Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

Sometimes everything is going right–but no one knows it!

Here I am in the center of the women’s dancing, covering all three circles. The bride’s friends are bringing all kinds of shtick, and each of the mothers is dancing with a friend, switching off every 10 or 15 seconds. Every other dance partner stops for a posed picture–which can take longer to get than a good shot of them in action. Everything is going well; I am in a rhythm which has me covering all three circles and returning to the first circle just in time to find the bride’s mother stopping to pose with another friend. Picture made, and I am off once again to focus on the bride with her energetic classmate, when someone yells up at me from below my ladder.

Maybe it was her voice, her frantic rapping on the ladder, or her wild gestures. But she got my attention.

Now, reader, I have been describing how I am covering all three circles, from within their midst, on a ladder. It is not some shrimpy-wimpy ladder most photographers use, but a higher ladder that has its risks. You read about the seconds involved and the timing. Perhaps I need to further explain that each circle is at a different relationship to my remote lights and could easily require different camera settings, as I pivot about to get the various circles. As team leader, I am also coordinating the video and noting what formation the men’s side is in and how the crew is doing. Batteries die, remote controls stop controlling, power supplies fail, cords get disconnected, and light stands get bumped, moved, rolled, turned, and sometimes toppled. Assistants meant to watch some of those situations need watching themselves!

So this lady has now decided to do something noble, selfless, and important–get the photographer’s attention to point out something vital that just cannot wait.

Well if it could wait, how long would the wait be? From the opening paragraphs, it seems it would be a five-to-ten-second situation. Getting my attention is no guarantee I can get the shot. She is now a fourth scene in my midst (not counting my crew) that needs my eye. She might well have a valid news alert. Seventy-five degrees to my right I am monitoring a potentially important shot–maybe very important. But her getting my attention is only the first step to redirect my attention to what she is pointing at, or will start pointing at, once I am on the way to looking, until which time she is rattling my cage–er, all the more dangerous, she is rattling my ladder!

That is a very unsafe action in any case, but as it turns out she has just done that to get my attention regarding a special friend dancing with the mother. Had she been watching me continuously in recent moments, she would have seen me getting the shot when it first began–two shots, in fact, before moving on to my current focus. Now she pulled me away from circle one to redirect me to circle three, as I note I am missing circle one’s anticipated key moment and about to miss circle two’s important developing action. What should I do?

Taking the shot she urgently implores requires dwelling a few seconds on what she obviously thinks is the only important thing currently, but which will only be fully visible in three seconds, leaving me likely to miss both other circles’ activities. Taking a rapid-fire shot and going back to my work smacks of impudence and seeming irritation, just to humor her. I have done that at times, only to feel more intense ladder-rattling or frantic waving by others who think I do not realize the great import of the shot and was not really serious in the first shot.

Taking the few seconds to actually get a good shot at best gives me a duplicate of what I already have–likely not as good–and surely leaves me missing at least one, if not both, of the other circles. Ignoring her leads to greater persistence and desperation on her part as she further tries to get my attention in a dangerous way, or just adds me to her list of “Do Not Call” studios, when I am trying to get more meaningful shots per minute than anyone else would.

My nod or OK gesture to her does little good, as she can’t know I got the shot before, and will think ill of me or intensify her efforts to get my attention. Most importantly, my attempt to communicate with her, either in the affirmative OK, or with some other attempted assurance, will just frustrate her, as she thinks I missed what she was trying to say.

Maybe I had not gotten the shot and her alert could be a good thing. But does she know what my other potential shots were? Does she know what I am missing that others will want–perhaps even the ba’al simcha, who will later complain that a shot was missed due to this interruption. Then what?

The most important shot is always the one the photographer missed. You can have incredible photos, but it is human nature to complain about the missing. Fewer shots are missed by the better photographers when they are allowed to follow a rhythm and maintain concentration without the additional interruptions (done with the best of intentions, no doubt). On the other hand, sometimes a photographer may already be covering the action, unsure if more shots are needed or if the interruption is important. Your focused enthusiasm then could make a difference in the amount of coverage–the time the photographer stays on that scene. Unless at just the peak moment, a well-meaning distracter from another circle interrupts! v

Gary Rabenko can be reached at Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.


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