting lost. I often start with a plan in mind to get me out the door, but I never stick to it. And Google Maps is a buzzkill. Get lost. After 8 hours you can use Google Maps to find the way back.

    6. I am gravitating toward carrying less. One camera and a second lens in a shoulder bag. I find I can have lots of fun and success using just one lens for the whole day. As someone once said, when I have a 50mm lens on the camera, I see 50mm shots. When it is 90mm, I see 90mm shots. I agree with that sentiment.

    7. If I am by myself, I will wait for a more than reasonable amount of time.

    Overall, I think I am better off when traveling to ignore the iconic subjects, or at least go in conceding that I am not going to get the once-in-a-life-time shot. By way of example, I’ve been traveling to Paris annually for a photographic outing. Every time, I come home with an image of the Eiffel Tower. It’s there and everyone photographs it. But my approach is to try to capture Paris in a way that necessary doesn’t scream, “This is Paris.”

    Photographers sometimes forget that they are the best photographer in their hometown. When you are traveling, you can get lucky with some interesting light or weather, but you can’t count on that. In your hometown, anytime there is weather you can get a memorable image.

    • 1. Clever woman!
      2. This situation might not always be life and death – it could be something much more mundane, and this is where the dilemma happens.
      5. This is pretty much how I operate, too.

      The part about travel and cliches: I actually find if you do enough wondering around, observation and shooting, you inevitably land up capturing something with enough elements to be instantly recognisable anyway – that observation process inevitably burns some of the differences in the urban landscape into your brain, and this gets translated into the image. We can only photograph things we notice, and we tend to be conditioned to notice things that are obviously different…

  6. The last one is particularly interesting. My father-in-law died some six or so years ago and we had to go to the funeral and all the related activities. I thought that it would be something genuinely worth documenting, but at first my wife was against the idea and I wasn’t going to risk a social faux pas by trying to be stealthy (and at the time I was shooting with a D3S and 70-200, so stealthy was off the table anyway), so I took another route. After I explained why I wanted to do it (I didn’t of course shoot the funeral itself as I had to participate in it, but I wanted to get some pictures of the surrounding events for posterity and as a reminder of the deceased) and after discussion with the other family members, she changed her mind and said it was OK. I shot openly, nobody raised any objections, and I now have a collection of pictures which have much more meaning than 90 per cent of what I shoot.

    And number 3 : I have to practice insane self control when the GAS hits, because from where I live I can walk to the centre of Shinjuku (Map Camera, etc) in under half an hour. Fortunately the prices of the cameras that interest me are usually comically outside my price range, so I’m content to stare and fantasise!

    • I actually did the same thing at my grandmother’s funeral – for the same reasons as you. Personally, doing the documentary to the best of my ability is my way of showing respect – but I can understand not everybody understands that…

  7. Alex Carnes says:

    1.) Mostly document, although I’m interested in still life and doing more studio work. The problem is I don’t have a studio, and even though I live in a fairly large house, there isn’t really anywhere to work. I tend to think I need a studio to really progress my photography and get more of what I want, so it’s on my to-do list.

    2.) Erm, I wouldn’t stand around photographing someone who was in trouble if there was something I could do to help!

    3.) I seem to have cured myself of GAS. I’ve got a D810, a D850, all the glassware I need (mostly Sigma Art), and I’ve also got a Fuji X-E3 for holidays etc. I’ll probably chop my 24-35/2 in for the new Sigma 28/1.4 when there’re some available. I’m also interested in the new Ricoh GR, but don’t know whether I’ll actually buy one. I’m pretty well kitted out to be honest!

    4.) If I’m out and about with one of the Nikons and my Sigmas, plus L bracket and tripod… it’s bloody heavy, but I still lug it all round with me! I’m strong and fit at the moment, but there will come a day when it’ll be too heavy and I’ll have to carry less. To be honest, one of the DSLRs plus the Nikkor 50/1.8 G is all I need for most purposes, but you know how it is…!

    5.) If I’m shooting for someone else – paid or unpaid – I try to give them what they want.

