Choosing to be ‘Lucky’!

old mill, italy

I believe every point in ones life is arrived at through a series of choices each of us makes either consciously or subconsciously.  That opportunities arise when we are making the choices that deliberately put us onto the paths we are destined to take. Choosing to wait for the moments to arrive is allowing yourself the excuse that it just wasn’t in the cards rather than taking the deck and dealing yourself a hand. But you must learn the skills to play the game right. Taking a path that is not your calling will eventually lead to  excuses, resistance from within and wrong choices. Listen to your inner voice and choose wisely.

Luck has nothing to do with ones ability to be at the right place and the right time when the images you seek to capture become reality consistently. Dedication, discipline, instinct and subject knowledge, when applied, make great images. There will always be ‘one hit wonders’ in careers requiring a level of skill and creative talent. Repetition of a skill and creativity, or style, deserves recognition beyond simply ‘luck’. Do you think Sidney Crosby would be called a great hockey player if his only goal was during the 2010 Olympics. It would still be a memorable goal but would lack consistency and Crosbys status could not be considered among the best to play the game.  We know otherwise that Sidney found his calling and learned to  play the game with dedication and discipline to his path and is rightfully considered one of the best in his field.

I make it a point every year to view a photo exhibit at the Calgary Stampede. A friend and old hiking buddy of mine exhibits his wildlife photography in the show. What was once a hobby has now become a passion and career. I am amazed by comments from viewers  lacking an appreciation of the skills required beyond technical mastery, some credit the cameras abilities more than the photographers. It does not register that there is a dedication to knowing when, where and how a subject can best be captured and the discipline to make sure you ‘re there for that moment regardless of how many trips it might take. I have been to locations over and over again to get the image I have in my head transferred to the camera. When it all finally comes together and I have captured the image I had imagined to the best of my ability I am satisfied, but only for the moment.

When taking groups out hiking in the mountains I prefer to start the hikes as early as possible, some 5 am. This in itself deters some who can’t grasp getting up so early for photography. Those that do make the commitment are amazed at just how different everything looks. Their eyes open a little wider with a glimpse into the career of a  professional photographer. The difference between a dedicated professional and an amateur lies in the mastering of skills, an understanding of the subject and the vision to make exceptional photographs by placing themselves right where they want to be. Never accepting that this is the best you can do or are willing to do with a subject. Be it a landscape, sports, wildlife, editorial or portrait. The business of photography and the hobby share many commonalities except that a professional must make a living in photography while an amateur does not.

Accept the fact that a camera and lens are just tools, like a brush, piano or canvas. By themselves they are not art but with knowledge and creativity the photographer can produce images to be admired for a lifetime. As photographers we fine tune our visual senses to see the world with our eyes wide open. Much like a musician or singer strives to have perfect pitch. To be tone deaf for a photographer would be akin to ‘never seeing the forest for the trees’, when the trees are the photograph.

As with most things, the more you do something the less conscious you become of actually doing it. Visual skills become a part of your subconscious. When teaching students, the leap forward comes when they start seeing the finished image in their mind before the photo is taken. The ‘minds eye’ seeing the focal point, foreground, leading lines, framing, textures, rule of thirds and quality of light not as rules spelled out in a book but as an auto response to the visual sense that stops you and triggers you to raise your camera.

To me a photograph is like a recipe. The type of dishes vary with taste. Some recipes are tried and true, some can be made numerous ways with a combination of different portions of ingredients and still be tasty. Most will attempt to create mouthwatering photographs but leave out key ingredients and have less than palatable results. There are no rules to photography just guidelines that when applied in varying degrees have proven to produce appealing images when mixed with a few tablespoons of creativity.

The real secret that a professional photographer knows is that it is not the actual photographing that is hard, it’s putting yourself where you need to be when you take it and resisting any thoughts that will distract you from that goal.

For the record. Lucky, is the guy who happens to show-up by chance where you ‘chose’ to be one day.

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are. Ernst Haas

Sidney Crosby's winning goal, Courtesy CP

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