Slow down, you move too fast

Slow down, you move too fast

Waiting is something that we don’t really do so much any more. The volume and speed of information transfer is almost overwhelming, we expect to have instant feedback – rapid fire responses to emails, instant messages, tweets.

People telling their stories with images hot off the press, as they happen. This can be brilliant for engaging with your audience, for keeping up with events that may be happening far away but can we get lost in this real-time frenzy?

Since my return to photography, I have been exclusively using digital SLRs, leaving my film camera consigned to the attic. Digital cameras have opened the door to photography – increased access, the ability to experiment. The instant feedback you get, the LCD screen tells you immediately how you are doing, so you take a shot, if it doesn't work, alter your settings and shoot some more. Definite advantages – although also it can create a slippery slope of shoot first and think later. A few months ago a little niggle started developing in my mind that I needed to get smarter with how I approach my work – to be more measured, considered and purposeful in creating an image, but in a way that would not block intuition – the ideas, creativity and spontaneity.

The more I thought about it the more it reminded me of the words I hear from my riding instructors – allowing, not blocking, tone but not tension and it was in riding that I have started to find some answers. I was listening to Ferdi Eilberg during a dressage demonstration when the penny clicked. Ferdi was talking about his approach to training a young horse. The emphasis that I took away was preparing well to achieve your session’s objective with fewer attempts, rather than spending a long time meandering for something that is neither here nor there. There is a need for the rider to ensure that they are organised, clear in their intention and their aid, to help the horse understand, being able to recognise the moment that the horse gives the result that is being asked for, and to reward for that leaving the exercise on a positive experience.

I decided that I needed to apply the same logic and discipline to my photography – get smarter with how I approach my photography, get back to thinking more about what I am doing and why, trying at least to think about the desired result and visualising that before I even attempt the shot. By ensuring that I have spent time thinking about the light, the technical set up of the camera, the features of the subject and the aspiration of what you want to capture you are ready. Set up to do things right. Then it is just about feeling the moment, recognising when you have the shot and then moving on.

I was quite pleased with this plan. The thing is I kept cheating with my digital cameras – it was too easy. The feedback is instant and the temptation to tweak things or not take the time to prepare myself properly – or just leave it until the next shot all too great. So I decided to go back to film. Not the easy route though – oh no. I managed to find a mid 1930s Leica range finder camera in the sale rooms of my home village. The difference between this 80 year old mechanical box and my shiny new DSLRs was immeasurable. I had to remember what to do with film, how to load it, there is no light meter and setting up for a shot required some maths. Each photograph requires that I look at the subject, assess what it is that I want to achieve, calculate how I will do it then take the shot.

The first few goes have been painfully slow – the chance of me being quick enough to capture a shot of a moving horse still seems a little ambitious! However the more I persevere the more familiar it is feeling. Each time I take a shot I look expectantly at the back of the camera, the habit of getting instant feed back – but nothing. Nothing that is until today, when I saw the results of my first reel of film. Unbelievably, I have some results! The image here not yet of horses, but taken at the Sunday club match presentations at Ham Polo Club. That is, however only a part of the success. The main progress is the effect it is already having on my approach to working with my DSLRs. A more considered approach, less guessing and more planning – leaving more time to be ready for “that shot”. It is early days, but I am excited to see how it will influence my work in the future.

Related news, about: photography