    6.) If there’s time, then I wait. I know I’ve missed shots by being impatient, but sometimes one’s time isn’t one’s own!

    7.) Bit of both, I suppose.

    8.) If there’s no obvious security and it seems reasonably safe then in I go.

    9.) For now, such budget as I have tends to go on travel. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I really don’t have GAS at the moment. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the poor AF performance in low light, I think I’d’ve stuck with the D810 and not bothered with the D850 (I shoot quite a lot of gigs, so I appreciate the new camera’s superior AF). The D850 does have slightly better image quality but the difference doesn’t blow me away.

    10.) I’m quite a self-conscious photographer and tend not to photograph people without asking them first. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that I live in the UK though, and for reasons past my understanding, if anyone sees you taking pictures of anyone or anything then they assume you’re up to no good!

    • 1. I’d think of controlled light and studio as somewhat interchangeable – you can make a mess in the latter, but the net effect is pretty much the same in both.
      2. Think bigger scale events; where common sense/ the decent thing to do perhaps isn’t so obvious.
      9. This is a good thing!
      10. I find that sadly is a cultural thing specific to the UK and US (suspicion, litigiousness…)

  8. 1. Document (unless I’m being paid, I’m not a huge lover of staged photography)

    2. Probably intervene (you’ve posed a wide set of circumstances) personally I feel humans trump humanistic photography, but if it was a disaster that I could do nothing to prevent, then shoot

    3. “Oooh it’s new and shiny” is a very short lived inspiration, “wow I can shoot these things that I couldn’t before” (because the lens is faster, the ISO is better etc) isn’t so short lived

    4. Less is generally more. Working with constraints focuses the mind (paid work aside)

    5. When I’m being paid it’s generally to do what I’ve done already. That’s why I’m being paid… probably best I don’t break that

    6. If I’m shooting street in a place I know well, experience of previous efforts suggests whether to linger… somewhere new and it’s just luck and a prayer really

    7. For me, for street, plan or look for the light and let serendipity handle the rest

    8. *adopts humble apologetic face* you mean I’m not allowed in here? I am SO sorry, please accept my apologies, I’m so sorry to have wasted your time thinking giving you the impression I was up to no good when all I wanted was a snap. Let me be on my way so that I don’t intrude further upon your premises and your schedule

    9. Ha! Great question. Hopefully all of it over a period of time as budgets get depleted and recharged

    10. As long as I don’t think personal safety is an issue, sneak it.

  9. Is the Flickr pool back so we can see the end product of everyone’s approach to these 10 questions? It’s been missed by me; best curated group on the web.

    • Sorry, no, and it won’t be. I just don’t have time to curate hundreds of images every day. It takes upwards of an hour and I have other demands on my time.

  10. #4 “How much to carry” is a choice that somewhat forced on me a couple years ago. At 68 I found I would bring less and less with me due to age and some joint issues. (Nikon full frame camera and lenses.) I gradually moved to a Micro four thirds system. I currently have a very compact system that covers the full frame equivalent range of 18mm (diagonal fish eye) to 400mm telephoto. While I will admit that I could produce better images with the full frame, moving to the smaller camera has probably improved my photography. I generally now have what I need with me. I don’t have a problem with sharpness and the ability to control the camera with my phone enables me to use a much smaller carbon fiber tripod or, when hiking, a Sunwayfoto table top tripod.

  11. Kristian Wannebo says:

    #1 Found scenes, plus looking for a good position.
    The few times I’ve tried to improve on a scene it has become worse…

    #2 Intervene first – if needed and I can and dare.
    But if a few seconds don’t matter and I happen to have a ready camera, a grab shot or two might be needed as witness.
    ( If not being able to help I’d never stay watching, but I might document if of *real* public interest.)

    #3 A change of equipment only for a great increase in envelope and if I felt too limited.
    Added equipment only for new subjects, as when I bought an SLR because my Superikonta wasn’t suitable for close closeups.
    ( Not so now with lenses for my Canon M5, I’ve collected quite a few, but on the used market so I can sell those I tend not to use with reasonable loss.)

