The Magic Moment

Preparation

Nothing beats being prepared when you’re out with your camera. Knowing your equipment and what settings to use go a long way to not missing the moment when it happens. Take the time to use your equipment, experiment with different settings, and really look at the results BEFORE you go on that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Few things are worse than realizing your shutter speed was too slow or the aperture was too shallow and your subject is blurry.

Review Image Data (EXIF Information)

When you’re browsing through your images, look at the EXIF data (EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File and refers to all the settings recorded by your camera when you click the shutter button). This includes date/time captured, aperture, shutter, ISO, if the flash fired, white balance, metering mode, focal length, etc. Review this information from photos you like as well as ones you don’t. If you were on Auto, did the camera choose appropriate settings? And if not, what would you change? Did you change a setting or two? I LOVE that my camera captures all this data so I don’t need to remember it all.

Where is the EXIF Data?

On Windows, right-click on the image, choose “Properties” (usually at the bottom), then click the “Details” tab and scroll down to see all of the information. On a Mac, preview the image, then choose “Tools” along the top menu, “Show Inspector,” and click on the “Exif” tab.

With a Little Bit of Luck

When you’re ready with your camera, and you’re in the right place, sometimes it’s just luck that you’re also there at the right time. I like to call this “The Magic Moment.” Sometimes you can predict that it’s coming, but sometimes you can’t. Such is the case with the following image. I worked at Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia as an environmental educator for many years and brought my camera to work with me on a daily basis. As I arrived one morning, the light was just right and I grabbed my camera to capture the scene. It’s been one of my absolute favorites ever since.

Woodland Halo
EXIF data: aperture: f/4, shutter: 1/135 sec, ISO: 80, focal length:17 mm, metering: center-weighted average.

If I had been much earlier or later, I would have missed the light entirely. And I never saw quite the same scene before or since.

This image is almost 19 years old (at the time of posting), taken on January 31, 2001! This was my first digital camera, a Sony Mavica CD1000, 2.1 megapixels, and images were recorded onto mini cds (185 MB capacity). Each one could hold about 150 images. We’ve come such a long way since then: today you can find cameras recording 50 megapixels and media cards that can hold 512 GB, with larger cards coming.

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