It’s weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, don’t even amount to a couple of hours. James Lalropui Keivom
So far, the most successful of my photographs, if you judge success by Judges’ comments, gaining a place in club competitions or acceptance in a Photography Salon – has been ‘Reflections at the Reichstag’. It was accepted in the Bristol Salon of Photography, it did well in inter club competitions and came second in the Monochrome section of our club’s annual competition. In some respects though it could be seen as a rather boring and ordinary picture.
The photography tutor had let us loose in the Reichstag, the German Parliament. It is an amazing building full of glass and thousands of reflections, designed to represent a new era of openness and transparency after the Berlin wall came down. When I finally arrived on the roof, people were admiring the view, resting and chatting and the one security guard looked rather bored as he studied his feet with his head down in his chest. I ‘camped’ for a while to study the scene. I was interested in the mirror to the right of me and the three boys on the bench. It seemed initially, as if there was nothing interesting going on at all. I moved further to the right, sizing up how I would need to stand if I was to get a successful picture using the mirror. I hoped that the three boys would eventually form an interesting pattern, preferably fan shaped. I wanted a curve to contrast with all the straight lines of the cranes and concrete. As I was imagining how the picture could be, if the security guard just stepped back a little and lifted his head, the three boys suddenly moved into the position I’d hoped for. I could only just see part of them as the guard was still blocking my view. I crouched down and leaned on the lower part of the wall. As I did so the security guard stepped back and leaned on the wall too. He looked up and I knew I had the picture I wanted. Just as I took the picture a woman appeared from nowhere and blocked my view of the boys. No longer in my desired fan position, the boys now began to mess about and the security guard turned his head away to watch them. The moment had gone. Although slightly irritated by my failure to see the woman in time, I decided to stay where I was, just in case another picture framed itself in my lens. I crouched with aching knees for at least another twenty minutes.
I was about to give up and for the very last time, I lined up the towering cranes in my viewfinder and re-positioned myself and the camera slightly. Within seconds the boys sat down again making the curve I wanted and as they did so the security guard took his eyes away from them to watch others just arriving. In that split second I had the symmetrical picture I wanted and this time no-one spoiled my view.
Back on home ground several months later, we had set off for the coast, very early one Sunday morning. I was hoping to photograph what has become a popular subject for amateur photographers, beach huts. I was not intending to spend anytime on street photography. We walked for ages and when we found the beach huts I was at a loss as to how to take a picture that was different from the many others I had seen. I was disappointed. Deciding I wasn’t in a creative frame of mind at all, I turned my attention to the people who had braved the rather cool and damp conditions to visit Wells-Next-the-Sea. Within minutes I saw the picture above. It amused me and I quickly grabbed the shot just before the lady on the end, left the scene to buy another can of coke. It all happened very quickly. The uneven number of subjects and their positions, the coke can and the handbag making natural ends on the bench are features that make this an interesting picture to me. The humor in the picture is an added bonus.
I am not sure which picture I prefer. I have realised though, that both methods of taking photographs in the street, ‘camping’ and ‘grab shots’ can involve an element of luck, however, the competent photographer definitely needs to have a vision as well as patience when ‘camping’ and very good observational skills alongside ‘with-it-ness’ to get an interesting ‘grab’ shot.