Look out for a fi­nal flour­ish

An­tic­i­pate in the first in­stance, then fol­low through – and leave a lit­tle room for luck...

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

Another in­duce­ment to keep go­ing is when you an­tic­i­pate the mak­ings of a shot. An­tic­i­pa­tion, how­ever, can take you only so far, for two rea­sons. First, you may not have got it right, and the sit­u­a­tion doesn’t un­fold as you thought. Sec­ond, what­ever you an­tic­i­pate is not go­ing to be as in­ter­est­ing as the un­ex­pected, so you still need some luck. That’s where the psy­chol­ogy of shoot­ing can be a lit­tle cu­ri­ous. Time and again, there’s the temp­ta­tion to stop short, to be sat­is­fied with an im­age that ticks just most of the boxes, not all. The cul­prit, as I see it, is sim­ply be­ing too de­ci­sive. Sounds con­trary? De­ci­sive­ness can in­deed be a fault in shoot­ing, be­cause it tends to close you off to chance de­tails and hap­pen­ings. It may feel good to say to your­self “Okay, I just nailed it”, but that might mean you stop too soon.

The lo­ca­tion here was the Basil­ica of St. Peter in the Vat­i­can, and the morn­ing light was lovely: shafts of sun­light pour­ing down. It’s another tourist des­ti­na­tion of course, although there weren’t too many peo­ple around at the time of morn­ing this shot was taken. Here’s how the shot, and my think­ing, un­folded:

I spot two nuns in con­ver­sa­tion, and it soon be­comes ob­vi­ous that they’ve just met and are go­ing to talk for a while. I move left to get closer, then re­al­ize that the light­ing would be a lot bet­ter if they were in sun­light, back­lit, be­cause the light would then bounce up from the white mar­ble floor and be a lit­tle spe­cial. It doesn’t look like they’re go­ing to move, but the shadow line is mov­ing, slowly, and if they talk long enough, they’ll be fully lit. I move a bit to pre­pare for this, and po­si­tion the lit door­way be­hind them.

Lucky break

At this point a tourist wan­ders right into my line of view and stays there, and there’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing I can do about it. I just hope she gets tired of wait­ing and gives up be­fore the two nuns fin­ish talk­ing. It takes a full two min­utes for her to move on. The good thing is, by now the shaft of sun­light is strik­ing the two nuns from be­hind.

I move a lit­tle fur­ther to the left to shift the dis­tant bright door­way and get a cleaner back­ground, and that’s it for the light and fram­ing. All I need now is some an­i­ma­tion, some ges­ture, and there are sev­eral small ones. Are they enough? They’re at­trac­tive, but not spe­cial. I pin my hopes on the mo­ment of say­ing good­bye. What will they do, and how will they move? I get a hand­shake, which is bet­ter than noth­ing.

Then the taller nun crosses left, which I’m not ex­pect­ing or want­ing, so it’s not go­ing to work for me – a pity. But wait: a few sec­onds later, the smaller nun turns to wave, and that’s it. Ac­tu­ally two kinds of ‘it’: one is that her raised arm is per­fectly within the door frame; the other, which is even bet­ter, is that her right foot hov­ers just off the ground. Luck, which is very of­ten the in­gre­di­ent you hope for at times like this, was only on my side be­cause I kept go­ing to the end. All in all it took eight min­utes.

The se­quence went like this (left to right): 1. The nuns as first seen 2. New cam­era po­si­tion, with the door­way be­hind the nuns 3. A two-minute hia­tus as a tourist hov­ers slap bang in the mid­dle of my com­po­si­tion 4. The shadow line just clears the cou­ple 5. Say­ing good­bye 6. They cross each other

As the shadow line moved slowly left to back­light the two nuns, I also moved left, and closer, to frame the shot and wait for the mo­ment that they said good­bye, at which point they crossed each other The fi­nal mo­ment of a con­ver­sa­tion in St. Peter’s Basil­ica, Rome

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