Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Decisive Moment

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Cardinal de Retz said, and Henri Cartier-Bresson repeated, "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment." Cartier-Bresson was the master of the "decisive moment," capturing amazing photographs by opening the shutter at just the instant that the scene in front of him was at its climax.

That quote has been applied almost exclusively to street photography, but read it again. It says that everything in the whole world has a decisive moment.

As the day changes, as the weather changes, as the season changes, and as the environment changes, the subject also changes. Within that there are decisive moments when the subject is at its dramatic pinnacle. Even stationary objects have decisive moments.
Barn In Black & White - Tehachapi, California
Moving objects, especially, have decisive moments. There is an instant where the photograph is much stronger, and it is the photographers goal to find that instant. Often that decisive moment is fleeting, and sometimes it has come and gone before you realized it was even there.

Subjects that are moving can make capturing that great instant difficult. You have to be at the right place at the right time, completely ready and actively searching in order to capture the decisive moment. Having photographic vision is essential.

Non-moving objects also have decisive moments. These moments are often linked to changing light and changing conditions. It is the photographer's job to be at these places at the right time to capture the decisive moment. Being at the right place at the right time is the photographer's challenge.
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
Capturing the decisive moment takes practice. When someone captures it, it is not by accident. The photographer purposely places himself in a position to be in the right place at the right time, as well as anticipates the results.

Cartier-Bresson said, "Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression."

"Your first 10,000 photographs," Cartier-Bresson further explained, "are your worst."
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
There are no shortcuts. You have to push yourself to improve your skills, and by far the best way to do that is to be out actively using your camera. Try to recognize the "significance of an event" and figure out how to best "give that event its proper expression." Try to capture the decisive moment whenever possible. You will fail many times, but the more you do the better at it you will become.

In conclusion, the decisive moment is what all photographers should be seeking with their cameras all of the time. Finding it and especially capturing it is not easy, but with practice it can be done.

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