One Shot Challenge: Japanese Rain Chain

© 2019

In the days of film, it might have been appropriate to alter the sound of the shutter to the ka-ching of a cash register. Intentionality was required as the film and its development cost money.

And you were limited to 24 or 36 shots after which the film had to be unloaded from the camera and a new one threaded through the spool. Plus — unless you had your own darkroom or a Polaroid — you had to send the film off for development and wait for it to come back.

Even if one was just taking snapshots, there was still a sense of commitment. “I am taking a photograph.” There was an unspoken solemnity to the act.

With digital cameras, especially smartphones, we can throw caution to the wind and shoot promiscuously. Sometimes this results in dozens, if not hundreds, of images with differences that are only slight.

With so many that are similar, it becomes overwhelming to make selections. The tedious decision-making process gets deferred. In the meantime, more photos get taken and added to the pile. They remain on the phone or memory card where no one will see them.

Few dare to just delete them all for fear that there might be some gold nuggets within the silt. So they may all get uploaded to a massive online album. The burden of culling is left to the hapless viewer who rapidly swipes or clicks through them and maybe lingers momentarily over a few that catches attention.

What I’m describing is an extreme but I’ve seen it happen and there are many who can fall into the trap to some degree.

Sometimes I take more shots than necessary. As an exercise, during a recent visit to the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Locust Valley, New York, I decided to try limiting myself to taking just one shot of each scene.

It was drizzling on and off. So I began with this close-up of a rain chain — a type of downspout — hanging off the side of a tea house.

I took my time, thought about the composition and camera settings, held my camera as steady as possible, and pressed the shutter.

And just like that I managed to get exactly what I wanted. A crisp shot of the chain with a creamy dreamy background. And most importantly, there was that drop of water clinging to the chain before it falls.

Alas, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I took three more “safety” shots, none of which had the water droplet or looked as good as the first.

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Published by Xiomáro

Nationally exhibited artist, photographer, speaker, teacher, and curator. Author of "Weir Farm National Historic Site" (Arcadia Publishing).

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