Have you ever used a microscope? I'm not talking about the toy-variety with the mirror to reflect sunlight through your onion skin, but a real-life, professional, laboratory quality microscope for examining some of the tiniest organisms. With my background in biology and my career in microbiology, I have spent many, many hours of my life staring down the barrel of a 'scope.
Years and years ago, a professor in college taught me a very valuable lesson. I don't remember which class it was, but we were required to spend hours looking through the lens of our microscopes and that can get pretty tiring pretty quickly. One of the first lessons in this class was how to look through the singular lens of our student microscopes while keeping both eyes open. It sounds crazy and almost impossible, but it really isn't that hard. A little practice, and you'd be amazed. Just turn off the part of your brain that sees out of the eye not looking through the lens and focus entirely on the subject under magnification. If I were to have sat there winking at all those stellate cells in four hours of histology lab with another several hours spent studying indepentently, I would still be suffering from headaches.
Now, I know most people don't have access to microscopes and this isn't a blog for that sort of thing anyway, but there is real value in learning how to do this.
To bring it back to photography, I have learned to adapt this technique to help my composition of, shall I say, active subjects ... like my two kids. I set up a quick composition by closing my left eye and looking through the viewfinder with my right. When all looks pretty good, but not exactly the image I'm searching for, I'll open my left eye, concentrate on what I'm seeing there while keeping a peripheral view out of my camera's viewfinder in my right eye. This will give me the freedom to see how the action is unfolding while retaining the reflexes I need to frame the image I want.
How many images do you miss because some importaint part of the action left your viewscreen momentarily and it took you that extra half-second to find it again? I know I've lost a bunch. If I can keep one eye on where my subject is and the other on what the composition is, I'm that much quicker to respond to sudden movements in my image.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to employ this technique and I wouldn't be surprised to hear of sports or action photographers doing the same thing, but lifestyle and kids photographers can certainly gain some advantage trying it out.
Let me know how it works. Is it something you do already or does it give you a headache? Do you find it advantageous or are you having trouble perfecting it?