A news photographer has many tricks and techniques to help capture better images. These are not unique trade secrets special only to photojournalists. They’re more like good habits that we practice so often they become routine in our everyday photography work. Any photographer has access to these tricks. So I won’t be giving away magician’s secrets by revealing one technique that might assist you in your photography. I’ll call this practice the art of repetitive action.
Predictability is a good thing when it comes to taking pictures. Since many events have actions that are repetitive, any photographer can become a fortune teller and begin predicting photographs. Let’s use sledding as an example. When I take to the slopes with my camera, I know that I will be observing repetitive action. There may be a whole hillside of people, but everyone of them will be repeating the same action. Specifically, I’ll look for areas where sledders have created an obstacle or ski-bump that sends them flying into the air each time they pass. I establish a location, downhill from the obstacle, and I simply frame and focus on the area just past the bump. As sledders hit the obstacle and sail into my frame, I take my photographs. This eliminates guesswork and avoids chasing after random action. I can remain in one spot for multiple sledders and anticipate action knowing I’ll get predictable results.
Once you begin to think about all the events and subjects with repeatable actions, you’ll probably be surprised at how simple this type of photography can be. Children on merry-go-rounds, bicyclists on a race course and barrel-racing horseback riders are just a few that come to mind. Just this week I used the technique to catch people climbing over a large snow pile in the middle of Massachusetts Street. Realizing that they had nowhere to go but over the top of the pile to cross the street, I positioned myself on the snow pile in the middle of the block. As pedestrians repeatedly approached the pile to climb over, I was ready to frame them with my camera.
Tips to capturing repeatable action:
- Find a suitable location where you can remain in place to witness the repeatable action.
- Pre-focus on a spot that subjects will cross or enter during the activity.
- If you position yourself so action moves across your field of view, you’ll have an easier time of following the subject for more shots. If the subject is moving toward you, find a location to pre-focus on that the subject will pass through and be prepared as he or she enters the frame.