Thursday, June 15, 2006

Remember Flipper?


The Miami Seaquarium was both a popular tourist destination and a favorite place locally to take the kids. There was a time when no animal rights activists thought that training porpoises to perform tricks was cruelty to animals, and the porpoises always looked like they were smiling anyway. They weren't really. It's just the way their mouth is shaped. They'd leap on command and even jump through hoops. Their reward was a delicious little fish.

One day back in the 1960's while showing some out of town friends "the sights" I shot a couple of rolls of slides figuring that perhaps I'd make some stock picture sales at some point. It's not easy to sell images when the competition is the attraction itself giving away pictures for free as long as they get a mention. This particular shot I always liked because the trainer is tossing a fish into the porpoise's mouth and the mouth is still wide open framing the little fish in mid air.

With most cameras in use these days when you push the button the camera goes through a series of procedures to set the exposure, focus the lens, get the reflex mirror up and out of the way, and only then will the shutter go off. Trying to capture an exact instant, like this one, is impossible. Some people will fire off a burst of consecutive exposures hoping to get what they want, but it's very much a matter of happenstance. With my Leica rangefinder cameras I set the exposure and focus myself, there's no mirror to move, and what I see through the viewfinder when I push the button is exactly what I capture on film. I probably shot a few leaps that day but this isn't one of dozens of exposures, it's one of perhaps 4 or 5 at most because even porpoises get tired and audiences get bored.

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