Thursday, March 15, 2012

Be Prepared

A-Harrrrr me hearties what was that a creakin' out beyond the reef that waylaid your Goode Shippe FogBlog? Yes it was none other than the bad pirate Blackie Master Homework and his evil crew. Seems like Blackie (as we call 'im round these parts) is a panickin' because he feels his crew is ill-prepared for battle, Well he might worry!  Those decks haven't been caulked in months and the riggin' is worn out; the canons are a showin' a nice patina of rust and the ship's cat is still floatin' in the grog. And as every pirate knowes cats need to sink to give the grog some power! In other words he was ill-prepared for battle. His guiles were obvious, for we smelled him on the morning breeze and it was but a walk-over for the Goode Shippe FB,  though it did take us a few days to shake him off out beyond the Sargasso.

Was there any point to that? Well no and yes! If you are a teacher, make sure your class is prepared for exams and knows what the hell is going on; if you are a student, make sure you are prepared for exams and have asked the teacher what the hell is going on!
Sheephouse's Third Law states: There are three ways to prepare for anything (especially anything photographic) and these are:

1./ Be Prepared

2./ Be Prepared

and (wait for it)

3./ Be Prepared

Photographically this means knowing your camera and your chosen media inside and out.
Does your shutter lag just a millisecond every time you press the shutter?
Do you compensate for it?
Can you focus your lens without looking through the camera?
Do you know how your lens renders in focus and out of focus areas?
Can you watch someone passing by you, lift your camera to your eye, press the shutter and remove it from your eye in a split second, knowing that you have got something really rather good?
Again, No?
Then you are not prepared.
Henri Cartier-Bresson called being prepared for that one key bit of photographic timing  'The Decisive Moment', and though that is an obvious call, I like the term - it is all about preparation! If you look up some of the Gary Winnograd videos on youTube, you'll see a master of that style at work. He knows his camera, he quickly checks it, lifts it to his eye, makes the photo, holds the camera loosely in one hand and smiles at the person walking by who is wondering why a stranger has just take their photo. It is genius at work.
Unfortunately for me, for most of my photographic life, I have been a master of 'The Indecisive Moment' - the following story is a good example.
Many years ago I was making a very very early trip out for a hillwalk. I was driving through hilly country and was passing by two iron age hillforts just as the sun was starting to lighten the horizon. The vista was incredible. If you can imagine the hillforts to my right and right in front and to the left of me a huge sweep of fields and hedgerows leading down to a plain. You could see for miles right to the North Sea. Happenstance had made it so that right in front of me was a field full of cows. They were all lying down and were all perfectly still and watching the sun rise! The light was very slight and the cows were barely just visible, but it was like they had been carefully arranged just for me. It was like nothing I had ever seen. If I had been prepared I would have had the camera in a handy place, and more importantly I would have known the best way to have taken the photograph. As it was, by the time I had figured what I should do to make the most of it, the cows reverie was disturbed and they had started getting up and mooving around. Man was I disappointed. I still carry the image in my head it was so great.
So, as the saying goes, 'Chance Favours The Prepared Mind'. be prepared, spend a lot of time with your camera, know it's workings and the the feel of everything, and if you are lucky you might just have your own Decisive Moment.

Although hardly a Decisive Moment, the above pleases me. I like cows, and I especially enjoy the fact that the one on the right is staring me down whilst the other two flee. The place is God's Own Country - Scotland.
The film was TMY2 400 at EI 320 developed in Barry Thornton's 2-bath. Camera was a Nikon F2 and the lens was that 35mm f2 Nikkor again. I am especially happy with the tonality.
Sad to think the cows are all probably just memories of a nice meal now.

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