Example: While shooting in Notting Hill, I came across this very neutral background, white and simple, with one small tree in front of it. The light was creating interesting shadows around, so I was keen to leverage this space for a few shots. There was a man standing there, right at the intersection between shadows, and he was in himself an interesting subject. However, to create a more dynamic story, I simply waited one minute or two for additional actors to come within the frame. The goal was then to capture the best story given the foundational elements: a man standing on his own, and a set of overwhelming shadows creating a surrealist scene. While I would categorize this shot as premeditated, there is a strong element of intuition required to make these stories happen, since we cannot fully anticipate them or visualize them beforehand. It all depends on what will emerge within the boundaries of the frame.
To successfully take premeditated shots, one has to consider all the parameters of a scene. Working the scene to find the perfect point of view is essential to ensure maximum impact. It also requires imagination: what can this scene become? What images could be striking? And what are the implications on the angle, position and distance? Visualizing the frame in one’s mind is the key – the scene is the set, and you are the director. You just need to make the most of the show at hand.
Anticipation is a game of possibilities within a defined, multi-dimensional scene. Because life itself is never static, we will most likely never predict all opportunities potentially emerging in front of us. But we can anticipate some of the stories beforehand, and work the scene until these stories (or others) materialize themselves. Contrary to pure premeditation, the art of anticipation requires to think within environments that are dynamic and constantly shifting, and where the number of possibilities are nearly infinite. What then can we anticipate, and how can we do this? The first step is to define a potential scene/focus. You could be in a park, for example. You could be standing at a street corner, looking in multiple directions. You could even be watching a game played by kids on the street. Whatever this is, in order to anticipate stories successfully, you first need to define the boundaries of the scene that you will consciously work out. It then becomes a game of scanning the environment around you, testing new angles, looking up and down, taking a step back, or a step nearer. This technique is difficult because it requires a good dose of imagination and thinking, while being able to trust your intuition when the time comes to shoot. But with higher difficulty comes higher rewards, so let’s discuss this technique in more details.
Defining a multi-dimensional scene
As discussed earlier, a great way to use anticipation is to define a limited space where to operate. Think of a space that you can explore whether through walking around, or through standing still looking in multiple directions. This is your set, your multi-dimensional scene. While anything can happen, you will soon realize that you can, in fact, anticipate interesting stories and work your way to materialize these stories. In a confined, limited space, you can start envisioning your story. Light may play an important role, and stories of light & shadows will become predominant. Or you may identify patterns in people’s behaviors in this place – perhaps the way they walk across different layers create interesting scenes to capture, if you are patient enough for all the elements to come together. So the first step is to define boundaries and analyze the area for potential stories.