The unplanned shot [Day 16 of Thankfulness]

by - Saturday, January 16, 2016

currently: listening to 'Lonely Night' by Gary


Day 16: The unplanned shot
In high school, photography was one of my favourite classes. I loved being behind a camera lens, capturing images in a moment to create a piece of art.

Every project we did, we had a process to follow. We would study an artist, study a style, research it, build a concept out of their style, and apply it to become our final presentation.

At first, I thought it was weird to study and apply another photographer's style into our work. Of course we should always study the work of others, but why did I have to copy it? Was it not just building a world of copycat artists and photographers, stealing ideas and styles out of work we had seen before?

But of course, no matter your personal opinion, you have to play along with the class. You needed credits, they needed to see you do the work. Sure, we'll do it as you want us to.

For one examination, we needed to draw out concepts for some photographs that had to explore an object in the style of an artist. I had picked Duane Michals who was very much into sequences. So I decided to pick this heart shaped pendant I owned and would photograph someone finding a letter, taking the necklace out, and then have the pendant hanging from their fingers. Three simple photos concepts - one of them was bound to look good as my final shot.

So I got my "subject" and acted it out across a row of film up near a window - just because it was a really overcast day and I just couldn't get the right lighting on the pendant. I shot a few versions of each shot I wanted, making sure I got the right speed and aperture settings - and was pretty much done.

I still had space in my roll of film though, and I needed to use it up. I didn't need it for anything else but a different idea came into my head - one I hadn't drawn a concept out for. I had a space three shots to use though, so I figured why not play around a little with what was left.

I changed my angle and got my subject to hold out the necklace in their hand, then shot the photo from behind them. I didn't actually know what I was capturing, but at least it seemed cool through the camera lens.

That week as I developed my photos, I was incredibly annoyed at how it all turned out. It didn't look the way I wanted to. The lighting was different to how I had planned because it was so overcast, and the shots I had taken didn't look as good as the ones I had drew. I was disappointed.

But my photography teacher noticed something at the end of my film - the couple of photographs that I didn't plan to take. He looked at those closely as I tried to explain to him they didn't mean much, it was just me playing around with what was leftover.

He turned to me, pointed the last photograph and said 'that's your shot. That's the one you print.'

I had gone rogue with my idea, but that spontaneous shot ended up becoming the best shot of my series. It didn't necessarily look like anyone's style, and it didn't match anything that I originally planned out, but in the moment it happened, it turned out better than the rest.

Since that shot, I've learned that not everything I do with a camera, or in general, should be planned to every precise detail. And a lot of my favourite photos I've taken have come from moments of spontaneity and thinking of ideas in the moment. No matter how much you plan everything, it doesn't necessarily mean it will work out. And it also doesn't mean it's the best it could be. If the opportunity presents itself, take a different angle and say yes to doing something different. Because you never know, it could be the best shot you've got.

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For the month of January 2016, I'm writing 31 personal stories about things in my life I'm thankful for. See all my posts during my month of thankfulness here.

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