Capture the right moment

October 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Photography is all about capturing the right moment. In landscape photography the right moment is when the light is at its best. In people photography the right moment is often when emotions show themselves. In action photography it is right when the action happens. Your ability to capture the right moment depends on your skill to read the situation. For landscapes it is about reading the weather and the light. In people photography it is about reading what is happening and anticipating people's reactions. In action shoots it is all about knowing the sport and reading the game to anticipate that exact right moment. For birds and animals it is about knowing their behavior and reading their body language. You have to be a step ahead. You have to predict what is going to happen and be ready for when it does happen. With action photography we also shoot at high frame rates so that we can pick the image of the right moment later.

          I was watching this gull, trying to identify the pattern of behaviors that lead up to it diving into the water after a fish. If we can identify such patterns than we can predict accurately what will happen next once the pattern is initiated. Soon I learned what to look for. Once I saw the diving pattern initiated I started shooting. Here are the two images I selected:

This moment tells a story and evokes questions. How did it go? Did it get the fish? The right moment creates interest and sometimes even drama. An image like this sure beats an image of the gull just flying around or sitting some place. Photography is about capturing a moment in time. A great photograph is often when that moment in time, captures the right moment rather than just any old moment.

          Photography gear can make a huge difference here. We often say that it is the photographer and not the gear, BUT from time to time in history, a genuine game changer technology becomes available that makes getting certain images much easier. Olympus (now OM Digital Systems) released a camera in 2022 that has a feature called ProCapture. If you pressed the shutter button half way down the camera starts shooting. However, these images are not written to the memory card, rather it just goes into the buffer of the camera. Then, when you fully press the shutter to fire it writes the images from the buffer and what you shoot by pressing the shutter fully to the memory card. You can literally "shoot" for a minute before pressing the shutter.

          How does this help? Well, it means that you have just captured images that took place before you pressed the shutter fully. You have images that go back further than when you pressed the shutter. You see our reaction time is just too slow. This week I did some experiments with birds. The aim was to point the camera at a bird on a perch, then fire once the bird flies off, thus capturing the bird in flight. I really did my best. I concentrated and pressed the shutter as soon as the bird started flying. Try it yourself and you will see how difficult it is. In most of the images the bird is already out of frame by the time you take the first image. Sometimes, the bird is still in the frame but either half out (cut off) or too close to the edge. Mind you, this happens even though my composition placed the perch on the edge of the frame leaving as much space as possible for the bird to fly into. My reaction time is just too slow. With this new feature, you will have all the shots from a number of seconds before you pressed the shutter. You are guaranteed to capture the right moment, period. The camera even captures these images in full raw mode.

          The newly released Nikon Z8 also has this feature, although it is haft baked. The Nikon only does this by capturing JPEG images rather than raw. Personally I do not know any serious photographers that shoot in JPEG. Now I just hope and pray that Sony's next camera will also have this feature because it really is revolutionary. Imagine that you will almost never miss that right moment again.

          Combining this new feature with your knowledge and ability to predict behavior will enable you to capture the right moment almost every time.


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