Decisive Moment: How to anticipate?


#1
Hi everyone

I'm still fairly green in photography even though I first started 6 years ago. After yesterday's Canon Photomarathon, I thought long and hard about the first theme, Street, and about capturing the Decisive Moment.

I've been thinking, how can we train ourselves to develop the eye to capture the Decisive Moment? It is said that most street photographers will see something opportunitive in a particular scene, and they'll stand there and wait for that moment to arrive. But how do they discern that opportunitive scene to begin with?

Is this discerning skill something that can be learnt from looking through street photos? I can expect that those not unfamiliar to street photography to say "practice", but how can I practice without knowing what I'm doing or what to look out for?

I hope some of you could be so kind as to help me out here. I want to understand what goes in the minds of street photographers that make them decide whether a particular setting has a chance of capturing an interesting moment and photograph.

Thanks and hope to get some useful and interesting responses!
 

brapodam

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#2
I'm not very good at it, but I would say, think like your subject. Observe your subject, then think, if you were your subject, what would you do next? I always tend to get distracted and try to shoot everything, but the key IMO is to take a step back, slow down and think. If you practice enough like that (I must admit that I don't do it enough), it will come naturally to you. I anticipate people's actions pretty well in games, not so much in photography :bsmilie:

Disclaimer: I do not shoot street photos, but I do shoot school events, and it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to shoot everything that is going on, rather than thinking of where the light is and what will happen next
 

Nikonzen

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#3
I feel that it is something learned only by intense effort and experience...your first 10000 snaps are your worst sort of thing. And even then only few in the world are gifted with such an eye. The best approach to the subject would probably be to read the words of the master himself and his interviews. At least some part of it is technique eg. focus trap etc. HCB is one of those cerebral types of photographers...his images simple but deep. That is what makes him tower above the crowd. An artist/poet with the camera. Read up on his working methods they are fascinating.
 

pinholecam

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#5
I am not particularly good at it and only doing particular sub-category of street/people/candids, but here are my few cents.

1. Learn to observe. Often a certain situation, action happens more than once. Prepare for it.
2. Looking at more photo helps. They form a preset of images that you will be able to perform fast.
3. Think a bit as often its partly human psychology.
4. Wait at a spot works in combination with #1.
5. Take more photos and think over then a bit as to how you might have been able to do it better.


Good luck. :)
 

kandinsky

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Apr 26, 2008
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#6
After yesterday's Canon Photomarathon, I thought long and hard about the first theme, Street, and about capturing the Decisive Moment.

I've been thinking, how can we train ourselves to develop the eye to capture the Decisive Moment? It is said that most street photographers will see something opportunitive in a particular scene, and they'll stand there and wait for that moment to arrive. But how do they discern that opportunitive scene to begin with?
I guess you gotta have some sense of what interests you in the first place. Is it people? Is it empty streets? Is it the relationship people have with their environment? My friends who like street photography have all kinda gone about it in their own way. One guy started by studying a lot of photo books by great street photographers whose work he loved (national library, reference section, many huge expensive gorgeous photo books by great photographers there ;p). Another guy just went out and started shooting whatever he liked.

If you find that the concept of the 'Decisive Moment' interests you, a suitable place to start might be by reading and studying the words/works of the man who made that term famous.

[video=youtube;hyhMqDfmG9o]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyhMqDfmG9o[/video]

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment (above) is an 18-minute film produced in 1973 by Scholastic Magazines, Inc. and the International Center of Photography. It features a selection of Cartier-Bresson’s iconic photographs, along with rare commentary by the photographer himself.

http://www.openculture.com/2011/11/henri_cartier-bresson.html
from THE DECISIVE MOMENT



Source: Cartier-Bresson, Henri. The Mind’s Eye: Writings on photography and photographers. New York: Aperture, 1999. Print.

http://rethinked.org/?p=2689
Apologies in advance for the wall of text, thought it might be easier to read. If this bothers anyone, please let me know, I'll remove it and just leave the link.
 

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Nikonzen

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#9
someone may ask for help to sum up into four lines, and if it possible, just tell what is the setting to use. ;)
That would be Arthur Fellig aka Weegee who when asked what his secret was said "f8 and be there" ��

LOL
 

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kandinsky

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#10
someone may ask for help to sum up into four lines, and if it possible, just tell what is the setting to use. ;)
Haha! We can just point them to Pinholecam's post lah ;)

That would be Arthur Fellig aka Weegee who when asked what his secret was said "f8 and be there" ��

LOL
:bsmilie:
 

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wolfton

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Jun 21, 2010
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#11
I've been thinking, how can we train ourselves to develop the eye to capture the Decisive Moment? It is said that most street photographers will see something opportunitive in a particular scene, and they'll stand there and wait for that moment to arrive. But how do they discern that opportunitive scene to begin with?

Is this discerning skill something that can be learnt from looking through street photos? I can expect that those not unfamiliar to street photography to say "practice", but how can I practice without knowing what I'm doing or what to look out for?
You actually bring up an interesting question. For me, one of the most difficult thing about street photography in Singapore in particular, is to find a scene that potentially can have some things happening or coming together. As such whenever I find an interesting scene in front of me, I will work that scene and can really shoot off lots of frames in just that 1 scene. It often takes many many days, some times weeks, just to find a potential scene and I certainly won't want to waste time on other scenes as I know it don't come by often. Therefore walking is #1 most important for me. If you drive, I strongly suggest you to park your car somewhere, (e.g tg pagar), take the train to say Lavendar, and walk all the way back to your location. You need to create the opportunity for yourself somehow.

