Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Digital Photography

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

In the Moment

Not to even think of equating what Dr. Orbinski has endured compared to most photographers in precarious circumstances, but the idea of being in the moment is one that resonates with photographers because it is that state of total concentration in which we do our best work. It's particularly important when you're in highly charged and challenging situations.

In difficult physical or emotional shooting situations, you should maintain a clear sense of purpose. People sometimes ask how it is that I can take pictures in clearly private, personal, often sad and difficult moments, like at a funeral. I am not a voyeur in these situations; I'm there with the permission of the family, organization, or business, and they know why I am there: to take pictures. They know the reasons for the images and where they might be published. They also have agreed to participate and let me into their lives because they sincerely believe, like I do, that pictures can make a difference. Photography can help promote awareness and positive change. Under these conditions it inspires and motivates me to do my best work, and I hope that my good intentions are met with positive action ( 4.9 ).


4.9 There was a moment between me and my subject that translates well to the viewer. Taken with a wide-angle lens in close proximity, there is intimacy and you can feel the tension, with the man on the left adding to the immediacy of the moment. Photographed outside the Sekekete Hotel Bar, Maputsoe, Lesotho.©Steve Simon

As a documentary photographer, to do your best work and to tell the story you can't hold back. It's not a time for timidity. You need to concentrate and make the best image by boldly finding your best shooting position, keeping a low profile, and working quickly and quietly.

Intuition for me is more of a photographic feeling. It guides my camera to the right places, past obstacles, and in new, interesting directions. Aside from letting my intuition guide my compositional dance while shooting, there are a couple of important lessons I've learned when it comes to intuition.

First, it has been my experience that when I have a feeling that I didn't quite "nail it"—if there's any doubt in my mind that I may not have captured the shot I hoped to get—I continue to work harder. Those times when I didn't listen to my inner voice telling me to keep going, I was almost always disappointed with the results.

This lesson harkens back to the film days, when you didn't have instant access to the image you just shot. So you continued to shoot a little more. It's a work ethic that film shooters still abide by. It might be because, when you take a photo with a DSLR, the mirror pops up for an instant so you don't actually see the moment of exposure. If you "saw" it, you didn't quite get it.

Other times I need to keep an open mind about the experience of shooting. There have been times in the field where I've worked hard, shooting and working the scene, with an idea—before even looking at the shots—as to which images would be the ones I would be selecting.

But I have proven myself wrong many times. Because great photographs can be caught—without thinking, in a fraction of a second—I may not even remember taking certain images, yet they become the selections from the take. There's a weird sort of guilt that happens for me when I don't feel I "earned" the photo, because I triggered the camera on impulse or instinct, maybe not even having remembered doing so. Of course this too is part of the photographic process; the degree of difficulty is often irrelevant—it's about what the image communicates.

Lessons Learned: Instinct, Intuition, and Concentration

  • "When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear."
  • —Alfred Eisenstaedt

There is no question in my mind: concentration is a major factor in closing the gap between the photo you hope to get and the one you end up with. It doesn't matter if it's a highly charged episode or a mundane one; when I let my concentration lapse, I'm often disappointed.

This picture (4.10) goes back a long way, but I remember the day very well. It was July 31, 1987. I was a new photographer at The Edmonton Journal, where I had started my photojournalism career a year earlier.


4.10 The Edmonton Tornado, July 31, 1987.©Steve Simon

I was working the afternoon shift and had just finished gassing up my car when reports of funnel cloud sightings came over the newspaper's radio system. A moment later, I looked up and saw those funnel clouds; in fact, they transformed into a tornado seconds after I saw them.

The problem was, from my industrial location in the city's east end, there were a lot of obstructions and I didn't have a clear view. I was nervously excited as I took a quick picture with my Nikon F3 film camera, and stepped on the gas to find a better spot to see the tornado.

There were not a lot of cars on the road at 3 p.m. in this part of town, so I was able to drive fast, one eye on the road, the other on the amazing weather phenomenon in the sky. I drove for what was likely less than a minute to find the open space from which I took this picture.

Though I was young, I had been shooting pictures since I was 11 years old. I knew what to do. The light had dropped remarkably for 3:00 in the afternoon on a midsummer's Edmonton day. I remember the exposure because I had to push the 400 ISO negative film two stops to get a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, wide open at f/2.8 with my 180mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens.

I was watching this massive tornado, which was probably a mile away, move relatively slowly across my field of view. I had time to take a bunch of pictures, as fast as my motor drive would let me. The massive power of this tornado was in stark contrast to where I stood recording it. It was raining lightly and relatively calm.

I changed to my 35mm f/2 lens and took a few wide shots with more of the landscape surrounding it. Because the tornado was moving across my field of view and not toward me, I didn't feel threatened, but when I started to see the debris circling the outer edge of the tornado, my instincts told me it was time to leave. I was probably shooting for about 30 seconds. I jumped in my car and drove away from the tornado, toward the office where the film was processed and the image made the front pages of newspapers all over North America and around the world.

The damage was extensive, and 27 people were killed and hundreds more injured. The tornado was rated at F5 at its peak, with wind speeds above 250 miles per hour. I was very lucky to be able to concentrate and shoot from a position of relative safety. My experience at the time allowed me to keep my mind and camera sharply focused on the tornado, ensuring I would get the shot. Keeping your cool and concentration is essential to doing good work, and it's a skill that will develop over time when you put your mind to it.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020