The missed moment #1 – Ubatuba


(This post was originally published on May 3rd 2023 in Portuguese in an earlier version of the blog)


In 1957, Henri Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post: “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.”


The lives of personalities in photography are filled with catchy phrases and, of course, great photographs. But not everything is rosy. Those moments often slip away forever.


Once I read a chronicle by Araquém Alcântara about a lost photo of a jaguar in the Pantanal. I’m almost certain it was in the book “Foto Falada” by photographer and curator Eder Chiodetto in dialogue with Araquém. In this moment when I don’t have access to the book, I resort to memory to comment on this fable, possibly being somehow wrong: according to Araquém, the assistant had changed the camera settings the night before and the photographer did not check them before going out into the field. At dawn, the sudden encounter with the jaguar caught everyone by surprise, and the photographer, unaware of his equipment, ended up missing the photo of the animal. When he realized, it was already too late… the moment was gone.


As I read this account, I couldn’t stop thinking – besides the responsibility of mastering the equipment – about several photos that I missed. Not only because I failed to check the camera settings, but because of various circumstances where many moments remained only in memory (some even with a heartache).


Hence the inspiration to write about “Missed moments”, those memories of possible decisive moments that are now gone forever. I think about drawing some of these scenes in the future, as perhaps the vision I had was better than the possible photo. But for now, I am content to tell.


The first of all the memories of photos I wish I had taken but missed was in Ubatuba. More specifically at Vermelha do Norte beach. It was right when I started to truly become interested in photography.


This beach is very popular among surfers because of its special condition among more than a hundred other beaches in Ubatuba: it faces east, so it receives Atlantic waves for much of its length, being one of several ideal places for the sport in the municipality.


The missed moment happened on the BR-101, a highway very close to the sea at this point, and there is a place where you can park and turn around. Passing through this spot, heading south on the BR, there was on the other side, heading north, a surfer’s car parked on the shoulder, near the sand.


It was a day of very clear and blue sky, and the sea was green and white from the waves’ foam. Blue and green are colors referred to as “analogous” by those interested in color theory. That is, in a circle where radiations with different wavelengths are projected, those corresponding to what is named blue and green are side by side. Next to blue would be violet and, next to green, yellow.


So complementing this scenario of blue sky and green sea, there was a surfer, shirtless and wearing violet shorts, shielding the sun with one hand to observe the state of the waves. Next to the surfer, his parked car: a yellow Beetle carrying a board of the same color on top.


When I saw the scene, the creative thought was: “this scene will make a very good photo.” It was almost half of the “color circle” in a composition that told an almost timeless story. The impulse was to hit the brakes hard. I made the turn.


In the time it took to turn the car, I think the surfer in the violet shorts decided that the green sea under the blue sky was not sufficiently dignified for his yellow board. He got into his Beetle and vanished on the 101. I don’t know if it would have been a great photo, but the moment was gone forever – and with it, that photo.