Be Like a Scout – Always Prepared
This shot, taken on a beach in the south of France in 1966, shows two young surfers hesitating before entering the waves. This struck me at the time as an analogy for the concerns, worries and fears of adolescents on the verge of manhood and has been widely published.
Here’s How it Was Taken.
I was driving back from a job in Nice, early one morning, when I spotted these two debating whether or not to take the plunge into a fairly rough sea.
Something about their stance, and the general ambience of the scene, caught my eye.
On the seat beside me, I had my Leica M4 camera fitted with a 135mm lens. Stopping the car, I snatched a shot through the passenger window, before the men decided, at least for the moment, to abandon their surfing ambitions.
Plan Head – But Be Prepared
Normally I liked to plan every assignment with great care, if possible visiting the location before the pictures are taken and always having a good idea of the direction the sunlight. For many years I would carry a small compass around with me so I could locate the sun quickly and easily.
That said, I always found it useful to have a camera to hand should any shot come unexpectedly my way.
The Box Junction Scoop
Here’s an example of how well this can work.
In the summer of 1968, I was driving back to my office in London after covering an assignment on the South coast of England.
At one point on my journey, I was halted by a red traffic light at a major road junction. Just ahead, and to my left, was a hearse carrying a coffin. On the pavement, in front of the hearse, was a large side cautioning motorists: ‘Do not enter the box until your exit is clear.’
It was too good an opportunity to miss. Grabbing my Nikon from the seat beside me, I managed to get off one picture through the windscreen, before the traffic moved off and the shot was gone forever.
The story I had covered on the South Coast had taken three months to set up and a whole day to shoot. It made six publication.
My snatched picture of the coffin and the road sign took exactly 1/250th of a second to take and was published 1,700 by magazines, large and small, around the world. Years afterwards, my London agents were getting calls from religious magazines and even parish magazines across the globe.
On another occasion I was driving home from a job in Johannesburg when, coming towards me, I spotted an open top car filled with naked young men!
It turned out they were students on a rag week. Once again my Rolleiflex, with a flash gun attached, was at the ready and a series of pictures were taken, one of which is shown below.
Which just goes to show you that every photographer should keep the camera close by, set up to grab a shot whenever and however the opportunity.
They should, like any good Scout, always be prepared.
For more trips down memory lane go to www.thewayitwas.uk. For descriptions of the technical aspects of my photographs take a look at this blog.
If you have a query about any aspect of my work as a photojournalist please email me via the website.
If you run a club or society, within a reasonable drive of Brighton, and would like a talk on photojournalism in the 60s please let me know. I make no charge for such talks.