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Some Thoughts on Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Palouse Versus the Storm
As it turned into a cloudy afternoon, I was already back in the hotel checking my email when I noticed the color of light streaming in the window. Needless to say, I dropped everything and ran outside. One small hole remained at the horizon through which the setting sun passed. Driving out on a dirt road and nearly getting stuck in the mud, this was the result.
Gazing on Infinity
My first sight of this deer was as a movement at the edge of the frame while looking through the viewfinder. I was composing a shot of the sunrise with some flowers in the foreground. I quickly stood up, took the Grad ND filter off my wide angle lens and recomposed, deciding on this silhouette.

Some images just seem to have it all. The perfect location, in beautiful light, caught at just the decisive moment. Maybe you took the picture, or maybe someone else did. Either way, you can just tell that they nailed it. There's definitely something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. But consider how you got to that place.

Sometimes you do indeed just get lucky, but often there's a lot of work put into getting to that right place at just that right time. If your goal is to take pictures of wildflowers on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, it does you no good to go there in winter. You must go in spring, and spring comes late at higher elevations. You'd better know that too. At a minimum, good planning can help up your odds of getting good images.

And knowing what to do once you get there is rather important too. When the light is changing quickly, you have to be able to react quickly. Knowing what your camera is capable of and how it works can greatly increase your odds of capturing just what you are after. Does the front command dial change the aperture on your camera, or does it change the shutter speed? And should you turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to increase it? You really should know these sorts of things about your camera, but it's surprising how often people forget and adjust the wrong thing the wrong way in the heat of the moment. You may be standing in front of the most beautiful vista ever but if the only shots you manage to fire off before the light changes end up being way overexposed you're going to come away feeling disappointed.

But sometimes all of your planning has to give way to flexibility and adaptability. What if the flowers aren't blooming when you get there? Do you pack up and go home, or do you look for other subjects to shoot? The weather too can be fickle and sometimes has an unnerving ability to change unpredictably in precisely the same right place and right time as you are trying to photograph. Interesting weather can make for interesting photos of course, but only if you can adapt to the changing circumstances when they happen.

Too often I think people put too much weight on being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time as necessary for good images. It can become a convenient excuse for not coming home with the image you were after as easily as it can a rationalization for why the other guy did. Or if the amazing image is yours, a reliance on luck can get in your way of repeating your successes in the future. Take the luck when it does come your way, but continue to develop your skills to make the most of whatever each situation brings you.

The truth is, there are great images to be made just about anywhere and getting them requires many things. In my experience though, the biggest factor in increasing the number of good images you get is seeing them in the first place. After all, suppose you already are in the right place at the right time, but don't know it?

Date posted: January 27, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Shooting Quickly versus Thinking More
Seeing What's in Front of You
Waiting for the Shot

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