I was shooting the fall colors around my neighborhood with my Yashica Mat 124-G, medium format film camera. I hadn’t put it through much use since I picked it up this summer, and was a little unsure of myself. The sun was quickly dropping behind some tall buildings and like so-often in Amsterdam, I had only a few minutes to utilize actual sunlight.
While I was framing my very first shot, two little Dutch kids became curious about my doings and trotted on over. The youngest spectator queried softly in Dutch. Now it is much to my embarrassment that, after 3+ years in Amsterdam I cannot even speak Dutch at a child’s level. The shame tends to trigger a kind of fight-or-flight response. So at first I tried to discourage conversation and deeper inquiries by pretending I didn’t hear him. He repeated his queries, and his older sister started helpfully started suggesting some possible answers.
I realized this was not going to go away, so I smiled and I tried in very broken Dutch to explain. “Ik … um … een foto maken … van het gebouw. Een momentje alstublieft.” That seemed to momentarily satisfy the older sister who whispered to the boy, and they both backed up a step or two.
I was fumbling with the camera controls, a little out of practice with this manual camera and now with a little extra anxiety from being studied so closely by my inquisitors. My first attempt to take the shot failed, my cable shutter release was not triggering the shot. I picked up the camera, removed it, checked everything again. Finally, I reached for the shutter release and then – pow!
The boy had obviously run out of patience, or had been plotting with his sister all along. Either way, he managed to time his jump into frame and pulled off a quick little dance and then jumped back out, exactly in time to photo bomb me. How he could anticipate the exact moment was beyond me.
The kids were howling and I and quickly noticed other laughs from behind me, across the street as a few adult onlookers had witnessed the whole scene. The little boy walked away with a wry smile, his sister pretending to scold him for his mischief.
In the end, I was happy with several of my shots from the day but this one was the one I was most interested in seeing after development. As soon as I came across it in my scanning workflow, I had to push it to press.