Right ho, let’s go shooting guys… and put your camera back in your camera bags. That’s tricky – shooting without cameras. No, it makes perfect sense if you are ‘dry shooting.’ The military use ‘dry shooting’ as an important training element. Here the recruit gets close-up and personal with rifle sighting techniques, wind adjustment calculations, trigger pressures and target recognition.
So if it’s good enough for combat soldiers, it’s certainly good enough for us to take a leaf out of the military training manual. Let me ask you this question: How many times have seen a great scene in its entirety. You photographed it with great expectation only to fine the end result was to say the least, disappointing? Does that sound like you? Ever wondered why this happens?
Here is one reason and a bit of solid advice I want you to burn into your shooting psyche. “Everything outside the viewfinder frame, including digital mini monitors, does not exist in your image!” You cannot see the scene with your natural 180-degree vision, keep it your mind’s eye and hope it’s included in your viewfinder.
You have to learn to respect and understand the inside boundaries of the viewfinder and see the scene in its confined perimeters. That is a disciple you must master, including the elements of composition, subject placement etc.
Let me help you achieve this discipline with a simple little tool you can pop neatly in your pocket. Get yourself a plastic/cardboard 35mm slide mount and hang on to it for dear life. This is your ‘new improved’ viewfinder that will teach how to isolate elements of a scene without getting involved with your camera. You can put all your thinking energies into and through that simple little frame as you look with sustained concentration though the set boundary perimeters.
You will soon learn to see wide and close shots, scene elements in the horizontal and vertical format and you will find how much your camera is interfering with your creative ability. That is so, so important. When the camera is a natural extension of your mind and hands you are in total control. Not bad for one empty slide mount.
That’s where the ‘dry shooting’ comes in. Now you can get into the “scene select” mode with 100% concentration and motivation and no interfering camera. You can transfer your new-found knowledge back to your photographic assignments, see the light literary, and eliminate many bad shooting habits. I cannot stress the continued use of viewfinder templates enough.
No matter where you are, inside or out, in the air or on the sea you can now rehearse your shots with ease and become your very own film director. You can do it bed, the shower, while you are having breakfast or in your dreams. Don’t try it once or twice, use the technique every moment you have. A week of this training will turn your shooting fortunes around big time.
All I want to hear from you good folk are little sighs of satisfaction as your photographic attainment flourishes. Remember, practice makes perfect, none more so than template ‘dry shooting.’ And, yes, I still use my view finder template to this day. Give this article a lot of thought please it will turn your shooting fortunes around. Foot it with the professionals and revel in your progress! Remember you have to know where you are going before you buy your travel ticket. Stay focused – Roger
About the author
Meet frontline cameraman, Roger Jeakings. He began his news career as a military photojournalist in Southeast Asia. An experienced infantry instructor, with rifle and light machine gun marksman credits to his name, Roger had little difficulty exchanging a rifle for a 35mm camera. His first combat news assignment covered the Commonwealth’s counter insurgency operations against Communist guerrilla actions in Malaya and Borneo, and later a three-year combat assignment in South Vietnam.
Since then he has kept in close contact with his news media colleagues covering the conflict Iraq and Afghanistan. They have generously contributed some of their images and thoughts to his newly released e-Book, “The Camera on the Frontline.” You can view the eBook and some of his images at http://www.wiseowlvision.com