3 Different Stories in Under 5 Seconds

In Sketchbook, Street Lessons, The Creative Process by Chris FoleyLeave a Comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling lately and how much influence my preconceived notions can have on me finding what I seek when I’m out working the street, or more importantly, what effect my expectations have on me failing to find what I seek.

There’s a lot to be said for going out with an empty mind and following the muse. I tend to dislike that approach because it makes me feel like I’m not in control, or something. I do prefer to go out looking for themes and ideas, as well as the obvious search for the perfect light source and unexpected events, and so on.

This night I was on the Santa Monica Pier and some jogger came up the boardwalk and jumped up onto the railing and started dancing on the railing. Mr. Dangerseeker here, unimpressed by the obvious risk to his person (oh I don’t know, maybe he’s a terrific swimmer…) then raised the bar by jumping up in the air and landing in a perfectly balanced handstand on said railing. I was shooting an 18-55mm lens with some reach but not a lot, and I ran to capture what was left of his performance.

Here’s the shot I was hoping to get:

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I like this shot. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s printable and likely saleable. It’s got good context and tells a fun story, leaving the viewer to imagine what the hell is going on with this guy.

Next, I zoomed out just a bit, leaned to one side and I got this shot, just 1 second later.

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This shot tells a very different story. Here’s a picture of some guy taking a picture of some guy. It’s not the shot I wanted in my bag, but it’s different and was also interesting to me. I’d love to see what this other photographer was able to capture.

Lastly, I somehow had the presence of mind to zoom out even more and take this final shot before my subject ran off into the Los Angeles evening.

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This one tells again a very different story from the other two images. This image conveys the truth about what was going on at the Santa Monica Pier that evening. It tells a different story about the daredevil. In the first two images, he’s a nut and he’s wild. In this last image, he’s a nut, and he’s wild, and he’s a total exhibitionist who’s showing off before a large crowd of tourists. Very different story.

Note his pose and the position of the seagulls. These three shots were within 5 seconds of each other, based on the time stamps in the filenames. Three frames taken over the course of 5 seconds. Thankfully I had already set the camera’s exposure settings a few moments prior.

What a difference 5 seconds can make!

Not to mention the degree to which a simple and fast change in framing changes the entire truth of the story. So which image is the truth? Which image tells the better story? You tell me.

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