Cameras can be considered fairly aggressive tools. Even the terminology is somewhat threatening. Aim a camera. Shoot a photograph. Taking this to an extreme, The Camera Store in Calgary, Canada, produced a hilarious video, “Battle at F-Stop Ridge,” spoofing cameras as weapons of war. You have to check it out. (Below.)
Motor drives and long telephoto lenses can make cameras look and sound aggressive. Like machine guns, motor drives can rattle off 7 noisy frames a second. They increase your chances at capturing a moving subject but they can also disrupt a quiet scene. Long lenses help frame distant subjects but are intimidating up close. Most hobbyist photographers don’t have access to these tools, but I imagine they believe they would improve their photography if they added them to their tool kit. Personally, I’d opt for camouflage and go with the stealthy approach.
During an average workweek few situations arise where I have to rely on a motordrive or long lenses to document a subject. I prefer getting closer to the subject, paying attention to my environment and remaining as unobtrusive as possible until a significant visual moment occurs. This work method has served me well for many years. Whenever I speak to young photojournalism students I introduce them to a three-step technique which I believe leads to improved photographs. I’ve even given it a name. Meet P.A.T.
Position (P): Look for a vantage point that provides a clear view of the subject and a background that is not disruptive. At the same time determine what field of view you want to capture and choose an appropriate lens.
Anticipation (A): Good photos take time to develop, and good photographers learn to be patient and anticipate subject action and reaction. Since you’ve already established a position and selected a lens, you can now concentrate on watching events unfold, alert to visual moments. It helps to keep your camera to your eye or be pre-focused on a subject so you are ready to snap the shutter.
Timing (T): All your preparation has led up to this moment. When you recognize a significant action occurring; whether a big smile or a slide into home plate, you’re ready to press the shutter.
This attention and preparation for photographing a subject can result in distinctive photographs. The trick is to recognize the possibility in all subjects and be prepared with P.A.T. at all times.