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Synchronisation: Shoot from the Hip Photography Part 5

August 5th, 2012 1 Comment

I was aboard a ship docked in Madras and a few hours before departure time I learnt that a gypsy troupe was about to give a performance in the main hall.  Already on board and with no plans, I thought I would check it out and just as well because the performance turned out to be a photogenic one, full of colour and movement.  The 36 exposure roll in my camera was nearly finished; I had four or so frames left of which I used on or two during a song-and-dance routine, not knowing what was to come (else I would have started with a fresh roll!).  What came next was a strange setup of two or three men lying flat on the ground with fruit on their chests and a blindfolded gypsy in brilliant clothes and an urn-like thing balanced on his head, whirling and twirling and leaping with a pair of knives in one and the same hand, accompanied by other dancers, to music.  Soon he brought down the pair of knives on a man’s chest in a lightning quick move, splitting the fruit but leaving the man untouched.  Instinctively I shot, but the angle was wrong and my timing was off and the image (as expected) turned out to be no good.

Knowing the game now, I changed position: I sat a little distance from one of the supine men, the gypsy’s ‘prey’, trying to cover a sufficient area so as to capture the gypsy dancer when he did what I knew he would.  (I do not recall or know what flash setting I had chosen.  For technical reasons, it would have been smartest to have chosen the widest aperture that would give sufficient depth of field and consequent coverage for any slight mis-focus.)  Now there was no question of ‘anticipating’ anything, I knew what I was going to see in a minute or two.  The challenge was to synchronize the shot with the gypsy’s lunge and lightning-quick thrust.  When the gypsy, my ‘quarry’, came near his ‘prey’, I kept my viewfinder on and around the prey while tracking my quarry, finger on the shutter; when he moved away, I relaxed.  I wanted to freeze the split-moment after he chopped the fruit; that meant I should probably squeeze the shutter at the same instant that his knives made contact with the fruit on the man’s chest.  That’s what I tried to do with the very last frame of my roll.  As I then knew, the moment came very suddenly but, having set myself up and with finger on the trigger, I fired in conjunction with the gypsy’s lightning-quick thrust.

  (Can you believe me when I say that the gypsy’s knife thrusts were lightning-quick?  Does the photo offer any clues to verify or disprove my assertion?  Observe that a piece of banana has been frozen in mid-air by the flash, as is the piece falling off the man’s chest; but the man’s knives are a blur.)

This image, though certainly not ideal, is a good enough one, a nice talking point.  Furthermore, it is a natural one; for advertisements, magazine stories, etc. such photographs are posed or set up, i.e. a subject is hired to perform his routine or stunt and the pro photographer takes shot after shot (in trade lingo this is known as a ‘shoot’).  Notice my fellow passengers in the background which indicates that this split-second photo is authentic.  I would not have been able to capture this image or anything close to it if I had not covered the bases of readiness-preparedness-anticipation.  But even if had done that but had not acquired the skill of split-instant synchronization;  the opening of the shutter curtain / firing of the flash with a split-instant of a fast-paced event; I could not have frozen this image.  Synchronization requires split-instant foresight and being one with your camera, specially its shutter-release delay.

Read all the Parts – Shoot From the Hip Photography Master Class 


One Response

  1. […] leap for (D)SLRs because it reduces shutter release delay to near-nothing.  With this innovation, synchronization to freeze an instant is a […]

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