Happy Accidents; C’mon Now, You Didn’t Think All Those Photos Were Planned, Did You? Page 2

The pool shot is more than an accident, it's a mistake. I love the picture, but it's the result of a total screw up on my part. I'd put a 12-foot ladder into the pool, climbed up and was shooting straight down, hand holding the RZ as my models floated by. The shot I wanted was a horizontal, with the swimmer filling the frame, but as she came by and I framed up the shot, I realized I had the camera's back rotated the wrong way--it was turned for a vertical and it should have been set for a horizontal. I took the picture anyway. Later I got my horizontals, but they don't look as good; they're not as dramatic, unusual, or attention-getting as the mistake, which, of course, sold very well and keeps on selling.

I took the photo of the red shoes in Hong Kong during a New Year's parade, and while it wasn't an accident, it happened because I accidentally noticed something. Once again, I was shooting with the RZ, handheld. I'd taken a bunch of shots and then the film ran out and...well, you can guess, right? I was looking down, loading a fresh roll when I saw the girls' white socks and red shoes arranged in a graphic grouping. I finished loading the film, asked them to get in closer to each other and made the picture.

I was taking pictures of our friends with their baby when I asked the father to take his shirt off for a shot to show the baby's skin against his. I had no idea he had the tattoo, which in my mind makes the picture. Another happy accident, and a photo that's sold anywhere from 20-30 times. (This time the RZ was secure and stable on a working tripod.)

Bad Weather
I took the photograph of St. Mark's Square in Venice at the end of a day that was a total washout--literally. It had rained all day, and I felt really down about the weather. I left the hotel late in the afternoon, figuring I'd try to get something, anything. It was still raining and I was standing in huge puddles, my shoes soaking wet, trying to find something that looked like it was worth photographing. Nothing did, until I crouched down. When the reflection became part of the picture I knew I had something. I played around with a bunch of different lenses on my Nikon F100 and ended up using the 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor. There were two accidental things here: standing in the puddle and the fact that I'd loaded tungsten film to keep the lights on the buildings looking natural. Standing in the water gave me the reflection and the tungsten film turned the sky deep blue. Well, maybe not an accident; more like a good photo, despite everything that was telling me there was no way to get a good photo.

So, what's the message here? Maybe it's that you shouldn't be afraid of making a mistake, and if you make a mistake, make a picture anyway. Maybe it's that you should leave yourself open to whatever the moment gives you. You never know what you'll see while changing film or while the camera back is turned the wrong way. No matter what, take the picture. If it's a bad mistake, you don't have to show it to anyone, but if it's a happy accident, well, you'll have a good photo...and a cool story to tell.