People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log

Exercise: Capturing the moment

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Find, as for the last exercise, a ‘comfortable’ situation, possibly even the same location. For this exercise concentrate on bursts of activity, from which you try to capture a ‘best’ moment.

When you’ve finished shooting, review your images and pick out those that, for you, best capture a particular moment. Make notes in your learning log explaining your choice.


I took shots over a couple of days as I discovered that this exercise is not as easy as it looks! Finding exactly the right moments to capture – whether you know at the point of hitting the shutter or find it in the editing stage – is something that is difficult to do ‘on demand’.

The five pictures here are the result of a few hundred that I took in various situations and locations over the last three days. For each one I will briefly explain why I felt it was worthy of capturing that particular moment.

1. Skater

I shot from low down as I wanted to capture both the movement of the skater and the sharp shadow caused by the bright sunlight. This was the one where the body shadow shape came out clearest, and the legs straddled the red cone. The sense of motion is there, with the left leg raised, but the fast shutter speed has frozen the action well.

1. Skater

1. Skater

2. Tourists

I watched people taking photos of the view down onto the sea and after a while these two gents seemed to be mimicking each other’s movements, so I rattled off a few shots. This was the one where they seemed to mirror the pose the best. I still don’t know whether they were together or just resembled each other!

2. Tourists

2. Tourists

3. Photoshoot

This chap was taking pictures of his lady friend in front of a waterfall that I happened to be at the top of. I suppose in a sense I was doing the same as him – waiting for the right pose before I hit the shutter. I hope he got the shot too.

3. Photoshoot

3. Photoshoot

4. Macarons

I think this one stood out as I’ve managed to capture the exact moment she was picking up a macaron and I caught a smiley expression on her face.

4. Macarons

4. Macarons

5. Passing

I set myself up on a bench on the prom in Nice and took lots of pictures of who was passing, on bikes and on foot. My aim was to capture a moment of interaction or alignment between two people. In this one it initially looks as though they are together but on closer inspection it becomes more obvious that they are in fact walking past each other. I think this specific image captures the lines of their limbs well.

5. Passing

5. Passing

What I’ve learned

Whilst I enjoyed this, it did take a lot of outtakes to get to a set of usable images! If I wasn’t collecting images for an exercise I’m not convinced that I’d have considered these worthy of being shared, but they met the brief and proved the point.

In some instances (pictures 1, 2 and 5) I found it useful to pre-visualise what kind of image I wanted, and to position myself where I thought people would (if I waited long enough) wander into shot and do something interesting. For the others I was shooting a bit more speculatively, and really didn’t know whether I’d captured the right ‘moment’ until I reviewed the images after the event.

I haven’t shared them here, but in almost all cases there were ‘nearly-but-not-quite-right’ shots from a fraction of a second either side, that just missed the mark. It’s not always easy to describe exactly what makes each one work better than the close alternatives, but it was clear to my eye which ones ‘worked’.

As an exercise to demonstrate the concept of the ‘decisive moment’, it kind of worked – but as I said earlier, it’s really quite difficult to produce such moments on demand. But a very interesting and useful exercise, that has taught me to be both more demanding and more patient.


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