August 18, 2009

Defining Moments

Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for defining moments. I find that a very interesting concept and a great way to explain the potential power of photography. But for some reason, I never see myself thinking at that micro level. I wonder if I should? Don’t get me wrong. I seek out and document the moments that matter to me, but at the time, I don’t think about each moment so succinctly. I realize I am putting very fine point on this – but I think it’s worth thinking about at a refined level.

I tend to think in terms of the project or the trip when planning a shoot. I concentrate less on each moment and more on finding the playing field where the moments reside.

I also tend to think in terms of adventures. For example, this time last year I was surrounded by 21 grizzly bears in Geographic Harbor off the Katmai Coast in Alaska. There was nothing but air between me and the bears. I find that I do my best work when I am in a place that lets me expand and exceed previous personal boundaries.

When I went to photograph the Coastal Brown Bears of Alaska I thought that might be my last big trip. But true to form, I am unable to quit quite yet.

I am planning an even bigger trip. I’m going to photograph Great White Sharks off Australia’s Barrier Reef. It will be my first trip diving and shooting underwater. I am not counting my many snorkel trips to Hawaii :)

Oh yeah – about that boundaries thing – I won’t be shooting from a cage. It will be a free swim. I have hired a marine biologist to help keep me safe and have no real fear of the situation. (I do fear the cage since two photographers have been killed INSIDE the cage in the last 12 months – it appears the sharks are starting to figure out how to get inside the cages.)

Even though I expect to come home in one piece, it’s quite a departure from sitting in my comfortable studio in Gig Harbor. I’ll have to be proficient at finding the sharks, diving, thinking about the images and the photography, and avoiding becoming a shark’s dinner.

Yet, back to the original thought I had about the defining moment – would I be better off if I concentrated on each shot I’ll find once before I get to the reef? Should I be visualizing every opportunity I might have long before I get there? My experience tells me to concentrate on the adventure and then once I arrive, my photographic brain will take over.

I have no idea if this conversation is important to anyone but me, but I thought I’d write about this since it’s what I am experiencing. Hopefully it will help someone else who is thinking about the same issues.