Throw away the lens cap. That’s the advice I received from my photography professor when I first bought a Holga camera. The Holga is a cheap, plastic lens “toy camera” that uses medium format film, and it’s known for its unpredictable but charming, low-quality images with heavy vignetting. Since you don’t look through the lens when composing with a Holga, like you would with a regular single-lens reflex camera (SLR/DSLR), some people often leave on their lens caps and are shocked to discover, after chemical development, that the film is empty.
Although my practice is different now, the habit of leaving my lens cap off remains. Just like on combat patrol in Iraq, where I kept my thumb on my M4 carbine’s safety selector switch, hyper-vigilance breed’s preparedness for the unexpected.
The photo below is no “decisive moment,” but it was close enough. I had just finished photographing the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and was enjoying staring out at the ocean (and not instantaneously returning to work) when this rainbow appeared. It didn’t last long, and I had thankfully left my camera on, and with previous correct exposure settings to capture the rainbow.
On another photo shoot recently, some colleagues and I were hiking a giant sand dune off the side of the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Of course, once we got to the top of the dune, a Mini and a BMW in camouflage drove by. I only had a 24-105mm lens, so I couldn’t get very close due to the distance, but I was, once again, able to capture the unexpected.
The godfather of modern street photography explains the decisive moment thusly: “Photography is not like painting,” said Henri Cartier-Bresson to the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”