Shots not taken…

The title makes this post sound like a bad drinking game. To clarify, I am referring to the pictures that I do not take, hence the lack of accompanying photograph today. It may sound absurd to travel to a faraway destination and refrain from taking every possible shot. Let me describe, however, a few examples of when I hold back pressing the shutter button.

I love Asia and have been there many times. Photographically, it is where I feel most alive. The location gets me ridiculously focused in every way and I fill up insane amounts of memory cards. There is a photographic opportunity there, however, that I have refrained from capturing, despite being presented with it many times. It is the scene of the little old ladies who are stooped over at the waist nearly ninety degrees. Why do I refrain when I see many other photographers clicking away? These women have lived long and oftentimes grueling lives. Personally, my heart goes out for them on each and every occasion that they come into my camera range. Simply viewing other people’s photos of them makes me ache for their plight.

Another time was during a recent trip to Romania. I was waiting outside of a church for service to start. The priest came out to call people into church swinging a censer. Smoke trailed out of the top and I was in a great position to shoot it: shoved in a corner by the door and able to photograph it from several angles as he walked to three different sides and back into the church. This time I refrained from shooting for a much different and opportunistic reason. In this location, I was an obvious outsider with cameras strapped about me hoping to get into the service. The risk was that by getting that shot I could have been admonished by the priest in front of everyone, ruining both my chances of getting into the church and quite possibly my entire Sunday in this very small community. It was insanely difficult – my mind kept saying “no”, but my arms kept inching up from the waist, index finger twitching.

Obviously, my examples lie on different ends of the spectrum and there are many more in-between. On one side is morality and on the other side is opportunity. I did get into the church that day and, hindsight being 20/20, I am confident that my entry was allowed due in large part to the fact that my cameras lay at my side when they needed to.

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