Assignment 3 – random further thoughts (and a decisive moment of my own)

In a previous posting, I concluded that the ‘decisive moment’ is a tautology; it is the moment that the photographer decides the timing and composition is right to press the shutter button. It is not the moment that is decisive, but the photographer.

I also discussed ‘spray and pray’ and concluded that it was a way of deferring that decision until post-processing. Except in fast-moving situations, I considered it a lazy way to work. It is therefore slightly worrying to see how much I used burst-fire in each of my three possible sets for Assignment 3 (regatta, white water or pub gig). In my defence, most bursts were of only 2 or 3 images, rather than a full ‘machine-gun’ treatment.

With a deadline looming, it is time to decide which set to move forward with as my assignment. I have decided to work with the regatta for several reasons. It is the subject matter that I am most comfortable with; as a racing sailor myself, I was able to anticipate developing situations better than with the other two sets. It is also the set that has the greatest variety in situations and subject matter.

The next stage is to select the final images. There is good guidance in the literature.

Michael Freeman (2010,156) in a chapter titled “Interactive composition” gives a case study and describes the process of exploring a scene to find the best composition and timing. Although the image finally selected in that case was the last shot (no.37) he notes that this is by no means always the case.

The Magnum contact sheets book (Lubben (ed) 2014) is a fascinating read – and will be the subject of a review – which highlights iconic images and presents them together with the contact sheet and sometimes the photographer’s notes. This gives a good insight into the process of editing, although I sometimes find myself disagreeing with the editor’s choice.

I hope to live up to a comment by HCB, “Pulling a good picture out of a contact sheet is like going down to the cellar and bringing back a good bottle to share” (Cartier Bresson, quoted in Lubben 2014, 18)


Freeman, M. (2010) The Photographer’s Mind Lewes:Ilex

Lubben, K (ed) (2014) Magnum Contact Sheets (compact edition) London: Thames and Hudson


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