    #4 If I go travelling again, I want an ever-ready discreet camera (except for occasional use). And a flexible pocket tripod.
    My Fuji XF1 sadly died, so I’d probably buy a 1″ sensor pocket zoom camera.
    ( If I don’t find one I like, then a bridge zoom, or the ef-m 18-150mm for my m5 and also pack the 11-22mm and a couple of small primes, or switch to m4/3 for IBIS and with similar lenses.)

    #6 Move on.
    I might wait a very short while, and if it looked really worthwhile, maybe a few minutes.
    Unless I could sit down to a cuppa or in a nice corner while looking around.

    #7 Wing it.
    I would try to catch a fog, or when the ice breaks. But I’ve never made a shot list. Very occasionally I might guess at what time the light would be better.

    #8 Here in Sweden I would probably go in unless it looked private, there are usually signs when you are not wanted.

    #9 Depends…
    ( I’m not *that* serious about photography.)

    #10 Depends… Your, although good, description in still too vague.
    I’d photograph with my mind, and:
    I might chance a shot if I have a discrete enough camera and their faces wouldn’t show.
    ( With the DXO One I *might* anyway while looking in an other direction, but that would be for strictly private use – unless I succeeded in ‘shopping their faces out.)

    #0 I don’t live to photograph, but to photograph adds to my life.

    • Funny you should mention the pocket tripod: I found a really sturdy one by Leofoto and have always packed it on trips for the last year, but ultimately have not used it a single time – I suspect this is one of the ideas that seems good in theory but not so useful in practice since you need something sturdy to put it on in the first place, and with that you might as well just rest your camera directly on top with a jacket or bag to position it. I also increasingly travel with M4/3 (or now the Nikon Z) and find myself not really using a tripod much at all thanks for the stabiliser…

      #10: deliberately vague, because there’s a big difference between a dinner amongst known friends (where you know what the expectations and tolerance levels are) and a bunch of interesting but possibly hostile strangers…think of it as a philosophy rather than a hard rule.

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Let’s say in a dark church at an upwards angle and no stabilization.
        A small tripod pressed against a pillar can be necessary to avoid high ISO.
        But I agree, it wouldn’t get daily use.

        • Agreed, stabilisation doesn’t work that well directly up or down – but in those situations I admit I’d likely have forgotten to bring it, and probably not be happy if you have are constrained compositionally by the placement of pillars 😛

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            Constrained.. , that IS a problem.
            But I’d hate to carry a proper tripod…

          • I find my issue when hand holding, whether with stabilization or not, is getting the horizon line correct. In fact i spend more time focusing on that vs the actual subject. Pitiful on my part but it’s why i tend to shoot mostly from a tripod and skip ghe candids – and this is with setting graphics in the viewfinder to address horizon lines.

  12. 4 (how much to carry) and 10 (sneak the shot) are the ones I wrestle with the most. A shot list helps me only take the gear I will really need. I won’t sneak a shot if I think the people involved might object. If it seems the response wiil be friendly, I just ask and often they are flattered (but less spontaneous). When I travel by air, the how much to carry question is complicated by wanting to do bird + landscape + people + cityscape in tight spaces. Recently, I’ve left the heavy birding gear at home unless the birding is likely to be very good. For air travel to our family Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll just take an A9,16-35 f2.8, and an 85. It is somehow comforting to know we all wrestle with the same decisions.

    • I’ve always found birding to be increasingly diminishing returns the more you do it – from being happy with pigeons in the city with the kit lens, to eventually spending an entire day in a bug-infested swamp with a 500mm for one (or sometimes no) frames; I did that for several years and eventually got tired of donating blood to mosquitoes. As for dinner – I’ll either go with just one lens, or enjoy the social part instead and use the phone if need be. Some of that is due to photography moving from being a hobby to work, I think…

      • Fair assessment of bird photograhy – but my wife is an avid birder and we hike a lot together usually in Oregon or Arizona avoiding swamps. The main point of Thanksgiving needs to be social not photograhy – agreed. Later, some friends and family do musical performances and I like to shoot those – with silent shutter of course.

