Thursday, August 15, 2013

Who shot the photographer?

click photo to enlarge
I was reflecting on the word "shoot" the other day. In particular I was wondering how long it had been an English synonym for "take photographs". A quick look at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows the earliest recorded use of "shoot" in the sense of "a discharge of arrows, bullets etc" being 1534 though in Old English an example is quoted from the early poem, The Battle of Maldon (993). As I worked my way down the list of meanings of the word - there are seven main definitions with many subsidiary ones - I tried to guess the date in the 1800s when it might have been transferred to photography. I was well wide of the mark (to use a shooting analogy). The first use that the OED cites is from Anthony's Photographic Bulletin of 1890 and around that date the word "shot" also starts to be used to describe the resulting image itself.

From our twenty first century perspective it might seem unsurprising that the act of taking a photograph should be described thus. After all, as with a gun (or bow) one takes deliberate aim at a target (or subject) and uses ones finger to release a mechanism at a precise moment to achieve the desired outcome. But, when I reconsidered what seemed the relatively late date of 1890, it occurred to me that perhaps the analogy wasn't quite as obvious as we think. After all, the shooting of a gun or arrow often results in a death or injury whereas a shot made with a camera merely fixes a moment in time on paper (or a screen). The former is frequently violent and negative; the latter usually harmless and positive. No, I thought, shooting isn't a word that transfers to photography as naturally as I first thought.

My reflection was prompted by the fact that a few days ago I was being repeatedly shot - by a camera. We were spending some time on the north Norfolk coast at Cromer and the shooter was my wife. Throughout our married life, as our photograph albums testify, I've done most of the family photography and my wife has taken shots mainly to ensure that I appear in the albums periodically. However, on our recent break she made a conscious effort to try and take a few more photographs of me. The result was I kept noticing that as I was taking my photographs I was also being shot. It was relatively painless as I'm a fairly co-operative subject. I've posted two of her shots today. Regular readers may find them a welcome relief from my obscured self-portraits! Incidentally, the rucksack isn't full of photographic equipment. I try to keep the gear and weight to a minimum when I'm out and about. It had only the 70-300mm lens to complement the 24-105mm on the camera. The rest of the weight was essentials for a morning at the coast on a day when a strong breeze was lessening the effects of bright sunshine.

photographs / text © K. Boughen / T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On