Assignment 3 – The Decisive Moment – final selection

wildlife in Nxai Pan National Park
f/5.6 1/400s ISO800
a squirrel eating a melon
f5.6 1/400s ISO400
The wildlife of Chobe National Park
f4 1/1600s ISO800
the wildlife of Central Kalahari Game Reserve
f11 1/320s ISO400
the wildlife of Moremi Game Reserve
263/525 f/5.6 1/400s ISO400
the wildlife of Moremi Game Reserve
255/525 f/6.3 1/1000s ISO800

Assignment 3 – Reflection on feedback

I had an eye-opener. Although in the mind a theory, idea or concept can be clear, while creating and selecting it’s easy to stray away from that base without noticing. To make it more specific, part of my selection of pictures for this assignment was based on real life action and not the balance of visual forces.

annotated version assignment notes

Comment [H1]: Referring to my blogpost The Decisive Moment. The Decisive moment is about balance in visual forces. It has to do with the elements of the image. It’s a stylistic choice.

Comment [H5]: Picture EvY 306 – 503/525. The two bully monkeys looking if nobody sees what they are doing, while the victim shouts.

In the option sent to the tutor the visual forces are in balance, but there is a lot of empty space. My worries with cropping are that blurred monkeys in the background will be cut, and I don’t like that. Also I think the space adds to the underhand attitude of the monkeys.

Nevertheless I added a couple thumbnails with different cropping to see if my picture can improve.

I have to conclude that my worries were unjustified. Even the tightest crop works well.
The adjusted crop of the elephants I agree on as well. Before sending the photos for assignment I made an A2 print of the elephants and already cropped as you suggested, also in a photo album I increased before the assignment the balance this way. Don’t know why I didn’t in this A4 print. It shows I have to keep thinking till the end, each step is equal important.
wildlife in Nxai Pan National Park

tutor report

I can find myself in the comments on the pictures of the lion and the rodent. For this assignment a re-shoot is obviously out of the question, but I made another selection.

In the case of the rodent I had a picture from the same situation. Interesting is that I have doubted between these two pictures from the moment I shot them. Not only with regards to this assignment, but also in general. With hindsight this is for me a typical example where I went wrong. I selected a picture representing action instead of a picture with the best possible balance of visual forces.

The lion is less a clear example for me. I agree that the picture is too much about the actual action, but there is a balance of visual forces. The way the lion stands, how he puts his force on his legs, that forces to the left comes out in the pictures and is balanced by the that animal. Some imaginary vectors can be drawn and I see a balance of visual forces, maybe not the best possible.

For the lion I selected a completely different situation. Some pictures I choose from


Questions to ask

“Is this image telling me something that I didn’t know?” or “Is this image making me think about something in a way I have not really done before?”

The easy answer is “yes” as wildlife is always surprising me: how they look, what they do, how they survive; the relation with other animals; the attitude the show, etc.. And being in nature makes me humbles and think of my being in the world (in all its multifaceted).

This surprise I try to take along in the selection of pictures as well. For example in many cases a portrait of a bird on a branch doesn’t add much to my collection except in the case of uniqueness, rarity, extreme beauty, etc. The challenge I undertake is to get more active or more surprising pictures, put in different words – and in relation to the in this section asked questions – more and more answers.

What I learned (or was reminded of) per picture:

  • Elephants: I was surprised by the combination of force, tenderness and elegance.
  • Rodent: What attracted my eye was the combination of colours, although the yellow is not a natural colour, I didn’t expect to find this combination in nature. Added the rodent on its back legs drinking from so high on top of the melon.
  • Birds: following each others moves
  • Zebras: the beauty of a child being fed.
  • Lion: moves its pray to get away from disturbing environmental factors
  • Monkeys: They bully and are aware they shouldn’t.
  • Antelopes: they do these kicks and jumps without apparent reason

An interesting conclusion I draw myself is that the answers I give are related to what attracted me in the situation in the first place, the reason why I created the photographs.

In my opinion, depending on the purpose of a project, the answers to these questions don’t always have to be new to the photographer. The photographer might already have known the answers, but maybe not his intended public.

