Lesson learned: Do not be a slave to rules!

It's not breaking news, rules exist for a reason, but do not always cover the variety of situations one might have to face, or the creative choices one might want to make.

The problem is that most divulgative information I have come across online (and believe me, I have come across a lot of it), while always stating how important it is to put your own vision before standards and regulations, tends to use this statement as a sort of disclamer for what they are going to say next, which is that rules are fundamental and should not be broken.

 

Take composition rules, for instance. The mantra is that the subject should not occupy the center of the frame. And while most people will admit there are exceptions to this rule, most people will also simply accept it as a compositional dogma, thinking that following the perfect set of regulations (chosen and enforced by others) will make their photography more "professional". 

 

Don't get me wrong, I think there is a reason behind the general consensus over certain practices, and I do not think it wise to just refuse any suggestion simply on the grounds that rules are stupid, but I also think we often tend to go the other extreme, and take any information we consider reputable as absolutely true, adhering to it rather blindly, even when it clearly is damaging to the objectives we want to acheive. I have been guilty of this attitude, and I am sure many of you have been too.

 

To illustrate why, sometimes, a healthy "Fuck the Rules!" attidude is the way to go, I would like to share a personal experience I had last week, that got me thinking, and has to do with the infamous pop-up flash.

Now, if there is one rule that is almost universally accepted it must be the one that describes the pop-up flash on your camera as a piece of crap which mainly functions as a weak point on your precious photographic system.

Opinions on this comically erectile part of most dslrs range from mockery to outright banning and cursing, and most of us information consumers are slowly molded to think that there is absolutely no point even using the on camera flash, unless we are fans of hideous harsh light at family parties.

I, for one, haven't used it more than a couple of times in years, and never as a creative tool but as a snapshot enhancement. 

 

Anyway, to make a long story short, I happened to be near the skatepark in Amsterdam's Museumplein when I saw a group of guys riding their inline skates on the ramps. 

After some chatting I asked them if I could take some pics, and once the ice was broken I started moving around looking for the angles I thought would work best to highlight the tricks the guys were performing. 

One situation proved to be tricky. The rider was jumping off the higher ramp, getting some good air and nice moves, but i quickly realized that he was facing the worst direction possible, for me to be able to get a well lit shot, and here is one of the first test shots I got.

 

Light is ok here, you see the museum, you get some cvontext, so it's not that bad, in my opinion, but is a skater's butt really the most compelling image of the action being performed? 

I don't think so. I would like to get some action, some context and a personal twist, something that makes the subject of the image a real person I can recognize and relate to, rather than a generic shape reaching for the sky. 

 

The problem is, the only way to get all those elements meant I had to stand on the platform on the top of the ramp you see pictured, with the sun shining directly into my lens (and eyes), creating all sorts of flares, making my camera go crazy trying to meter, and ultimately delivering results such as these.

 

-Damn it! Let me adjust my settings... DAMN IT! 

 

There was no way I could get the rider exposed correctly without blowing out everything else, and that is not what I wanted. 

The situation was dire, and I resorted to the most classic excuse ever: 

 

-If only I had a nice light setup, I could get a Profoto B2 up here, unleash some Pocket wizards and presto, Instant professional photos! 

If only...

If only...

If only...

 

Then, thankfully, my more rebellious side had its say, and I figured if was able to imagine a professional setup, in a skatepark, to capture action shots, I should very well be able to make the best of what I had available.

And my pop-up flash was available.

 

Armed with solid resolve, I pressed the little button on the side of my trusty camera. The mechanic sound of the little light coming up sounded dead serious by then, like the cha-chack of a shotgun in a movie. 

I was going to get the shot I wanted...

 

And I did. It was that simple.

 

All I had to do was not think everyone would be pointing and laughing at my puny little flash, forget all the gurus potificating on how only noobs and tourists use it, ignore all the reviewers citing hard data on the luminous spectrum of studio lighting and how necessary all this information is to all photographers. 

 

All I had to do was say "Fuck it, I want to do something different", and then go ahead and do it.

 

You might be happy to know me and my pop-up flash are now friends and are catching up on all the time we lost because of someone else's opinions, and because I chose to listen without experimenting for my self.

 

The lesson is: Go out, do what you want to do, and do not blindly trust opinions you read on the internet, mine included!

 

Have a nice day everyone!

 

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