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Are you lucky or do you just consider yourself good?
The two are intertwined and very rarely am I one without the other. Being good means I have learned my craft and my camera, to the point I can create images that I plan on making. When I shot weddings I could look at a venue and see possibilities. I saw what I wanted the end result to be and my experience and technical capabilities allowed me to make the pictures that I saw in my mind’s eye.
Lucky versus being good in landscape photography
The reason for being in the right place at the right time is always a part of what we do. How many photographer bio’s or art pages states: “I never leave home without my camera” or something similar?
Does this mean you are just lucky?
You always bring a camera with you so you may be “lucky” or simply ready for the unexpected. This is an aspect of being good at what you do. Based on your experience you see the event [image] and you are prepared to take advantage of the situation.
Right Place, at the Right Time
To me this is 20% luck and 80% experience. Last summer, I ran a store in Salem (The 4 corners of New England) on the Pickering Wharf water front. Each day I would bring along my camera and 95% of the time it sat on a back table unused. But one day in early August I started to get mobile weather alerts about a line of heavy rain squalls moving down through Essex County.
I started to check my camera to make sure I had a CF card in there because the possibility for severe weather passing my way was good. As every “Good” photographer will tell you, Bad weather is an opportunity for great photos. Being on the waterfront and Salem’s tall ship, the Friendship tied up along Derby Wharf, I was hoping for some great elements.
Soon I was rewarded with ominous, dark thunderheads passing quickly over head. I locked my front door, walking over towards the ship. The winds were whipping pretty good and I took shelter in the leeward side of Captn’s seafood restaurant. A good-sized rain squall was passing all by itself on the other side of the Friendship which is what you see here.
I love the dramatic nature of stormy weather. Apparently people agree because I went home and the next day started selling greeting cards to my customers who lover the stormy nature of the scene.
BUT! The story doesn’t end there!
Experience tells me that if I’m “Lucky” the sun will break out through the clouds or since it was after 4PM maybe even under the cloud deck. This was to be one of those days when many factors come together to make me “Lucky”.
The storm was fierce but short lived and the sun did indeed come out low in the sky. This means I may have several options.
- First I could have a Rainbow
- Next a dramatic sky with late afternoon warming light
- Possibly a red sky sunset with the clouds lit by the setting sun.
What I got was 2 out of 3!
I did get a small rainbow over the Friendship but I also had the smoke stacks of the power plant and the composition didn’t thrill me.
I walked around for a while and the light started to turn a golden hue and the thunder heads were still very evident but had become brighter and shades of white, also lit by the late afternoon sun.
This turns out to be the best shots of the day. The golden light with the vibrant blue sky and the billowing white thunderheads over the Friendship and the tide was mid level so I had a beautiful reflection of the sky, clouds and ship.
The storm clouds moved south towards Boston so the reflected light off the clouds over the ship never materialized. I went home and worked the images and made cards of this to sell in the store the next day also…
The take-away is that being lucky by itself isn’t really enough. You MAY! get an image here or there that gets people’s attention but you also have to learn to recognize the opportunities which comes down to experience.
Being in the right place at the right time is the first part, then “Knowing” how to take advantage of the “opportunity” is the other side of it.
I don’t always plan for a given shot, instead I will grab my camera and go to the seashore, downtown, or Cape Ann, (pick your pleasure here) and see what inspires me.
So when I hear someone say “I’ll never be that good!“, I’m mystified. I can’t speak for everyone but when I started out, I had trouble focusing on the right subject. My composition has always been pretty good but over the years I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of pictures and most were… Less than perfect! How do you build the experience to “know” how to take advantage of a situation? Practice!
Today’s cameras make it so easy but you still have to read the manual, read magazines or take seminars. Either way you slice it, none of the great photographers simply “Knew” how and what to do but with experience they learned. The same way you are learning.
They used their experience with luck (preparation) to create their perfect image.
Which are you? Lucky or good or better yet… both?
Contact me through my Gallery page here on NEPG
View my work on Fine Art America
I’m on Twitter as @Foliage_Reports for everything New England
I also Blog about the fall foliage in New England so if you have planning questions or just want to see my beautiful photography of New England fall foliage.
I also have my Vistaphotography Fine Art and Stock Photography.
Images in this article are available in my online gallerys