        • The really really long lens/small sensor superzooms only emerged after I stopped birding, but I wonder if these might be an acceptable compromise in decent light…or at very least going M4/3 instead of FF.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            Or a Nikon 1 + the 70-300mm
            The high frame rate of the latest models help to catch a good wing position in flight.

          • Yes. I use an E-M1.2 with PL 100-400 (200-800 equiv). The excellent stabilization allow me to shoot hand held and the 800mm equiv reach really helps for birding. I’m very pleased with the autofocus and IQ. Size and weight is moderate.

      • Having started my career with bird photography I can say that since the early 80s the world population of birds (and insects by the way per recent findings of European scientists) has plummeted. But there is also the question of where to go to maximize opportunity. Mosquitos are a necessary annoyance and I am no great lover of those pests).

        With birds, it’s mostly an “all-in” effort provided you have subject matter, with little time to consider other subjects including landscapes.

        I have found the most success with birds by having light transportable equipment with appropriate tripod, and moving until a situation presents itself. Alternatively photographing birds near a nesting site can be equally productive provided you’ve done your homework in advance including lighting, behavior patterns etc.

        Unless you are interested in bif, a lighter manual focus lens can produce great results (stopped down). I am still hoping Nikon will produce a 400 5.6 af lens with vr which is critically sharp wide open so i can replace my very capable 200-400 f4 vr.

        Btw, within my regional area of focus, i can say that there are far fewer opportunities for bird photography as back in the 80s for sheer numbers and diversity. A hazard of the human population’s success.

        • They just released a 500/5.6 PF in the same type as the compact 300/4 – which in itself is great with all of the TCs. I myself used the venerable old 500/4P for reasons of both weight and economy.

          Fully agreed on the demise (or at least increasing inaccessibility) of the species.

  13. 1,6,7 : I’m a painter (hobbyist) first then photographer. For a painting , I may have an idea and based on that I will combine multiple photos; and its usually a combination of documented images and created images (like doing photoshop but with oil paint). In photography (mostly inspired by my painting process) I take documented photos but I will always be more than willing to change something in my frame based on the control a can have on scene/subject. It will be more planing than wondering cuz some photos will take hours or days to shoot. The “move on/wait” is based on the subject for me. If its a scene/landscape I find interest in , obviously I have to wait for non-static objects in the scene to emerge.

    2 : Im not sure if I can give a definitive answer here. Im going to say intervene , but based on the situation like how much is the situation disastrous , how many people are in danger , Is my life in danger… my subconscious can change the answer.

    3,5 : Experiment but not fundamental changes. I like to have a general feeling in my works but also I dont like to have similarity in them. I think for a creative work to grow , it certainly needs challenges and unfamiliar situations up to the point you are not handicapped (in time by pushing your unfamiliar zone so much that it may seem fundamental changes) . This also applies to the gear , the transition for me will be slow ( I understand with gear its hard to make a slow transition , like when you want change formats and you are not going to be able to adapt lenses and I cant think of any solution for this type of switching)

    4 : Im going to say as low as possible. I usually carry a slow zoom(24-70 f4/18-55 kit lenses) lens and a short tele prime (75mm f2 / 85mmf1.8) I will take the risk of missing out in favor of more stamina. A mind in a tired body wont function well , you will end up with less desirable work. If you miss something , most of the time you can recreate the situation.

    8,10 : Both questions are tough. Im a person who do not like to make a scene in social situation. So if no one is looking/protecting I will go in , but if my actions will make others disturbed I wont take THE shot , its not worth it.

    9 : Education.

  14. david distefano says:

    “wait or move on” i have followed the edward weston philosophy, if you wait here you may miss an opportunity someplace else. so unless i know something is going to happen i continue to move.

    • Or you may miss opportunities everywhere running from place to place… 😉

      • david distefano says:

        no running, a slow slog on the trails of my beloved yosemite and sequioa/kings canyon national parks. live so close to all of them that going back for the image is not a problem.

        • And tends to support the theory that the best images are almost always captured by attentive locals – because you have the highest chance of being there when something really unusual happens…

  15. Where, when and how to photograph – not a question of “finding the shot” but related to the eternal struggle of balancing the interests and commitments in one’s life. I’ve found it has major implications on what gear is the most appropriate: cost, size, potential, ease of use, etc. (probably even stronger implications than the choice of style or “genre”).