I see an added value of these type of questions as selection criteria. I have to formulate my own.

In the context of the assignment my answers to the questions would relate to composition. The decisive moment doesn’t learn me anything about the world, accept for a possible way to capture a split second of it. The act of balancing the visual forces is a style choice. I don’t think that’s the purpose of the question.


I did make my own prints. Therefor I’m happy with the remark “the colour rendering seem pretty much the same in the prints and the digital images you sent as are the brightness and contrast.” I’m very much at the beginning of learning the craft of printing.

The remarks on the use of high gloss paper and borders are noted.

Reading list

Some remarks with regards to the proposed additional reading:

  • decisive-moment-reissued-photography. I read it and I agree for a large part with the writer. I see the decisive moment as method or a style and it says little about the vision of the photographer or the world itself.
  • Barthes, R., 1993. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London: Vintage Classics. Read it a couple of months ago, but it’s a small book to be read multiples times to grasp his ideas to the full. I started this week to read it again. Picking it up again I remember I was a bit disappointed that a large part was about only one photograph of his mother.
  • Cotton, C., 2015. Photography is Magic. 1st ed. New York : Aperture. A book to put on my shopping list.

Assignment 3 – The Decisive Moment

wildlife in Nxai Pan National Park
24/525 f/5.6 1/400s ISO800
a squirrel eating a melon
117/525 f/5.6 1/400s ISO400
the wildlife of Moremi Game Reserve
255/525 f/6.3 1/1000s ISO800
the wildlife of Moremi Game Reserve
263/525 f/5.6 1/400s ISO400
the wildlife of Savuti Marsh
407/525 f/9 1/320s ISO800
The wildlife of Chobe National Park
503/525 f/4 1/1600s ISO800
The wildlife of Chobe National Park
514/525 f/4 1/6400s ISO800

Thoughts to brief

The Decisive Moment

The decisive moment is a stylistic choice. Catching the decisive moment in for example wildlife photography creates beautiful pictures. For other types of photography other theories might be better suited.

I traveled alone with a 4×4 Toyata Hilux through Botswana for two weeks. I slept in nature in a tent on the rooftop of the car. Besides pictures I made a video of the experience as well. It was my first video (not counting one from my apartment when I lived in Mumbai).

All shots were taken on shutter priority mode. For shooting wildlife this was a risk for me as I normally shoot on aperture priority mode. In a couple of instance where the camera/sensor couldn’t handle the Tv because of lower light conditions it went wrong. I know how the camera reacts in those instances with Av. I made some real fuck ups which are not included in the contact sheets as I made so many pictures and deleted even more.

What maybe also can be seen from the contact sheets is my way of working. I first make a selection and do some post processing on those selected pictures (contrast, saturation, white balance, crop). Pictures not included in that initial selection might still look light or dark, or to yellow because I have my camera standard on daylight preset for white balance.


I’m very content with the outcome. It’s a qualitative and creative series taken under difficult circumstances, from behind the driving wheel of a car. In selection the pictures I aimed for variety as well.

In my opinion the series shows the decisive moments Henri Cartier-Bresson was talking about, but taken out of the context of street photography.

Specific to photos

 EvY 301 – 24/525. The reason I picked 24 over 25 is the trunk of the elephant touching the others lip. The decisive moment.

EvY 302 – 117/525. The reason I picked 117 over 116 is that the rodent is eating. The decisive moment. If selecting for another type of series I might take 116.

EvY 303 – 255/525. Balance of visual forces. In picture 255 it comes together, in 254 and 256 the balance is missing.

EvY 304 – 263/525. I choose 263 over 262 for simplicity (of shape and form).

EvY 305 – 407/525. With all the attempts I have included in the contact sheet, I think this choice of picture clearly states the decisive moment.

EvY 306 – 503/525. The two bully monkeys looking if nobody sees what they are doing, while the victim shouts. Visual forces in balance.

EvY 307 – 514/525. The action of the antelope. A decisive moment.

The order of the pictures is aimed to enhance the variety, but by coincidence also chronological.