I work at home, and I suppose I often go out just to put myself somewhere where I will find the day’s pictures. I don’t go searching for them, but just to make myself available to see. They’re hiding everywhere – and the surprise is in not knowing what they’ll be or where they’ll show up.

In the beginning there’s a nearly imperceptible tug on my eyeball that suggests there’s about to be a photograph. It’s not spiritual, like a whisper or hair standing up on the back of my neck. It’s more like a speck of grit in my eye that makes me blink, squirts a little adrenalin into my system, and causes my right hand to slide around the right side of my camera and flip the ‘on’ switch.

It’s always hanging there, 50mm lens, f/stop wide open, focused at infinity, ISO at 160 unless I’m inside, and the shutter speed set, as leave the house, to something appropriate for the day’s conditions. Without looking, my left hand slides to the lens and I might rotate the focus ring by feel a little bit, channeling some future distance-to-subject setting.

I’ve noticed that the process of making a picture works like this for me:

First, I become aware that there’s a picture nearby – a little story disguised as everyday life. It could be a movement, a patch of light, a reflection, a pattern or a face. Once I find it, I make an initial intuitive exposure – quick, before it gets away. Sometimes that’s all I get, but if there’s an opportunity, I’ll try to do better – adjusting my position (no zooms), camera angle, framing, double-checking focus and exposure. I might get another 2 – 5 exposures.

The rear screen on my camera is set to off by default so there are no pictures popping up while I’m shooting. This allows me to make the image come together in the viewfinder, rather than looking afterwards to see what I shot.

Most often the first and the last images are the ones – the first for spontaneity and authenticity, or the last for the refined composition and exposure. It’s exciting every time, and just 50% of the image – the darkroom still to come…


©2014 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved