Seize Your Opportunities

Although many photographers are fortunate enough to take special photo tours and workshops where image-making is the chief activity, most of the time our photo work happens in spare time and odd moments between other activities. For these occasions, it’s a cardinal principle that when you come upon a good photo opportunity, do not pass it by.

This cotton field in southern Arizona seems well-suited for a landscape photo. Seeing it, I pulled to the side of the road and composed the shot. It has proven to be one of my best sellers over the years.

This is, of course, a case of do as I say, not as I do. I find it easy to bypass what might be good photo opportunities. Consider some of my reasons:

  • I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to stop
  • There’s no good place to park; I’d have to walk a longer distance than convenient
  • I’ll find a better photo spot later
  • I don’t want to attract attention
  • The scene is probably not as good as it appears
  • I’ll have to work too hard to make the best use of the opportunity
  • I’ll come back later when I’ve got more time or I’m not as tired

I’ve used all these excuses and I do so daily. Mea culpa.

The truth is, though, there is no “later.”  The lighting, which is probably what caught my eye in the first place, is sure to change. Seasonal conditions will evolve. Other elements that make up the scene may well be different later.

On an evening drive to Wyoming on a business trip, I spied this windmill silhouetted against a golden sky. It would have been easy to pass it by, as I so often do. But by taking a few minutes to set up my tripod and compose the image, I came away with a memorable shot.

Of course, what looks like a good photo opportunity may turn out to be disappointing. On the other hand, it may prove to yield spectacular even if unanticipated images.

So, here’s my point: if you’re serious about discovering photos, allow time for serendipity. And then, when you see what seems like a good situation, make the effort to take advantage of it. The chances are your opportunity to make an image that good in that place will never happen again.

I passed this stately oak tree countless times without stopping. Then one day, seeing it starkly silhouetted against freshly fallen snow, I parked and made this image. It’s fortunate that I did, for the ancient tree was later demolished in a period of high winds and is now no more than a distant memory.

As it is in photography, so also in life.  When an opportunity arises, seize it.  It may never again return.

Published by Norman Reid

I worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 27 years in the field of rural community and economic development. I retired a few years ago and have been devoting my time to photography and writing. I've been a semi-pro photographer for more than 25 years and sell my work on the Web. I live in rural Virginia not far from the Shenandoah Valley.

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