Shooting From the HipSaturday, June 11, 2016
Shooting from the hip:
deriv. (Old West--when a person who 'shot from the hip' pulled their trigger in a proper draw (ie from a hip holster.) This is in direct contrast to a person who arrived to the gunfight with guns drawn. By extension, a person who 'shoots from the hip' possesses the positive quality of handling a situation in the prescribed mode.
For most of my photographic career I have chosen to use a medium format camera and good studio lights. I prefer to take a few (5 or 6) exposures as opposed to the technique (years ago) of banging off many with a camera equipped with a motor drive. I believe in deciding when I want to take my picture. This involves the anticipation of a moment. In modern dance, as an example, and particularly if you watch a rehearsal, you know when that peak (and always most graceful) movement will happen. After a while any photographer knows about a particular camera’s shutter lag. This means that the photographer knows the small transition of time between pressing the shutter button and the camera taking the picture.
In a studio this is not quite as important but the photographer has to know when the expression that is the important one is the one to commit to film or to storage card. In the case of my medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD I used the mirror lock mechanism. This means that subjects that watch my right hand and close their eyes when I press the shutter will be foiled as after they open their eyes, the left-handed mirror lock release (I use a cable release) will trip the shutter and their eyes will be wide open.
Shooting portraits in a studio and setting it all up used to turn off many of the art directors I approached for work. They did not like the perfect studio look. They wanted something “edgy”. I hated the word. One art director from a very good magazine who did give me an assignment stipulated I “shoot from the hip”.
This usually meant using a 35mm camera with a fast lens and fast film without any additional lighting. This sort of thing is now handled wonderfully by good digital cameras.
I did shoot from the hip a lot. And every time I picked up one of my Nikon F-2s I marvelled at the sense of freedom I experienced.
In these last few years I have been using the “shoot from the hip” technique with Arts Umbrella Dance rehearsals. And it does feel liberating.
In that past before to capture replaced shoot or take, this sort of photography was called the grab shot. You grabbed a shot (perhaps) in spite of situational adversity.
I took some photographs of Salem in her black Celica and I used my Nikon FM-2 loaded with a then latest Kodak 5054 T-Max film that could be rated at a very fast 3200 ISO. With my 50mm f-1.4 and 35mm f-2 I was able to shoot quickly. It is only today as I was going through these negatives that I noticed this shot. It has a sensual feel that reminds me of those Antonioni films that featured that wonderful Monica Vitti. Or it reminds me of the look and feel of Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water.
Perhaps I should shoot more from the hip.