Thursday, April 12, 2012

Caught In The Act

Making A Scene With The Camera

Consider for a moment the elements of a play.  There's a stage and a backdrop.  There are compelling characters.  Theres a story which we'll come to understand through the interaction of the characters within the context of their surroundings.

Plays are usually divided into sections called acts.  'My Fair Lady' and 'Phantom Of The Opera' are examples of plays written in two acts.  Shakespeare's plays often had five acts.

Some shorter plays are staged in a single act.  The actors come onto the stage, they interact, the drama unfolds, and the play is over.  Elegant and concise.

What if we could stage a play in not only a single act but a single moment?

It's quite common to pluck an instant from infinity using the magic freezing power of the camera.  Even novice camera users do this all the time.  But what if within that instant we can combine all of the elements necessary to tell a story?  Stage, setting, characters, drama, comedy, tension and resolution.  Our actors don't speak, don't move, can't even breathe, yet they tell a complex story with elegance and economy.

We connect with the characters.  We want to know how they got here, what they might be thinking, and how they ended up doing what they're doing in the scene.  Is this where they expected to be when they woke up in the morning?  Or did they end up in this place by chance?  What happened later? Where did they go?

Here are a few of my own favorite one-act, one-instant plays, uncomplicated by movement, unspoiled by words, untouched by time.

      Canon EOS 5D Mark II

      24-105 f/4L IS
      70-200 f/4L IS

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved


  1. Yes! That is why these photos and what you write here remind me of the Italian paiter Caravaggio's work, like in The Fortune Teller, just to name one example. Ifeel like I walked into action and everyone froze. These photos feel three dementional for me because of that.

    1. I'll admit that I had to look up the painting. I learned that he made two versions of the painting. The lighting in the second version is amazing. To have my work compared to THAT is extremely high praise. Thanks!

  2. Wow, these are the kinds of photos that inspire writers to write...and I'm so curious, what are the people doing at the Midtown Rest Stop? Exercising?

    1. Park Avenue is closed to automobile traffic for a couple of Saturday mornings in the summer. People walk, jog, and bike the avenue, and there are all sorts of exercise, refreshment, and exhibition stands along the way. At this stand someone was leading an exercise class based on Indian dance moves. I snapped them as they reached the deepest point of their knee bends. ;-)