The Decisive Moment… (for me)

The famous French war photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, said it best in his 1952 book, The Decisive Moment

“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson said.  “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

When involving yourself in photography, you either get this, or you don’t  There is no way to teach The Decisive Moment.  There is no way to say, “I will now pick up my camera and take a winning picture,” at least in my mind.  If all the stars align correctly, these moments will appear before you.  The key is to know your equipment well enough that it is ready, up to your eye, your finger poised on the shutter release, and you press it at just the right instant in time… The Decisive Moment.  The problem is that those moments are short and electrical signals to nerve endings and muscles are painfully slow, even at the speed of light.  When I see what I want in the viewfinder, that microsecond where I SCREAM to myself “PRESS THE SHUTTER YOU IDIOT!” and my finger actually reacts, seems to take forever… The command has been issued, but it is a painfully long time before the human body can carry it out.

Recently, my wife started singing again.  And since I got into photography again, she gets me into situations where I can get some great photos.  Now, concert or stage photography was never my specialty, although I did it a bit when she sang in a band in the late 1980’s.  But music, especially rock music, has been part of my existence since following Black Sabbath in 1970.  So recently, I found my self and my camera at The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ for Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke.  This is different from traditional karaoke- you know, cheesy electronically created music with no vocals.  Some poor slob who thinks they can sing reading the words they don’t know off of a video monitor they can’t see because they drank three shots to get up the courage…

Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke is live.  The band is great.  The vast majority of people who try it can actually sing. And the lyrics?  Yes, they have a big book on a music stand with all the lyrics.  But unless it’s the singer’s first time or they’re nervous, most don’t even look at them.

No, this is open mic night with the band.  And the singers are great.

Gil gets into his song

So, when someone gets up in front of your camera lens, and you begin having flashbacks to 1975 and reading articles about Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant in Circus Magazine as a kid (especially when this person is actually singing Zeppelin at the time!) – you start to feel good about where the pictures are going that night.

Anyone else here? Probably not.

As Gil began to get into his performance, I found someone before my camera who looked like he didn’t care about the rest of the world – and for a few moments, maybe didn’t know the rest of the world was even there.  On top of that, the stage lights were just right and I had the right lens on the camera (a simple 50mm f/1.8).

But, he was still having fun, as you can see.  (Zeppelin is always a crowd pleaser.)  I was close- but I didn’t yet have The Decisive Moment.  But, as the song progressed, I knew it would come.

And with a final drum kick and power cord, I finally had it… The Decisive Moment…

Get it?

These images were all shot on a Nikon D5000, 50mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/40 or 50 sec @ f/1.8 or f/2.8.  The lens flare in the last image was a bonus.

Thanks Gil for a great performance and a great moment in time!


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