For Christmas I got the National Geographic Masters of Photography Course. So far I’ve watched sections on Adventure and People in their Environments. The through line for all the lessons so far, irrespective of the overall subject matter, is to focus on finding the moment. One of the instructors said that the difference between a photographer and someone taking snapshots is the amount of time that is spent on a subject. A photographer will work the angles and take a lot of shots in order get the one that captures the moment and tells the story. Another instructor advised to always have the camera ready, because if you have to get it out, turn it on an check your settings, the moment will have passed.
All of them also emphasize the human element, which does not always mean you need to see a face. Sometimes posture or hands or shadows tell the story.
After watching these lessons I started thinking back through my photos; which of them told the story and captured the moment? Here are those I think succeeded the most:
This is my all time favorite shot of the kids at Wayfinders. I took hundreds of photos that day, but this one was definitely the result of having my camera at the ready. I turned around to see all these kids sprinting toward me – if my camera had been at my side or turned off, I’d have missed it.
Fashion week in NYC is a smorgasbord of photo ops, but most of the time the models are posing for the photographers. I got into the habit of having my camera ready but not photographing until the model would ‘break’ and relax; this is my favorite of those. This woman was very serious while posing, but as soon as the photographer (the guy with the bald spot on the left) was done, he said something and she burst out laughing.
I like this one more for the color palette and composition, but it also tells the story of Lincoln Center during Fashion Week; the dancers fade to the background (those young girls are definitely ballerinas) and the models take the spotlight.
This is a photo that I almost didn’t take. Maya and I had been watching for a few minutes, photographing the woman singing, but we were on the steps in front of her. The light was bright and harsh and we were leaving when I glanced back and saw the boy looking at her. He was standing just out of the direct light, so it lit his face without washing him out, and from the back her posture was more expressive than any photo I took where you could see her face.
This is George. The best portrait I’ve ever taken, by far, because his entire personality is in that expression. Enough said.
On the beach in California. One of my favorite photos ever, because of the juxtaposition of the woman lying on the sand looking at the three women protecting themselves with umbrellas. You can make up your own story for this one…
These boys were fantastic. They were following a decades old summer tradition of diving off the bridge and pier into the water of the channel near St. George Bermuda. I love this shot because of the way the two boys who are diving look loose but in control, doing something they’ve done a million times.
This photo was taken at VidCon in Anaheim, and I still can’t quite believe I got it. Talk about proof that you should keep shooting and have your camera ready! I didn’t even see the singer point at me, because at that moment the shutter released and it wasn’t till I stopped shooting a few minutes later and went back through the images that I saw it. These guys just oozed charisma and really knew how to work the crowd. (Obviously.)
So there you have it. Those are the photos that (to date) best embody the lessons I’ve watched so far in the NatGeo Masters of Photography course. They aren’t perfect and looking at them now I see how they could have been better, but it’s a start.