Good Luck Doesn

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Reddish Egret #1

Photography, or at least a good part of it, has a lot in common with hunting and fishing; which is to say that it has a lot to do with luck.

Of course there is knowledge and there are skills.  Your luck is much improved if you know where to look and at what time to look.  And it's improved again if you know how to handle your equipment.  And it's improved even further if experience has given you a sense of timing and intuition.

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ND2_8948 - Reddish Egret

The Reddish Egret hunts by scaring the fish out of their hiding places.  To do this it will engage in mad dancing, running around or fluffing up its feathers.

I'm rambling on about this because I don't want to just come out and brag that my Reddish Egret won a blue ribbon in the latest photo club competition. 

Actually, I submitted the two shown here, and they tied for second.  Probably the judges have an idea which they liked better, but the scoring system, which is designed to keep things objective, resulted in a tie. 

There is a place in Fort De Soto, ten minutes from my house which attracts bird photographers.  It is truly weird, if not scary, the amount of artillery that will be on the beach on March morning.  And I'm among them. 

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When you glance from your point-and-shoot camera to my DSLR with it's 400mm lens, I hope you're impressed.  But let me be honest and tell you that, on that beach, on a March morning, in that geeky group, I am truly a light-weight.  I'm sure that they take great photographs, but not every time they press the shutter.  And I'll bet that none of them has a picture of a Reddish Egret that is quite like mine. 

Like the other photographers on the beach, I knew enough to go to that spot in the early morning.  I have good gear and some experience.  But for my Reddish Egret I had great luck. 

I know why I like the photograph, and what it would take to create similar ones, but I cannot just go out and do it.  I have tried.  I have to lean on luck.

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I know some sports photographers who acknowledge that luck is part of their game.  They shoot rapid bursts because they know that it is better to burn through a thousand images than to miss the good one that happens while you're wondering if it will happen.  When I photographed David in the Giant Slalom race, he was only one of several that I shot.  I used experience to choose a point from which to shoot.  I called on my knowledge of my camera to decide how to capture a focussed shot, and I rehearsed on the hill, mentally shooting several racers before actually getting involved with firing my camera.  But only David had the right clothing, the right style and the right light to make the shot that I got.  It had a lot to do with luck.

I could list a bunch of photos which illustrate the point, photos like the Eisenstadt photo of the sailor kissing the girl.  But I'll bet that you can make your own list.  Timing is everything.

There are, of course, photographers whose images are conceived long before the camera is involved.  Search Flickr, for example, to see Miss Aniela.  Miss Aniela's is reputed to be the most visited photostream on Flickr.  The images she shows are result of a true artist-like method of image creation.  I don't think they depend much on luck.

Within me there is a nagging.  a something that says the real proof of a photographer is the ability to create images the way Miss Aniela does.

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I love this shot.  It was a lucky grab, just before the day started at summer camp.  Everything works.  The light is very much a summer morning.  The feet are perfect, both for the girl who is drinking and the girl who is waiting.  And the variety of reds in the image works very well, too.

Someday, maybe I will be that kind of artist.  It wouldn't mean abandoning my favourite subjects.  If my talents were more Norman Rockwellian, I would be able to imagine and shoot an image similar to my girls at the water fountain.  But would it have the same ring of truth?

I would never have seen that early morning moment, had I not been involved in taking my granddaughter to school.  That shot gives me a great deal of pleasure and I am glad that luck was on my side. 

I will spend more early mornings hunting down the sea birds at Fort De Soto, With some luck I'll bag some more that are worthy of wall space in my house.

Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:07 am.