Make Your Own Luck; Keep Moving, And Be Prepared
As I look over my favorite photographs taken through the years, a common theme intertwines many of them together: serendipity has played a major role in creating those images. Given this, I decided I wanted to be lucky more often (as luck has it, this is actually possible). Recently I read an article about the science behind luck and how luck is not random, but rather something we can at least partially control. I haven't figured out how to apply this knowledge to win the lottery, but I have found practical uses in photography.
One November evening a friend and fellow photographer, who lives along the Mississippi River, called to say migrating tundra swans were in his area. We made plans to photograph the spectacle of thousands of swans congregated on the river. Early the next morning we met near the swans' gathering place, but the only luck we had was bad--fog was so thick we couldn't even see the river and, worse yet, silence filled the air. Swans are not quiet creatures during migration, so we knew immediately they had moved farther south during the night. However as sunrise approached, the fog began to slowly rise, revealing a river full of trees covered in hoarfrost, glowing in early morning light. Although this was not my intended subject, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been at that location on that particular morning.
To take advantage of special or unique lighting and weather conditions, it's often necessary to change photography plans on a whim. On that November morning we stayed in the same place but photographed a completely different subject than anticipated. At other times I've needed to get myself in a completely different location. The need to occasionally change locales on the spur of the moment has gotten me in the habit of heading to my chosen location 30-45 minutes earlier than necessary to give myself time to move if need be.
Persistence And Patience
The rain had been nonstop for nearly three days around Carlsbad, New Mexico. I had explored much of the area and had several locations picked out for grand vista landscapes. I had taken some nice close-ups and "intimate" landscape photos, but the weather hadn't been conducive for more traditional landscape photos. Finally one morning when the alarm went off I was not serenaded by the sound of rain on the camper roof. Outside the sky was clear and a full moon was approaching the western horizon. I excitedly drove toward a spot I had chosen for sunrise several days earlier. In the distance I noticed what looked like fog around the Guadalupe Mountains farther south, so I abandoned my plans and headed toward the fog. This was a risky move because I hadn't scouted anything in that area yet, but the thought of low fog below a full moon was too much to resist. As I approached Guadalupe Mountains National Park the sun began to color the mountains in brilliant shades of pink and orange. Fortunately I came to a place with a clear view of the Guadalupes, the fog, and the moon just as the light was peaking.