Misfired!

A photographer’s index finger is always a source of nervous energy, especially when shooting a story in motion. “OK – framed it! No, a little more toppish. Too much happening on the left – pan it a little. OK, now do I wait? How long? Is this the one? Now? No, wait – subject’s turned to the right, angle’s gone flatter. Reframe – move it!” And the moment may just about slip out of your grasp. Something similar happened to me today.

A morning run is meant to be more than just that, at least for me. It involves keeping an eye on the sky (cloud layouts and movements, possible fingers of God, atmospheric refractions), on the trees and shrubs (sunbeams streaking through, dew drops about to drip, friends creeping along the leaves), the ground underneath (fallen leaves and flowers, interesting patterns in the soil, crawling dearies) and the road too (wagging tails, people’s movements, interesting mechanised monsters) – wait, did I run out of eyes?!

And winters have an added edge since the dawn lighting is dramatic and movements in general are slower, including the sun-up. So it was at 6 am that I came to the first crossing in my path, which is a bit tricky since this is a main thoroughfare with traffic in three directions. As I negotiated the thin traffic, I saw two familiar silhouettes – the two cows which usually cross me around this spot, they headed earnestly to the local temple to attend to their duty of chewing on fresh grass and balls of rice fed by devotees through the day. But today they were just standing in the middle of the road aimlessly, eyes flirting with the lights of oncoming vehicles – perhaps they had called a strike at work inspired by what was currently in fashion in the world of humans.

As I walked around them crossing the road, I saw an opportunity for a good composition. Without a second thought (in our world, there is no options of seconds), I whipped out my mobile, switched to camera mode and positioned myself in the middle of the road while framing the two cows. The composition intended was the two cows in the centre – the one on the right whispering sweet moos in the ears of the other cow, the headlights of an approaching car coming through the space between the horns of the cow on the left, the crescent moon in the sky above, the blinking reds of the traffic signal giving a dull red wash from the left and the white light from the garden entrance on the right providing an outline shadow.

Usually, I start clicking from the moment I have the frame even as I keep moving towards the intended composition, so that if there’s a goof up at the final moment of capture I have a backup to pick a good, though obviously a secondary, picture. But on this occasion the moon was not yet in the frame and I couldn’t click till the story was complete. As I moved closer still coming up from behind the cows for a tighter frame, the cow on the right sensed my approach and instantly swung to the right and, by virtue of the two being tied by a rope at their necks, pulled my main subject to the right too. It did not end there. She swung around completely and charged in my direction; however, the other poor cow not knowing what was happening, stumbled badly. Luckily for me this tangled mess caused enough distraction for the duo which gave me a moment’s chance to get out of the way.

I bounced over to the sidewalk on the other side and turned around, hoping that my actors were doing all right. Well, they were already sauntering along their familiar path in the direction of the temple, their reverie obviously rudely interrupted by me. Or did I just break their strike, by being almost struck down? Whatever the case be, it left me with one misfired picture, which I had instinctively clicked just at the moment when the short drama was about to unfold, and which was enough to buttress this narrative…

– Narendra Nayak © 2018

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