Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I Love Drive-By Photography—Duds and All

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

It's a fact that drive-by photography is guaranteed heartburn if you are hard on yourself. You have to have the stomach for stress, if you agonize over dud after dud when editing files.

I deleted most of the pictures from this session and almost dumped the one above. You may be wondering what changed my mind. It's more than a bit soft. (You bet that's what all that processing is about.) Furthermore, the framing is not what I had hoped for. When I began editing the files, the less than stellar results did not surprise me. Not only was there a distinct haze over the landscape that afternoon, I was in the passenger seat of a vehicle traveling 75 MPH when I took the photograph.  Under those conditions, I didn't have my heart set on a stack of outstanding images. But, I was going to be stuck in the passenger seat for at least an hour, and enjoying the feel of a camera in my hands made the trip more enjoyable. Later, when editing the folder I tried to pass by this photo, but something kept pulling me back. Will this one go in my top 10 for 2011? Goodness, I hope not. But, what the heck, it pleases me today, and I am my number one customer.

Regardless of the outcome of a photo-taking session, I enjoy the process from beginning to end. And, for me, that's what this is all about. The moment of seeing is the greatest joy. The sound of the shutter is profoundly satifying and marks the definitive moment of connection with my surroundings. (Yes, I am a simple person.) Just seeing the light on the subject and pressing the shutter fills my heart with joy, even if I format the card before I get home. If I end up with a photograph that I like from a drive-by session, I am always surprised and count it as a welcome bonus.

I once received a comment from someone who didn't see much point in what I call "drive-by photography". He felt that if the subject wasn't worth stopping for, getting out the tripod, and setting up the shot, why bother?

I "bother" for three reasons. One, I continue to learn by taking photographs. Yes, even bad photographs. Two, and more importantly, making pictures—even if I do not capture the feeling evoked by what I saw—the joy of seeing and shooting makes me happy. Three, I know that I have occasionally been ridiculously lucky in the worst of conditions and gotten a photograph that I quite like . And, even when a photo that I am drawn to calls for a major intervention, that's okay by me. I genuinely enjoy tinkering in Photoshop. Why post the picture? I enjoy the sharing aspect as well. Let's face it, life includes its share of disappointments, drudgery, and hardship. I relish all moments of delight, large and small.


  1. Amen, sister! I wholeheartedly agree with your reasons. I used to be tied to a tripod all the time, now I'm pretty free flowing and any photo that I decide to take, regardless of on or off the tripod is certainly worth the effort. I don't get much chance to do drive-by photography, but any photography, regardless of adjective, is certainly worth it.

    Also, I think that PS has gotten a bad rap. No one ever argued about what happened in the dark room and I remember dodging, burning, cropping, etc, all to get my 'vision' on paper. It's all fair!

    I get the connection as well. Just hearing the shutter is special, no matter where I'm pointing the camera.

    This is a beautiful shot, to be sure. So what it's a little bit soft. Big deal. Impressive framing for 75 MPH! :)

  2. A tripod is a wonderful tool, but I vowed to never let that device control my opportunities for a good time.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the "bad rap" on Adobe's PS. I can't vouch personally for what happened in darkrooms; but, I get an enormous kick from pulling out elements with all those wondrous adjustment layers and sliders. For me, it's a magic paint box with brushes that fly. Oh, joy!

    Thank you for the kind words about the photo. I have gotten just a wee bit better at framing on the fly. When you make it to our mountain retreat, I will drive you around and maybe you can even try some drive-by technique.

  3. I agree with Paul, darn fine work especially when moving at 75 MPH!

  4. Wonderful post, Anita. I think it's true that many photographers are bored when they're not taking pictures. The shot you posted is proof that you can come up with something creative in the least likely situation (75 mph?). For the record, I think Photoshop is the best software you can load on a computer.

  5. Steve - Thanks for the "applause". I make it into a little game I love playing. Mostly, I bomb out, but now and again...

  6. Ken - I went for decades that I rarely ever picked up a camera and I wouldn't even know where to start in a darkroom. But, when digital got going, my camera became a great companion. You hit the nail on the head about boredom. Especially when riding in the passenger seat, I sometimes grow restless and bored. Put a camera in my hand and I'm always a happy traveler.

    Besides, I find that attempting drive-by photography helps tone my reflexes. They aren't what they used to be and exercise is advised.

    Hooray, Adobe. For all their shortcomings, they put magic in my computer and I love 'em for it.

  7. I've taken some of my favorite photos through the windshield of my car, raindrops and all. I think this is a very nice photo and it sounds like it makes for a nice memory as well, of drive on the hunt for something to shoot!

  8. Mary Ann - Yet another thing we have in common!

    Actually, this is part of the drive we make to Bakersfield, where we have to run many of our errands, and this was an all-business drive. It takes a while, but it sure beats the scenery of such an errand run in crowded Los Angeles.

    I'm glad you like the photo. Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Anita, I see part of the attraction of drive-by photography as the challenge of perhaps getting a really good photo while speeding down a busy road. Anybody can take a snapshot standing still with the camera mounted on a tripod. ~grin~

  10. Earl - I wouldn't count myself as one those guaranteed of a decent shot just because my camera is mounted on a tripod. But I like the spirit of your observation.

    I developed this habit partly because I needed practice using my camera in different modes. Furthermore, I grew restless in the passenger seat with no control over how many times we could pull over for a photo op. If the driving were left to me, it would take two or three hours to make the hour drive to Bakersfield, for example. It's best I travel as the passenger.


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