Patience and Street Photography, or: Build Your Own Decisive Moment

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It was another normal Saturday walk in the park. My camera was carelessly hanging from my right hand as I walked with a few not-that-great shots on the memory card. By that time I already had made peace with the fact that the day would not bring me any amazing images, but then something caught my attention.

I noticed that someone had written a sentence on the wall of the park’s pedestrian bridge (translated from Portuguese):

It is not normal for a woman to be afraid of walking on the street alone!!!

This can make a good photo! Turn the camera on, focus, click:

Attempt 1
Attempt 1

Yes I know, it’s not very good or exciting, but hopefully we’ll get there. When it comes of street photography, being able to anticipate the scene that you want to frame and capture it in the right moment is crucial.

Most of the time, you have a very tight time frame to think, compose, focus, and shoot. But there are occasions where you have more room to breath, when you see a potential composition and you have some time to get it the way you want it. This was one of those times.

My moment didn’t have to be that much decisive, and so I went for another try.

This time I asked Rita, my lovely girlfriend, to walk towards the left side of the bridge. I thought that her presence would make more sense than the previous subjects and the emotional aspect of the message written on the wall would stand out more.

Eye to the viewfinder, focus, click:

Attempt 2
Attempt 2

It’s getting better but it doesn’t work yet. As I chimp to see the result it strikes me that using my girlfriend as a placed subject is not ok at all. What was I thinking? And I clearly need to place myself in front of the wall to let the message be more relevant in the frame!

Maybe if I wait for someone to pass on the top of bridge itself… I still have time, this might work.

Finally someone appears, focus, click:

Attempt 3
Attempt 3

It’s a man, but I need it to be woman. Let’s be patient, we’ll get there… There! An old lady approaching the bridge.

Focus, click, click:

Attempt 4
Attempt 4
Attempt 5
Attempt 5

Definitely closer now but the woman is not where I want. Too far to the left on the first image, too far to the right on the second. I guess that this is could be used if I don’t get anything else but let’s wait a bit more.

A couple pushing a stroller. This is not what I want but it can’t hurt… focus, click:

Attempt 6
Attempt 6

Suddenly, after several minutes without any living soul bumping into my frame, a young lady approaches the left side of the bridge.

I’ll get this one I’m sure! Focus and… CLICK:

Attempt 7
Attempt 7

Jackpot!

Now let’s align it properly, get rid of the colors, play a little bit with my dear Lightroom sliders and voilà:

final

It’s not the greatest picture ever, but I’m happy with it. It was what I first imagined the minute I saw that message on the wall.

It took me a while to capture the moment, but in the end who cares? The image lives, that moment is forever caught. I think it does a good job of telling the story that I first envisioned for it, and that alone is why I carry my camera around with me everywhere.


About the author: Rui Magalhaes is a Portugal-based coder and lover of pictures. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Rui’s work on his Instagram account. This post was also published here.

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