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The shot not taken


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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The shot not taken

12 Sep 2020 8:10AM   Views : 276 Unique : 147


A couple of days ago, my friend Peter (handlerstudio) made a comment about the camera that you have with you (always the best camera), and the occasions when we have no cameras at all with us, and cannot take the picture.

Peter suggested a blog on the subject: here it is: I hope it wont disappoint. It seemed timely, as the day I read Peters comment, Id gone out with one roll of film in a Kodak Hawkeye, and one unused frame on the only SD card I had with me. Id used that, taking a near-duplicate of an image Id shot with the last exposure on the film in the Hawkeye, and after chatting to the gentleman with the dogs all the way back to his car, I found that my camera refused when I pointed it at his three dogs in the boot of his estate car, looking eager and expectant as he looked in his pockets for treats to feed them. By the time I could find a frame to delete, the moment was past. I muttered to myself about the foolishness of leaving my wallet of cards at home, and a camera slot empty

In my career as a local government internal auditor, one of the more frustrating tasks I was involved with was clearing people accused of wrongdoing. We were dealing with a large number of accusations of wrongdoing by various managers. Because this was more than 20 years ago we did not have a prearranged fraud response plan, somehow the decision was made, at a political level, that we should suspend anyone named in an allegation, pending proof that it was untrue. The task of proving (or disproving) a negative fell to internal audit and human resources.
We spent weeks reaching the point that we could convince the powers that were that in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, we should reinstate the suspended staff. That was around the time that we started to receive hard evidence that others had done things wrong, and we thankfully moved into investigating real things (not that this is much fun: ask any policeman just how uplifting it is to investigate the sordid and the nasty).

And just like that work, failing to be prepared for a photograph can leave a bad taste: we can focus on our failures. I want to suggest an alternative strategy, a twist of the mind that might set you free.
Just for once, live in the moment. Instead of seeing life through a camera, taste the breeze and revel in the moment. You are free of the responsibility to record and share what you see. It is a gift from God or if you prefer, from the Universe and it is for you alone. It is unique, it is wonderful, and it is entirely yours.

You have no responsibility to anyone else, and you are completely free. You can choose to let it be yours, or to let it become a burden of guilt, or regret, or disappointment. The circumstances are set, defined but how you respond is not. This is freedom: this is what it feels like to be in charge.

When I was sixteen, I was travelling north on the A34 in Oxfordshire in winter. My mother was driving: no doubt the mist and low temperature were making her worried about the road. All I could see was the sunshine on the hoar frost. Ive never seen it thicker or more attractive. I spent the journey with the window wound down, taking pictures on Ektachrome.

A few days later, collecting a box of slides from the camera shop, the owner tried to console me over the way that the lab had cut almost every single frame in half, so that my decently composed (and perfectly exposed) landscapes had been turned into a surreal set of mismatched half-frames. A free film didnt seem sufficient consolation. I still have the slides somewhere: but Ive let go of the incident, at last, some time around 30 years ago, I suppose. It took long enough. And it taught me that sometimes, the best thing is to let go of the pain, instead of holding it tight and making it worse.

No camera (or no card space)? Let it go


dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1698 England
12 Sep 2020 8:11AM
And that's why two successive blogs are headed by, essentially, the same image.

It does make the point, though, that the more technically good image is not necessarily the better photograph...
Robert51 11 7 106 United Kingdom
12 Sep 2020 8:31AM
You say you still have those half cut slides somewhere John now with PS you have a chance to put them back together again and the pain will be gone. It may be worth trying a few just to see if it's worth it.

This must be the most quoted statement and thought of every photographer alone with "if only". The thing is if you can't change something don't worry about it.

The one I have always liked is the reply to "which is your best picture", the answer always being "the next one" or "the one I haven't taken yet". Both bring a smile to the face and that is how us poor slaves to photography have to live...
altitude50 16 19.8k United Kingdom
12 Sep 2020 9:07AM
Oh...........the pain. I should not dwell on this, but this made me remember. In about 1970 I spent a week in County Kerry and drove back to the ferry at Rosslare in my Triumph Spitfire stopping at various coastal views and at Blarney Castle. I had one last film in the camera probably my Voigtlander Vito B, 36 exposures of breathtaking beauty. Except that I hadn't loaded the film correctly and it hadn't passed through the camera. Lesson learned in many ways.
(One of the advantages of even a basic digital camera is that in most circumstances, you do know that you have something to look at!)
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1698 England
12 Sep 2020 10:52AM
That's a thought, Robert - the mounts are plastic and sealed, and it would be a bit of a jigsaw job to match halves, but if/when I find them again, I may give it a whirl.

And, of course, they may be nowhere near as good as I thought they were at that age...

Richard - the devices that later cameras had to ensure that the film was running: my Dynax 9 won't allow me to release the shutter if the film isn't winding, but is present. The old 'tighten the rewind device and check that it's turning' is usually the simplest answer for older cameras...
GeorgeP Plus
13 60 25 United States
12 Sep 2020 2:52PM
Wonderful advice:

Quote:Just for once, live in the moment. Instead of seeing life through a camera, taste the breeze and revel in the moment. You are free of the responsibility to record and share what you see. It is a gift from God

I am amazed how many folks I see with a camera trying to capture an event and emotion and missing most of what is happening before their eyes as they try to find that unique viewpoint. (Myself included at times. Blush)
12 Sep 2020 3:10PM
Thank you John...see my response on your portfolio page for today.


dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1698 England
12 Sep 2020 4:13PM
For the sake of others coming later, for whom finding today's picture on my portfolio could be a long business, I'll quote Peter's comment:

Quote:Well, John, I guess it is my turn..since it was my suggestion. About letting go, first....an issue that many, if not most of us deal with, particularly in certain situations, like travel or family time....the tension between wanting to take photos...and feeling like a voyeur, and separating ourselves from experience. In my case, traveling in Spain last year with my wife and step son...and his comments (more than companies--he was patient with me) about stopping all the time to take photos....and of shooting people, who may or may not be aware of being photographed...and the feeling some have about having souls captured (which we do succeed at sometimes, if we are good...and lucky).

The other, the photo not taken: I am a sailor, mostly on the Chesapeake Bay. Years ago, in the 1990's I was driving down to Annapolis MD to get a boat for a weekend charter with a friend....and halfway down I realized that I had left my camera in Philadelphia....the only time before or since on a boat without a camera. We set out of Annapolis to head north to go under the Bay Bridge to the Chester River and Corsica River....and just out from Annapolis (where the Naval Academy is) there were a couple of nuclear submarines at anchor, clearly as training for the Midshipmen (students). We were sailing about half a mile north of the subs, when (it was April, a very early charter) when the Maryland skipjack fleet (the very old sailboats that drag for oysters under sail) were motoring by the other way, headed west, powered by their push boats (they have no motors), and their decks high with oyster shells...headed out to seed oyster beds. The Middies were out on the rails looking at the skipjacks, boats from another time. The photo of a lifetime with a long telephoto....and I had no camera.

The other....sailing in the Virgin Islands in the late 1980s with with OM-2, ashore on Virgin Gorda and shooting...reaching what should have been the end of a 36 exp. role....and it wound right in....it had never spooled onto the takeup,and no photos shot. Ever after that, I always made sure the the left spool was turning when I wound the film in.

Thanks for your blog, my friend.

Others lost photos?


Courtesy of a comment from another friend on here, Phil Taylor (philtaylorphoto), I'm now reading a 40-year old book by Harold Evans, on, broadly, the use of press photographs. Highly recommended, if you ever see a copy secondhand - Pictures on a Page. Evans, editor of the Sunday Times when he wrote the book, has a lot to say about why still photographs matter in the television age, and what makes them good, bad (many are these days) or indifferent...

And a bit about the better shots that sometimes get away, even from the experts.
JuBarney Plus
9 33 5 United Kingdom
12 Sep 2020 7:26PM
Very deep and very meaningful today; excellent advice.
When visiting the gorillas we were advised to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about photos ... but they are a great reminder of a wonderful experience.
dark_lord Plus
16 2.6k 695 England
12 Sep 2020 9:57PM
The excellent shots of a hummingbird hawkmoth taken with no film in the camera.
The perfet complete rainbow framing Dewentwater and Skiddaw and in dramatic light while I was getting drenched in torrential rain, only for it to disappear after I got the camera out of the bag.

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