Fishing: Working the Scene

CRR_3158_001_big_mouthIn the film times, the photographer cautiously prepared every shot, even in the street. Those days were difficult, any error would be noticed only in the darkroom: hours, days, or weeks after the shooting. The scarce material you worked, the more intuitively workflow you must follow in the past, required more of the photographer skills in the the battle’s field. You had to know the exposure triangle by heart, and focus sharp with your only eyes most of the time. But by practice, you end moving quickly, by reflex, allowing the weight of all that knowledge brings the light into action. Nowadays, the great quality of the cameras and post-processing software, ease those technical difficulties, replacing them with new ones.

Accustomed to this workflow, my return to photography in the digital version were full of my «old habits». One shot per scene is one of them. By that I’m referring to the limitation of only one or two shots by scene (not necessary by event), as if saving material was necessary for the next unknown ones. It should not be the case anymore.

«Working the Scene» is a photography workflow pattern. It applies to any genre, but we know it from photojournalism mainly. In studio photography seems obvious. You take as much photos as your memory cards allows. Then you empty them in your computer and shoot again. You control de environment. If something goes wrong, you plan for another session tomorrow. That is not the case with other genres: landscape, wildlife or street or photojournalism. Those scenarios require action at the moment, instantly or within the next hour. Sometimes you have planned the shooting by months until that precise season, month, hour, and location. In other scenarios, the event is currently in front of your eyes, with the unstoppable flow of scenes. Missing shots would cost planning, money, the momentum, and get you a severe feeling of frustration.

The most recurrent pattern in those genres is «Working the Scene». What does that mean? It’s not burst shooting 5, 10, photos per second. Yes, you should fire 3 or more shots. But that’s only a part of the workflow. You should change your position, take the scene from a different perspective, wait some seconds, see what changes the scene has suffered, and shoot again. It’s the workflow of the photojournalist. They arrive at the scene, settle their position to the side of more interesting actions take place, and shoot, wait, walk around, and shoot again. It could go on for minutes or hours. At the final, you get a well set of images from the same event, and select the best ones. Nowadays, you get an immediate feedback of what your endeavor. When you see something that function, you repeat the shots, the angles, the content, grabbing the moment, scaling the value of every session. No more «decisive moments» missing.

The Street Photography genre is a bit different. The events aren’t concentrated in a particular space or time. There is no event you follow. No precise location or subject you should photograph. Your are alone with a goal in mind that command your wandering: «let’s get only old people», or «only look for historical façades», or «look for children playing in the street». When «Fishing», you stand in front of an attractive backdrop and wait. Suddenly an interesting scene comes into play and you burst shots a second before of what you expected and continue the shooting a second after the goal image has disappeared from your viewfinder. For other more long scenarios, you have the opportunity to stay there, sharing with your actors the same vital space, moving around, seeing from different perspectives, and shooting different actions and subjects.

The Workflow Patterns are well-known solutions to common technical and artistic problems in any discipline. Knowing a well-established set of patterns is a good practice to follow. It’s knowledge in a phrase.

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