How fast is my camera? How fast is my brain?

Sometimes beautiful people zoom into and out of your field of vision very, very quickly. Few things are as frustrating to a photographer as missing a good shot of a beautiful stranger.  Mostly I miss things because I don't anticipate events very well.  Sometimes I miss a shot because mycamera wasn't ready.  It was turned off, or "asleep" or the lens was capped.  Sometimes I miss shots because the camera's exposure settings aren't set right.

I was holding my camera in my right hand when I saw this beautiful person in my extreme peripheral vision.  She had slowed down at the intersection to check for cars.  I brought my camera to my eye while giving the shutter button a nudge.  The camera sprung into action, I framed as she accelerated by, I manually focused and snapped one shot.  And then she was gone.

I usually don't chimp much.  This time I was anxious to see if I'd gotten anything. This was my frame (above).

When I'm out shooting I don't turn my camera off. Ever. I turn my cameras off when I get into my car to go home.  That's why I usually carry an extra battery when I head out.

I never use a lens cap when I'm walking around.  Why put barriers in the way of getting a good shot?  I put my lens caps back onto my lenses when I get into my car to go home.

If I'm shooting in manual exposure I try to keep tabs on changing light and keep my camera operationally current. Then, if something cool happens I have a better chance of being ready.

If I'm using a manual focusing lens I tend to pre-focus the lens for the kind of work I'll anticipate doing.  As I was walking I had the focus preset for around fifteen feet.  When I brought the camera to my eye I only had to fine tune the focus. Not start from scratch.

I'm not that sharp and my reflexes have slowed down so I need to give myself every advantage in situations where things crop up quickly.  My camera is only faster than me if I don't handcuff it with my own bad habits.

This was taken on Saturday.  Shot with the Hasselblad 80mm Planar lens.  Aperture f4.  ISO 50.  I was able to get good focus by using the focus peaking feature in my camera.  Sometimes you get lucky.  Most of the time you make your own luck.


  1. Fantastic, sharp shot and a real great story behind it. Thank you.

  2. As they say "the harder I work the luckier I get".

  3. will my comment register this time. Just this once.

  4. Weird, comment don't register when using Google Chrome on a mac! Yeah, I know... blogger, google, chrome... same guys, Should work.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks. She was very beautiful. I"m glad I was paying attention.

  6. I find it surprising how few people are concerned with how a camera operates when you keep it on all the time, as I like to and must do to take the kind of shots I like. Among all of the commentary about "sharpness" and "DXO ratings" on, say, dpreview, you can ask about a camera's wake-time and sleep modes, and nobody will know or even care.

    My M6 is always ready to shoot (until I run out of film). My 5D comes awake at the press of the shutter. My GF-1 will as well, albeit a bit more slowly once it has gone from simply shutting off the LCD to full-on sleep mode. The E-P1 kept its screen on all the time until it turned off, and the battery life was consequently terrible. How will the E-M5 react awaking from sleep mode? Will it even deign to go into sleep mode if it's hanging around my neck and the EVF is constantly triggered? If so, how long will the battery last with just the EVF on all the time? What are my chances of bringing a dead weight to my eye? Few people seem to care about such things.

    But I'm sure that you care; these things are important to us, as when we see a shot, we want to take it, not agonize over the sharpness at 300%. All I want is the shot. The shot is everything.

    1. agreed. I want my camera ready when I am. Not five seconds later...

  7. I must be missing something. My Nikon D80 and F4 are both perfectly capable of being left permanently on without discharging their batteries. The FE needs turning on an off but since that is such an ergonomic masterpiece of design (just a matter of nudging out or back the film advance lever) it never slows me down. My Mamiya M645 Pro also gets left on and doesn't seem to unduly discharge itself. The 1950's Kodak Retinette I have is always ready as it has a shutter that can be left cocked. I never have to wait for my cameras to turn on. If I did I think it would drive me up the wall!


  8. I think that in cases like this the camera should be ready to catch ... the telephone number of the subject.
    just joking

  9. I'll add another one to the list; always load film in the camera before you leave the car. I missed a shot because I was waiting to see what the light was like before choosing the film I wanted to shoot. Stupid, stupid.

    Another dumb thing I've done is lock the shutter on my Rolleiflex after exposures so the next time I've framed and focused I get the anti-climatic inability to trip the shutter.

    I think of all my cameras, I'm fastest with my FE. With the split image I can focus pretty quickly and I can turn it on as I bring the camera to my eye. I ought to shoot with it more often, I've been trying to use my Rolleiflex for spontaneous photographs but the simple fact is I'm better with the FE. Plus I get more tries before I need to reload :)

  10. AH, but if you only had the new quick focusing OM-D.......

  11. Very nice capture. Agree she is beautiful and a great story to go with it (as well as excellent advice). I've missed a fair amount of shots by not expecting them and not being ready.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!