Friday, March 11, 2011

Before and After ‘The Decisive Moment'

In the words of the father of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson: "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."

'The Moment' to which Cartier-Bresson refers has been coined 'the decisive moment.'  As in photojournalism, wildlife photography also has its decisive moments.
However, unlike photojournalism in Cartier-Bresson’s day, when cameras only operated in one shot mode, today’s digital cameras can capture images from 3 to 10 frames per second, so even the ‘missed’ moments are recorded forever!
Bwabwata National Park, Caprivi, Namibia
Canon 50D, 70-200mm f 4 lens, ISO 800, 1/1600 @ f 4.0
Using high speed motor drive is very useful for capturing the quick movements of wildlife and nailing the decisive moment within the burst of images.
Yellowstone National Park, Canon 50D, 600mm f4 IS lens + 1.4X teleconveter,
ISO 400, 1/1250 @ f 5.6
When editing images made utilizing high speed motor drive, one sorts through bursts of images and keeps the one frame that was made at the peak of the action or during the perfect pose as “the decisive moment.” 
So, what can we do with the sharp frames which are made within the burst before and after the “decisive moment?”
Since scrolling through images shot at high frames per second (FPS), resembles a crude movie- much like the flip books from our childhood days, I asked myself: what if I made some of these series of images into a photo collage or film strip of the action I witnessed? In a creation such as this, the photos surrounding the decisive moment would help tell the story of what was witnessed.
Chobe National Park, Botswana,
Canon 5D Mark II, 600mm f4 IS lens + 1.4X teleconveter,
ISO 800, 1/500 @ f 5.6 
Look at the individual photos in each of these series. Which one photo in each series would you choose as the 'decisive moment?' 
(They can be seen larger by clicking on each collection. Please use your back browser to return to the blog entry.)


  1. Great post, Wendy. Wondeful fox series!! There all good but I love foxes. It's a very interesting way to tell the story surrounding the decisive moment. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Glad you liked the post, Brenda. Thank-you for your comment. Wish you could have been in Yellowstone with time! :-)