Different people see opportunity on the street differently. To start off as a beginning street photog, firstly, I think you need to look for human activities. That is without a doubt the most important. You can use any geometries, lines, light and frame your subject around these. These should give you a good start. Then as you review your pictures, you will say things like "oh if he was at that place, then it will be even nicer", or "oh I hoped I shot this a wee bit later to get the full outstretched hands" or "I should have moved closer abit to get more dynamism in the picture". From there you will know these are what u can do better, and when you go on the street again the next time, you try to improve it. Decisive moment deals more about anticipating the next move of a subject, and it's difficult to put it down in words and requires practicing. One suggestion will be to find a cafe or kopitiam, sit down, have a cup of coffee and observe people going about their activities, without bringing your camera. Look for scenes that have occured right in front of you that could potentially be a good street photo scene. The uncle sitting in front of you smoking is NOT a good street photo IMO and is just a portrait at best, so look for something else. Gotta train your eyes to look beyond such portrait shots.

Here's an example of working on the street:


Skip straight to 19:00, listen to what he says before he shoots and the resulting image is also shown.
[video=youtube;5A5NSHHefgQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A5NSHHefgQ&index=14&list=PLSaxXKb1Mu4hONMNUMZqC4Dyg_kdqqz1n[/video]

Lastly, especially since you asked specifically about decisive moments, I think camera settings is quite important too. HCB said otherwise but that's because the set up of the cities he worked is different from ours, they rarely have any cover over their head on the street. Over here, it is common for us to walk from shades to sun often, and the shades could be from sheltered walkways or trees. Therefore it is important to check that your camera setting is adjusted whenever you walk from shade to sun or vice versa. Last thing you want is you have a great scene that happened suddenly but you are at wrong camera setting, overexposed or underexposed and that scene gone in 2 seconds. Some will play it safe and go on P mode. This is something to take note of. If you can, learn to zone focus, I for 1 has got no confidence in auto-focus of modern DSLRs or mirrorless cams when it comes to capturing decisive moments.
 

Zeisser

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#12
The Decisive Moment may not be necessary confine to street photography. It's about being at the right place
and the right time. Just to share this shot for your comments :)



Shot in Perth way back in 1998 on a family trip.
 

catchlights

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#14
That would be Arthur Fellig aka Weegee who when asked what his secret was said "f8 and be there" ��

LOL
f8 and be there......... so must use Tri-X film or not?


(Note: Tri-x is a black and white negative film by Kodak, a favourite film of photojournalists and many professional photographers,
not referring to XXX film/movie)
 

Zeisser

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#17
bird with four wings??
In actual fact there were two birds in flight. The bird in the foreground was flapping it's wing hence
the blurry wing image while it's body were so in line with the 2nd bird that they merged as one except
the wings of the 2nd which was soaring appeared in focus. Can say I was lucky in getting these two birds
with one shot :bsmilie:
 

Apr 9, 2015
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#18
Hope this might be of some help.


1. Pick a subject.
2. Anticipate.
3. Let the subject walk into your frame. (Work the scene)

The most important of it all is to know your camera well. Adding on to what wolfton has said: other than zone focusing, learn also how to manually focus your lens fast. You never know you might have an even interesting subject coming into the frame right after you take the shot.








Sent from my SM-N9005 using Tapatalk
 

wolfton

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#19
The Decisive Moment may not be necessary confine to street photography. It's about being at the right place
and the right time. Just to share this shot for your comments :)



Shot in Perth way back in 1998 on a family trip.
Agreed.

Ok nit pick a bit, a fraction of second earlier or later will be even better :cool:
 

wolfton

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#20
Maybe I share a pic and how I go about shooting it.



This was shot at the Singapore Post centre in Paya Lebar some time ago. It was after lunch and the office executives were on their way back to office. I was looking around looking for interesting things to happen but there just wasn't any. Then I saw this man cleaning the pond and what really caught my attention was his yellow boots. An easy option was to walk up to him and shoot him doing his work with the clean background, but that wasn't a pic I wanted and I also tend to avoid shooting such subjects head on. So I took a walk around him to see how I can include him in a pic without him being the only main subject. While standing next to the escalator, I noted that I could put him behind the frame of the escalator glass and juxtapose him against the office workers. Therefore I waited, but everything wasn't going as planned as most of the office workers moved in groups and it was messy and that cleaner was also moving around the pond and I couldn't put him at a good position that I want where I can have a full view of him. Suddenly this man holding a cup walked into the scene and he was by himself. I quickly positioned myself next to the railings of the escalator and lifted my camera. At the same time, the cleaner changed his position and was facing opposite direction, lifting up his mop (action of cleaaning) At the moment when the mop met the executive's cup, I clicked.

Upon reviewing the pic a couple of weeks later, I noticed that one of the bonus I gotten was that the cleaner's face was totally hidden, which is what I hoped for. Was it a perfect pic? Definitely not, it will have been stronger if the man was wearing a suit and tie, and if there was some sun light on that particular gloomy day. But overall a scene that I was satisfied.

End of the day, luck plays an important role in searching for those decisive moments too, so do not be discouraged if you don't get the picture. You will be a really really lucky person if you can have more than 10 decisive moment pictures in a year :)

Shoot a lot, review, and be as hard as you can in your editing. Remember 99.99% of street pictures we all take are craps. We go searching for that 0.01% as often as we can.