Photography is all about “moment.” It’s the big, loud moment of the wide receiver going up for the football, eyes popping out, sweat flinging out from the helmet, fingers stretching out to grasp the ball. Or it’s the quiet moment of two friends meeting on the street, one throwing their head back in laughter or gesturing in response to something the other has said. Each of these situations, and everything in between, has a moment that is the job of the photographer to capture.
Moments bring power and impact into the photograph, resonating with the viewer and engaging them with the photo. In photographing a story, the moment image is what the narrative can hang on, a very powerful building block. Or it can stand alone as powerful testament to an event, bringing everything to a visual fruition. More ...
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Capturing the Climactic Image
Throughout this assignment, I’m seeing some really powerful images that capture the idea of “moment.” Within these submissions, I’m seeing some “near misses,” as well. With the idea of the decisive moment in mind, I think this is a great time to review the process of capturing the climactic image.
- Keep the camera, and your attention, trained on your subject. Things can happen extraordinarily quickly, and there's nothing worse than having the camera hanging from your neck when it all peaks.
- Give this process time. There will be times when the prime image will be the one you first shot. But there will also be plenty of occasions when that first photo captured a “work in progress.” By staying with the situation and watching as it develops, you’ll not only increase your chances of capturing the moment, but you'll also learn to see more photographically. For some photographers this is an intuitive process; for others, it’s a learned process. And the more you remain focused on a scene, the more you’ll learn to anticipate the moment.
- Become comfortable and knowledgeable about your equipment. For many successful photographers, the camera is simply an extension of their bodies and minds. You see something happening, or building up, and the functions of the camera are handled automatically. I tell students in the workshops I teach that when the camera strap goes around your neck, [it should be] like a switch turning on in your head. Now you’re thinking and seeing photographically. The first thing I do when picking up my camera is to adjust to the appropriate settings so I’m ready to shoot at any given moment.
- Realize that the event is now. Life is constantly going on in front of you; therefore photographic possibilities are always present. In workshops, I’ll see students hanging around, cameras not ready, waiting for the official “start” of a particular event—as if the only photos to be had are directly from that specific event. Learn to really watch for those photos great or small.
- Not every photo op will provide the best photo ever made, but you should approach each situation with the idea of making the best possible photo of that particular event.
- Keep on shooting. Often, I’ll get so tired of being away from home on assignment, that I feel I’m about ready to shuck it all. At that time, I’ll go through a drill I’ve used for some time: I simply pick up the camera, and an electricity courses through me—what an amazing craft this process of photography is. Keep on shooting.
Thanks for welcoming me into this community. If you’d like to continue this conversation and learn more about photography through a hands-on experience, I’ll be leading a seven-day workshop in Wyoming’s Cowboy Country and a weekend workshop in Tucson, Arizona, for National Geographic Expeditions.
Stay With the Scene
At this point in the Moment assignment, we’re seeing some powerful images, images that capture the split-second of peak energy.
For this assignment theme, I’d strongly suggest that photographers work on staying with the scene and watching it build up to—and beyond—the moment.
Thinking you've reached the height of a moment is similar to a mountain climber reaching what they think is the summit, only to observe the real summit off in the distance. This is known as the false summit syndrome, which I think is applicable in photographing moments, as well—you'll tend to shoot what you think is the peak frame, then lower the camera to admire your photo, only to look up and see the real moment occur. So stay with that scene to make sure that the great photo you just captured isn’t only a step up to the climactic moment.
Or liken your job as photographer to that of a director or choreographer in a play: You set the stage and watch for the actors to take their places or for the dance to build to its peak. I believe this is one of the most engaging aspects of photography and the reason I love this craft. It’s a forever changing scene in front of us, and we are responsible for making the best image possible.
So approach your next “moment” photos with the idea of staying with the scene from start to finish. Think of your viewfinder as your canvas and remember that you're responsible for every square inch of that visual real estate. And, above all, that the moment trumps everything.
Waiting for the Peak
The famous French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson said that every situation has its decisive moment; you watch as something builds, waiting for that peak. Applying that idea of a moment to your photography will really make you a more observant and connected image maker. And the more you work on that theory of moment, the more you’ll be able to watch how a situation builds to that peak, then descends after the image is made.
The waiting is the hardest part.
i'm a college student and i want to learn photography. do i need to have a dslr or a digital camera will do????? your advice will be appreciated.
@Karan Tamakuwala DSLR will certainly help you understand and learn how different lenses work and understand things like depth of field , shutter speed, ISO etc etc, however Digital camera can also produce a perfect picture, but less pro :)
I do recommend a DSLR, but feel free to start with any camera that can take a picture.
Jay - while I'm sure we all have our favorites - that shot with the cat licking his chops while the mouse put his hands to his mouth in an "oh my" pose is an all time favorite. Sorry to see that was left on the cutting room floor. Anyway - thanks for putting this together - still waiting for my first "published" pic - but definitely improving after taking your seminar in Boston last fall.
@erika haight I can't see the page either.
@erika haight Yes, I am getting "the page does not exist" with the 2 zebras fighting. Even though that is a great photo.......I am anxiously awaiting the story also!
@erika haight Yes not working here either - must just be down.
Here's my shot. Feel free to comment on it :)
My latest submission.
@Zinnia Mitra I love it.
I love NG, but wish we could submit more than 15 photo's per week lol! I guess it really makes you determined to only take your best shots naturally, which is a good thing over all but still, hard to have limits. Can't wait til the next assignment!
