Stop and Smell the Photos: Take That Picture Now, Not Later

Stop and Smell the Photos: Take That Picture Now, Not Later

It’s happened to all of us – you’re driving, in a hurry to get to work and you pass by something you see every day and think “I’m going to shoot that." Except that you never do. Just like we’re always told to “stop and smell the flowers,” it’s something that’s also true for photos. Photos exist to show a moment in time – and if you wait too long, that moment will be gone forever.

The Tale of Two Screaming Chickens

The two Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (I’d estimate them to be about 1979 models, what say you, Internet?) cars pictured above had been sitting alongside Interstate 80 somewhere in Pennsylvania for a couple of months, and every time I’d pass by, I’d make some kind of excuse to not take a photograph – It’s too cold. It’s too dangerous to pull over. I don’t have my camera (lies, I always have a cell phone). Finally, one cold October day, I decided to pull over and take the photo with a Nikon D750 I had in the trunk. As a fan of the original Knight Rider series (different generation Trans Am, I know), I’d have to at least get a shot of these.

I told myself that the next time I was going to come back with some SB-700s or on a cloudy day to get some better photos. It’s a good thing I took the photos when I did though – because the next time I passed by, someone had made an offer, as the sign on the windshields asked, and the cars were gone.

Tilting at Windmills

I’ve passed through Water Mill, N.Y. many times on my way to shoots out east or to visit Montauk Point, and I’ve always passed the windmill that stands prominently in the town as well. I’ve never stopped to take a photograph because I’ve always been on the way to another shoot.

I knew I wasn’t going to make the sunrise in Montauk Point as I had intended, and since I had some time before a video shoot there later in the day, it was my lucky day – sunrise hit right as I passed by the windmill that I’ve always been meaning to photograph, and so a few long exposures later (I just happened to have my B+W 10-stop ND filter with me), this was the result:

The windmill in Water Mill, N.Y.

The windmill in Water Mill, N.Y.

Though it wasn't the intended Montauk shot, there are not too many mornings where you can get just the perfect sky like that – and so if you see it, shoot it.

The Oliver 88 tractor

The Oliver 88 tractor I passed by on the way to and from work every day for years. On this particular day, it looked fetching, with its American flags and crops growing all around it. There are not many days where all the elements came together like this.

The Oliver 88 tractor I passed by on the way to and from work every day for years. On this particular day, it looked fetching, with its American flags and crops growing all around it. There were not many days where all the elements came together like this.

I’ve been living in Long Island for eight years, and for a time, I drove past this old Oliver 88 tractor every day. I’d seen it in all seasons and, once again, told myself I’d take a photo of it. I actually did stop a few times before, but never seemed to get just the right combination of lights and regalia with it.

This one night in July turned out to be my lucky night, and the tractor had just the right combination of vegetation, foliage and light from passing cars to make the shot.

Most other times I’ve passed the tractor, it’s sitting on an empty dirt field that looks like this:

What the field the tractor was shot in normally looks like. It's rare to see it in its proper element all decked out like it was.

What the field the Oliver 88 tractor was shot in normally looks like. It's rare to see it in its proper element all decked out like it was.

So timing is everything. If the shot’s in front of you – take it now, not the next time – or there may not be a next time.

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6 Comments

Ron Pogue's picture

Thanks for taking the time to create this article Wasim. This is perhaps the truest advice for image makers new or seasoned, now is always the time to take the shot you see. I often feel like inspector lee arriving at the end of things, but just in time to take the image I've been seeing before it's gone.
Cheers

Anonymous's picture

Yes indeed..just take the shot...overthinking, waiting for perfection usually loses whatever magic attracts in the first place. Plus take the shot you like over the one you imagine others might

Marc Cross's picture

Wait a minute...You keep a D750 in the trunk of your car ?
Lol...my good camera is D600 with 50k on the shutter !
Never the less it's great point that you make

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Well it's not always there, lol. I has a shoot I was on my way to and that's why it was in my trunk. Still, I had my cell phone and other things many times before I could have shot it with but was always in such a hurry, just lucked out that on the last time I saw these cars before they were gone had the Nikon.

I had a D600, loved the image quality. Did not love the dust spots.

I was also on I-80 and saw this microwave tower with the AT&T Death Star logo. I pulled over and took the photo. As I was getting back in my car, Iowa State Patrol stopped me and asked what I was doing. He said that it's illegal to stop on in the emergency lane for anything other than an emergency. I didn't get a ticket though.
This was 1994.

Christos Dikos's picture

good article