Spur of the moment photography?


TPF Noob!
Jul 16, 2007
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I could just kick myself for not having my camera with me sometimes!:)

I live in a small community that is very strict about its building standards. The town is very horse orientated and everything in the town has specific standards it must meet. In other words, everything needs to look like a set from Bonanza.

This morning I ran to the local market. It's a strip mall but looks more like a scene out of an old west movie. It a huge would structure and the whole place even has places to tie your horse. So I am walking out and all of a sudden it looks like the Tour De France outside. There must be 50 bicyclist outside riding up. And you know the colors they wear. As I walk to my car I look back and think "perfect photo op" if I had my camera! argh. It was just so surreal, the contrast. Picture Lance Armstrong in a Speghetti western!

So here's my question that has been on my mind for sometime now. I use my camera on manual. So how does one set up all the settings in the spur of the moment to get that perfect shot. Since I am so new at it, it takes me sometime to figure out aperture and shutter speed. So by the time I have it figured...the shot is gone. Is it just experience? Does it all fall into place eventually? If your doing portrait work, no problem if the sitter is patient with a newbie. But how do you get good candid shots while trying to set up the camera?
in a spur of the moment like this you might have just put the camera in a program mode. better to get something, than nothing at all.

even pros do that on occasion.
Yes, I have the same questions!! My goal as a photographer is not to be a professional, but to be so in tune to my camera and the lighting and all that I can take pictures without so much FUSS. I'll be interested in the responses to your question. GOOD ONE.

(right now I have to think -- OK, what kind of lighting is this, what F-stop, what ISO, what this, what that.........oh......there go those bikers off in the distance...........LOL)
Well, my immediate reply to that question would have been/will be the same as Ann's. When something like that happens, quickly put your camera to Programme mode and capture the scene! If you have no time to spare, you have NO TIME TO SPARE, so that is the moment where you are SOOO lucky to have a camera that can decide for you.
If I have a little bit of time, I will quickly consider what I want, Deep DOF? fast shutter to freeze action. If it was a sunny day, I would probably use Aperture priority, to get a deep DOF, so the cyclists and old west building were all clear, because with the bright light I know the shutter speed will be fast enough. But if it was cloudy or in the evening I might use shutter priority to maintain shutter speed while sacrificing some DOF.
Almost every DSLR has a setting more aut than Program. Usually it is marked on the dial with a gren box or green P. The green setting will override all controls on the camera and make it a total P+S so if you are in a hurry and have you camera on M with other things dialed for a specific situation just flip to Green and go. Personally regarding not wanting "all the fuss" you know there are lots of Point and shoot cameras out there that take very nice pictures without "all the fuss" of a DSLR the whole purpose of getting into shooting with a DSLR is because you want to worry about "all the fuss". That being said I do uderstand needing to be ready at the spur of the moment.
haha, i experienced the same thing yesterday! had a couple of good nature shots, various waterfowl/etc etc....so i was fumbling around in manual mode, "ok f3.5, shut. speed 400, o noes it's washed out! tone down the shutter speed, then the WB was outta wack, by the time i finally got it, everything flew/crawled/ran off. haha i was like "DAMMIT" next time i'm just throwing it in program auto and getting something out of it. but yeah, i bet pros have that down tight, getting great pictures on the fly. But i'll have to agree, either full auto, or program auto and just shoot away. thats why we have photoshop... :p
Thanks you guys! Awesome answers. I guess I feel "guilty" for some crazy reason using some of the features. With me learning it all I guess I feel 100% manual is a must but now I see sometimes I need to use part of the auto modes.
You should not feel you always have to use manual mode, use the mode you understand the best and will allow you to take the best picture in that situation.
I usually photograph in Aperture Priority, its easier and quicker, and I sometimes catch things my friends end up missing! Thats not to say I don't sometime shoot in manual mode when I feel I need more control over the shot, or I want to try something new. It really depends on what you want to do.
Program or other auto modes work just as good as manual, if you can meter properly (most of the time...there are exceptions)
Program or other auto modes work just as good as manual, if you can meter properly (most of the time...there are exceptions)
I can agree here honestly, the only reason to get out of P is if you have a specific aperture or shutter speed you want for a certain situation. There is nothing wrong with program if you don't mind average settings for all situations.

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