No matter how hard you work at your photography, sometimes the key to success is pure luck. The image in this post is a great example. I was on the touchline at a local football match (Brighton & Hove Albion, for those who are interested), and decided to grab a few shots of the crowd instead of the action on the pitch.

I was using a telephoto lens – a 400mm prime – and a full frame camera body. This was great for getting images in the midfield, but when the action was close I had trouble following it or fitting everything into the frame. Lesson for the future – either have a wider range zoom or take a second body for the closer action!

When it came to getting crowd shots, the same principles applied. I could easily pick people out at a distance and watch them for reactions, but if I saw something happening with my own eyes, it was almost impossible to train the camera on it. The viewfinder was giving me far too close a view. I knew the action was out there, but with my eye to the camera I could not see which direction to track in order to catch what I had seen when scanning the crowd!

In the end I decided to try trusting to luck. I waited for a promising moment when the crowd was getting animated, and then pointed the lens at the crowd. I fired off a few shots in the hope that the camera would catch focus and something in the frame would make an interesting image. Hardly polished technique!

Sure enough, most of these shots came to nothing, but then I stumbled on something special. These guys, passionately urging their team on, were probably the most impactful image of the entire day. It’s not perfect, of course – the frame didn’t really catch the chap on the right . A little higher up and more to the right, and the shot could have been really something.

Even so, this image does seem to work, and really captures the emotion of the day (we lost, 2-0 alas – I and being so close to the crowd I learned a few new phrases that I am unlikely to have opportunity to use in polite company). If there are lessons in all this, I would suggest they might be the following:

  • Don’t give up just because you can’t make something work perfectly with the kit you have to hand
  • Blasting away in the hope of catching a good shot can work, provided you have given a bit of thought to what you are trying to capture and how to maximise the chances of success (and digital film is completely free, thanks goodness!)
  • Learn from your mistakes, and take a better choice of kit along next time…

Happy hunting!

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