At some risk of wasting time, prepare to take advantage of what the situation offers you
The first of these three situations was about being persistent, the second about looking for improvement, and the third, here, is about taking advantage of a brief moment in what was otherwise likely to be a pointless picture. The location is Cartagena, Colombia, in an old barrio near the city centre called Getsemani. This is the Church of the Trinity, and it's historic, picturesque and well used by the community. For a book I'm doing on the city, I wanted to include it, but not as a picturesque or architectural shot.
The church opens late in the afternoon for Mass, which is why I was there, and I walked around to see what kind of shot might be possible. The best that I came up with was a viewpoint from just inside the entrance, where there was an old bell on the floor. With the arches behind, maybe this could frame someone walking in for evening Mass, but for this to work they would need to look special in some way, and I felt this wasn't very likely. Nevertheless, I stood by the doorway, just outside but looking inside, and waited. There was still some sunlight on the bell, but it was fading fast. A few people entered, but not one of them were very interesting, and I was about to give up and move on.
Then a woman walked to the back of the church and prepared to ring the bell (see black arrow, below). That could provide useful secondary interest, I thought, but I still needed something at the front. Then something else happened: a woman came and stood next to the door, perhaps to wait for something or someone, and that gave me some human interest. I realized that, if I took a step back and set my 24-70mm to its widest focal length, I could include the two scenes together in the same frame - just - and that the sensor would handle the big difference in brightness between inside and outside - about three stops. I was so close to the waiting woman that there was a chance for only one shot before she turned to look at me. The whole thing, then, came together in just a few seconds after five minutes of waiting.
With the images on the previous pages, I had an idea, more or less, of what the shot could be from the start, but with this one I'd hit a wall on what I could predict. It was tempting to cut and run, and do something elsewhere with the late afternoon light. At what point do you give up? Keeping going is never guaranteed to be worth it, and for shots that work, like these ones, there are many others that don't make it. It's not a certain path, but then what is?
I thought a sliver of sunlight on the bell and adjacent pillar might provide enough foreground interest for an interior shot, but I felt it needed a passing figure to liven things up. In the event the light had faded by the time the bellringer in the background had walked into the frame. When a woman came and stood in the main doorway, I realized I could take a step back and shoot an image that linked the woman outside with the bellringer inside
"I realized that, if I took a step back and set my 24-70mm to its widest focal length, I could include the two scenes together in the same frame"