@Deborah Lane LOL isnt that the truth!!! I was like I wanted to upload every picture I took but after a while, its like, is it one of my bests yet?? I am really learning a lot especially by the DD and it really challenges yourself to do better to take more pics.. I LOVE NGO.. I have learned so much!
25 per week would be a fab start; perhaps even a scaled allowance based on active participation, something like:
Uploads For every consecutive MONTH AFTER 1st 4 weeks of active posts, add 10 additional with 50 Bonus on 1 yr Anniversay Week of Participation?
@Philip Ashwood I agree. In fact I believe I concluded that myself in my post yet, to have the ability to add a few more "good to great" shots would be a bonus here. Thanks...
@Deborah Lane Sometimes I just upload only one picture. I prefer to upload those which have something to say.
@Deborah Lane Quality, not quantity. One or two really good photographs can say more than fifteen that may not be so good.
check out my latest submission..
I like my shots! what about you?! :)
feed backs will be appreciated..
Check out my latest submission.hope you will enjoy it..
Feed backs are most welcome..
@carol worrell Me too - I keep checking every day! :)
My submissions for THE MOMENT; feel FREE to like:) and comments!!!!!!!!! Thank you (Big Esso/salamat)
"The Moment" was the first contest I'd posted to for Nat Geo, so I'm not entirely sure on the specifics. Do we get any notice from the editors about whether our photo was chosen before the publication date? Or is it entirely a waiting game for everyone involved?
@Elena Murzyn No....no prior notice, Elena! Just watch your inbox around the publication date specified (it does not mean it WILL be that date, but most likely close). Best of luck to you!
@Anmol Sahni I have learned off from other forums depending on your camera, Nikon has their own site, canon has their own site... I just received my first DLSR and I am loving it, but so much more to learn now!!!
I have joined the forum to what my camera is and they have all of those subjects covered! Good luck!
i have uploaded some of the new macro shots in my gallery, requesting you to visit once.... i think you will like it...
@Anmol SahniAny 2nd hand DSLR .From Nikon u can get d40,d3000 in this price,Check quikr and olx
I have used a point and shoot and just a few weeks ago started using a DLSR.. I have both a canon and a nikon now and Still can't decide which one will be my primary DLSR the kind of cameras all depends on preferences and what you want to shoot....kinda like a ford vs chevy kinda of thing.
I got this insensitive moment :). Please feel free to vomit & bedwetting D:
Hello, I am new member. I have a quick question about Bokeh effect. I have D40 Nikon, I know that it is not the best or high end camera, but it surely suffice the learning purpose. My question is, how do I get a bokeh effect through my D40?
I tried to read couple of articles and tried to adjust full apperture etc. somehow I am not getting the desired effect where the subject is focused clearly and the background is blurr....Can someone help me with this?
@Harshada Jashwant Dear friend....I;m also canon user,,, but my suggestion better you go to NIKON Site and search what type of lens you want. According to your need and interest about photography you can select any one. May be this is the Kit lens problem,,, but You can say this is Luck....I use Canon EFS 18-55mm kit lens, but the result is too good. Another suggestion that you can go for any Prime lens or VR lens,,,, this is my small learning that's I share with you...Best of Luck... Regards... :)Sri
It's not the camera, Harshada, it is the lens. In order to get the effect, you need a lens that opens up to f2.8 or faster.
If you have a kit lens, it probably only goes down to f4-f5.6, which gives a greater depth of field and is much harder to get the effect with.
@Harshada Jashwant Bay a NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 - 1,4 or 1,8. Absolute must in your camera bag if you take photos at anytime day or night. I have one, and I love it. You can create great bokeh with it:)
@Harshada Jashwant AF-S 50mm f1.8 G or AF-S 35mm f1,8 G DX..You can choose any of these two for superb bokeh effect
@Harshada Jashwant Here's an example I took with a crop sensor camera so you can see what I was explaining. The focal length was 76mm and the aperture was f3.5. I zoomed in on my cousin's beautiful son and, using the largest aperture I could, which, as you can see, was not very big, and I got a wonderful bokeh blurring the tennis court fence behind him.http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/2729477/
@Harshada Jashwant Hello Harshada, basically, you need a lens that is a slight telephoto with a large aperture and, if you want to try a non-autofocus and relatively inexpensive lens with your D40 to get a nice bokeh effect, you could buy a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 such as in the link below. Your camera does not have a built-in autofocus motor so, even though this lens is autofocus, you will have to focus manually which should not be a problem. Your crop factor is 1.5 so this 50mm would be the equivalent of a 75mm lens on a 35mm film camera. This is in effect a slight tlelphoto and would make a nice, inexpensive portrait lens. To get bokeh with it you would use a large aperture, eg 1.8, 2 or 2.8 and take a head and shoulders shot of a subject with something a couple of feet or more behind them. At that aperture, you should have a relatively shallow depth of field which will create the bokeh effect. Now, depending on your kit lens, you can sometimes create the effect with it as well. As others have mentioned, it is often difficult to do with a kit lens since, to keep the cost down, they have smaller glass elements and thus smaller apertures which create deeper depths of fields. So, if you have a kit lens that has a reasonable zoom, you need to stand further away from your subject and zoom in on it, using the largest aperture possible. Zooming in from a distance on a subject has the effect of reducing the depth of field and this, coupled with the biggest aperture possible, may at least to some degree, give you some bokeh effect. You will have to experiment and see but that is the technique to try with a kit zoom lens. Here is a lens you could try: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=247091&Q=&is=GREY&A=details