Wayne Gretzky famously said: You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. Like hockey this really applies to photography as well. In this digital age there is no excuse for not taking the shot, memory is cheap compared to film (so there’s no reason for photographers to hold back). The other big reason photographers don’t take the shot is because they don’t have a camera with them (I’m guilty of this transgression and continually kick myself in the ass). Also there is hesitation, not stopping the car to shoot a scene that presents itself—or anytime an opportunity slips by without a shutter-click.
I’m not a huge fan of the spray & pray method of capturing images; I prefer a deliberate and thoughtful approach. In the old days film was expensive to buy and to process, but digital memory cards removed that restriction and I shoot prolifically these days—where I once took dozens of shots (12, 24, 36 images on a single roll of 35mm film), I now take hundreds if not thousands of shots. The down side is you can easily lose some photo discipline, but the upside is your chances of capturing a moment goes up 100x. Combining volume with thought seems to be the key.
Street Photography and Wildlife Photography can be great genres to hone your preparation skills (both involve hunting prey in a sense, both human and animal, and you have to be on your toes to capture the moment). I will always dial-in my general settings beforehand to cover a wide latitude of shooting conditions, and fine-tune them if there’s time (oftentimes that chance never presents itself, the moment lasting only a nanosecond, and I shoot with the settings I have). Again I will repeat Gretzky’s words: You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller
La Serena, Chile