    A solution I’ve found workable is to abandon everything but the iPhone (also as a display medium) unless I can operate by myself and focus solely on photography. Quick grabshots for the album with family and friends, focused process with a purpose when there are no distractions. Anything else is a surefire way to trigger frustration and spoil the occasion for myself (some travel photography excepted where I can carve out short durations of focused shooting for the most interesting/memorable subjects).

    • That’s actually not a bad idea, but the frustration for me comes with the severe limitations of the tele camera (at least in the 8 plus) – maybe it’ll be better with the faster lens and stabilization on the XS tele camera. There are a few exceptional cameras are relatively transparent in use like the GR, Q and I suspect Z7 and fast prime; again though the more serious the hardware the greater the psychological pressure to fully deploy it…

      • The upcoming GR sounds like a very good tool for such occasions but won’t get around the issue: I’d still be looking at results on a computer screen and getting frustrated at not having done things properly… or during the shooting process if I attempt to do so. It’s only when the output is destined for phone screen (and similar use later when looking back at the memories) that the issue goes away.

        iPhone X is pretty damn good for my needs. The wide angle is still a bit better, but at least both are stabilised. The screen is less forgiving too so I’m happy with the results… for a specific purpose.

        • Actually, I never had much of an issue with the GR’s files – but I doubt I’m going to buy into the new one given they’ve removed several of the control points which were such a big part of the attraction of the camera inn the first place…

  16. Strictly amateur/hobbyist myself, and only getting comfortable with street photography after concentrating much more on landscape/travel scenes. I plan the ‘big picture’: time of day, general area to be in, what the potentially interesting subjects are – mountains, sea, animals… – but not ‘the shot’; sometimes I have something in mind but generally I document and rely on serendipity when I travel. Closer to home I plan more, if I can go back to a place more than once, e.g., I’m still hunting for the perfect backlit at sunrise bellowing stag in the field in Richmond Park :-). I do like taking the unintended detour into a street, building or turnoff to see what’s there and to find images that are not all over Instagram already but as I mostly shoot for myself, the latter isn’t that important to me. As for gear, I just upgraded (Nikon Z7 which so far has been great) and am seriously looking to create a ‘definitive’ lens set that I can carry almost anywhere. Or more likely a core set that I can carry all the time, adding zero, one or two add-on options: a macro/portrait lens and an extreme wide-angle lens.


  17. William Rounds says:

    I am an amateur photographer only, with no desire to sell my images even occasionnally. And with respect to risks (model releases, etc) I take no risks, as far as what I know them to be, even for occasional web posting.. Same with property, no known risks taken. That answers several of your situational contexts, which are obviously more of a risk, or a hindrance, for a professional than an amateur. Dealing with the paperwork involved or the consequences of transgressing someone else’s perceived rights or real rights just isn’t worth it. I enjoy travel photography, whether urban or natural areas and rarely employ any creative post-processing; a found scene approach for the most part. As for equipment, I upgrade when I think it will signficantly enhance capabilities for my kind of photography, meaning that I am usually 2 or 3 iterations behind the latest releases or the “penultimate” quality products.

  18. Intervene or shoot ?
    I suppose it is a question of scale. If you are the one person who can help, if you can make a difference, then you must intervene. When things (victims) are under control, by people more qualified as you, then you can shoot.

  19. Good points – I recognise most of these, even though I am just a hobbyist. With 6 & 7, my dilemma is usually: – do I move at my own pace and direction based on photographic priorities, or follow companions without holding them up too much. For me, visits to new and interesting places are mostly with others, so this is a common dilemma. People or photographs..?

  20. Looking back over 40 years of images I find the ones that mean the most to me now are those of mundane everyday life rather than “the big shot”. I wish I had more of them and would answer your very interesting questions with this bias.

    • Agreed, and I’d add to that most of it is because there’s emotional involvement or attachment since you were part of the event directly as opposed to ‘just’ an observer…

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