unMonday: the decisive moment

Happy unMonday, folks!  Today, I bring you more street photos from the Fremont neighborhood, as well as a little statement about capturing the “decisive moment”.

An important part of street photography, and other forms of candid photography, is the portrayal of a particular moment in time.  This might seem absurd to you, as all photographs are a snapshot of a moment in time.  But when you look at truly good street photography, you’ll notice the photographer’s uncanny timing and ability to record a very specific moment in human interaction, expression, or movement – a moment that will not and cannot repeat itself, a moment that is pivotal to the scenario depicted in the photo, a moment that is part of a story.  This is the “decisive moment”, and it is hopefully conveyed through the photos in this unMonday post.

As you can imagine, the “decisive moment” can be very difficult to define, let alone anticipate and capture.  I’m still very new to this concept and I’m struggling to adjust my eyes to recognize these moments as they form before me.  I miss A LOT of great moments or I end up capturing a lot of flat, meaningless moments.  But I’m having a lot of fun learning and practicing – it’s almost like a game, as I walk around town, searching for moments to catch.

Here are a few things I’ve learned, just in the last few weeks, which have helped me capture the “decisive moment”:

  • If you’re actively shooting, always have your camera up near your eye – the second it takes to raise the camera to your eye could be the second that you needed to capture.  Also, quickly raising your camera to your eye will draw attention to your subject’s activity, and may cause him or her to act unnaturally or awkwardly
  • Pay attention to the sounds around you, to people’s conversations, where their attention is drawn, and where people’s lives might intersect – these things will clue you in to “decisive moments” that are about to happen
  • Make sure that your camera’s exposure settings are already set before you step out on the street – there’s nothing worse in candid photography than catching a perfect moment and seeing nothing but a blown-out white rectangle on your LCD
  • The “decisive moment” can be a collision, extreme emotion, eye contact, a facial expression, or just the way people are positioned – don’t limit your eyes to what you think a “decisive moment” should be, because there are decisive moments happening all the time, all around you…if you think it might be a moment, just hit the shutter!

Out of all the photos in this post, this one is my favorite for many reasons: it tells a small story, it was very difficult to capture using a shallow depth of field, and I was able to precisely time the shot because I had my camera to my eye, ready and waiting for the right people to pass by.

If you’re going to practice your kick-flips in front of the guy with the camera, you can expect to be extensively photographed. While these weren’t candid “decisive moments”, they were good practice for capturing action with a shallow depth of field and it helped me work on my fear of photographing strangers.

P.S. These were all taken at the same bus stop in Fremont, where I end up taking a lot of my street photos as I wait for the 30 or 31 bus lines.  This bus stop has helped reinforce in me the idea that there are always interesting photos all around you, just waiting to be captured…

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2 comments

  1. I love that first shot of the skateboarder! Great capture and light. That first photos is an awesome moment you caught too! Definitely a favorite.

  2. In just these couple of photos, you’ve managed to capture part of the essence of the Fremont neighborhood. Lovely!

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