On f8 and being there

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Often when I return from a trip and begin living with the photos I’ve made I find an image that I didn’t see during my travels. This image from Negril, Jamaica also provoked a memory.

Many moons ago, when I was a newspaper photographer, there was a saying passed from more experienced photographers to newbies … “f8 and being there”.

It’s a combination of technical advice and journalistic brio attributed (without proof or conviction) to Weegee, a street photographer of the 1940’s.

On the Speed Graphic cameras of his day and older DSLR cameras, f8 on a 50 or 35mm lens is a aperture setting that’s considered “safe” in most cases … middling depth of field, open enough to avoid using a flash in most natural light settings and a “sharp” setting for most lenses of the day.

It is the “being there” part of the statement that stuck with me. You can’t get the shot if you’re not there. I’ve been afflicted with wanderlust most all my days so I didn’t need a lot of encouragement to travel. But, when I first heard “f8 and being there” it was like a tuning fork had been struck and found sympathy with something deep inside me.

It’s not that I like to travel or I enjoy travel. That seems trivial. I am compelled to travel, to see, to learn, to experience.

As Tennyson said in Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met.”

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