With visions of Joe McNally’s firetruck portraits in mind, I set out on a ride-along with the Salt Lake City Fire Department. Now, I didn’t get to rig lights outside the truck, and I wasn’t driving at night through Times Square, but I was hopeful that I might see a picture worth making.

Find a vision

My vision for this portrait appeared in my mind really quickly, and I had about the same amount of time to execute it. As we drove, I noticed the colorful autumn leaves outside the truck, and I realized that if we turned east then the sun would be in a great position to backlight my firefighter. Furthermore, if I used a small aperture I’d get two benefits: A starburst on the sun and a slow shutter speed to blur the outdoor scene.

You can quickly have a vision for a portrait. The more you make pictures, the more ready you’ll be to make a picture on the spur of the moment. You’ll be ready with the settings that will probably work so you can shoot quickly.

Shoot now, chimp later

Once I had the idea for my picture, I got the camera set and then started shooting, and kept shooting. There was no time to stop and look at the pictures and see what I might tweak to perfect it because any second now the truck would turn and the sun would be gone, or the colorful trees would pass.

When you have a quick opportunity to make a picture, make the picture, and then keep making it. Stop and look at your pictures when the time has passed. It’s better to make a picture that may not be perfect than to miss the chance altogether because you’re looking at your LCD.

Lumix G9, 15mm Leica lens, f/16, 1/15s, ISO 200.

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