“F8 and be there.”
It’s the old mantra of news photographers. It means that getting the photo, even if its out of focus and over exposed is far better than not getting the photo at all. The history behind this was if you left your camera at F8 (decent depth of field) and with an film like Tri-X at ISO 400 that you could grab any photo of any breaking news as long as you were there “with your camera”.
I was engaged in a Twitter conversation with a local flickr photographer about this very subject. The statement is “Real Photographers take their camera everyone” or “Real Photographers would not be caught dead without their camera” or some other phrase.
For a Photojournalist, your camera is a natural extension of your arm and eye and as a PJ, being sans-camera is like being naked. Photojournalists who are passionate about their work and they never really go off the clock, always looking for a great feature/standalone photo.
Of course they have some downtime, but its a bet their gear isn’t far away. During my days as a PJ I was very much this way. Other photographers though are not as naked without their cameras. A portrait photographer or studio photographers are just as real and they don’t live with their cameras.
But we also have a new class of photographers today who never travel sans-camera and those are your camera phone people. I’ve seen a huge growth among people who have nice dSLR’s opt for their camera phone to document those moment’s in life. From a mom in Ashville snapping pics of her kids showing off their activities to a pro in California snapping his surroundings. These cameras are total garbage quality wise. Even the touted iPhone’s camera looks like your shooting through fog, but yet hundreds of thousands of these flow through the net every day.
This phenomenon is creating a new type of photojournalist where the community is encouraged to submit their works to be published along side the staffers for the papers. When the US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River, the first photos of the accident came in from an iPhone via twitter. This gives readers more eyes on scenes which translates to faster reportage. We no longer have to wait on the news crews to arrive on the scene. Of course the media outlets love it because they generally don’t have to play for these user submissions or pay their minimal stringer rates for unsolicited submissions (which is generally less than requested assignments).
This gets back to F8 and be there where getting the image (and in this case faster) is far more important than the quality. As phone cameras improve so will the quality of this reportage and the reader wins.
As a former photojournalist, I hate it when I get caught out and see something I want to photograph and don’t have my camera. There are days I wish I had a camera phone or a small point and shoot so I don’t have to lug my 20 pound camera bag around. So for me personally, I feel that I am being less than a real photographer when I allow myself to be without camera.
I think many hobbyists are going to fall into this category as well. They are passionate about their photography and want to shoot as many conditions and events as they can and so there would be a natural reaction to feel that your not real if you don’t have your camera. My advice, pack your camera, keep the batteries hot and keep spare cards handy, you never know when your going to catch that important moment.
The twitter conversations moved to a discussion of are there times where its in appropriate to be shooting. Of course there are, you probably don’t want to be randomly snapping photos in class or in church or situations where you need to be paying attention to the event. The topic of shooting Funerals came up. And while there are no rules against it, its certainly an uncomfortable event. Unfortunately this was through twitter and its hard to have these conversations through a 140 character limit time delayed media. It was that discussion which really lead to this post.
I’ve lost both of my parents. My mom went first and the last time I saw her was a good three months before she passed and I never felt I got closure with her. I got to see my Father about a week before he passed and it was apparent he was holding on long enough to reach closure and he passed quickly after our final time together.
Both funerals were different. I took my camera to Mom’s viewing and I shot a few photos of her in her casket. It was very weird feeling, but it wasn’t wrong feeling. However during the funeral, I was such a wreck, there is no way I could even think about the camera, nor should I. My father’s funeral was quite a bit different. I wasn’t the wreck I was with Mom and I was even able to read my eulogy that I wrote for him (apparently that was abnormal as the survivors don’t do that). Dad’s funeral was also a military funeral so there was a bit more ceremony to it. I didn’t even think about my camera even during his viewing. Perhaps it was because there was so much to deal with since we now had to handle all the arrangements and the estate.
But I can say this. I wish I had a photographer at both. I believe that family and invited friends should be there for the service and should be focused on what’s going on, but much like a wedding, having someone (and it could be a designated friend or more distant family member or in-law) record the event is as important as the wedding or birth or a high school graduation.
Even though I may have been crying uncontrollably during Mom’s photos I kinda wish I had photos from the event because as painful as the memories are, they are memories non the less.
I’m sure this will be a bit controversial, but I would like to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think? Should we shoot funerals?