What part does luck play in getting that one special picture? Being in the right place at the right time, when all the elements of that special shot come together, and you click the shutter release, and you know you got it. Were you there by pure dumb luck? Maybe. Were you there with the camera raised, with the right light, the right composition, and you just happened to click the shutter when that last element fell into place. Maybe. I’ve had some shots I like to call “happy accidents” that I didn’t even know I got until I loaded them onto the computer.
More often though, you are there with the right light, and the right composition, and you are waiting for that last piece to fall into place, waiting for that moment to occur, and then….. well, then sometimes that last element comes into place, and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does… that last little piece may be luck. But why were you there? Anticipation.
To quote Dan Bailey in his book Zen Photographer: “Anticipation, which is actually the secret ingredient behind luck, is essentially knowing, or having a pretty good idea of what’s about to happen next.”
Many great shots can be had because you know your subject. You know what light works. You know a location. And you think maybe, just maybe, if that one last little piece can fall into place… that light will hit that tree in a certain way, or that person would just walk over in front of that door. That is the shot. Anticipation.
I was listening to the podcast This Week In Photography. Photographer Doug Kaye said that he tells his students that “Luck is the residue of design.” You can make your luck… or at least help it along. To rely on luck for all the right elements to align is asking a lot. It happens, sometimes, but not often. Design. That’s stacking the deck in your favor with some of the things that you can predict. Getting yourself in the right place. In a way, it’s like shooting action with an old manual focus camera, predicting where something is going to happen, and pre-focusing your camera on the spot where the bat is going to hit the ball. It’s waiting by a brightly painted building waiting for someone with a certain color hat to walk by. You have taken control of SOME of the elements. You’ve given luck a head start. You stacked the deck in your favor. You just need that last element…..
The photo with this post is one I took at the finish line of the annual Boilermaker 15K road race in Utica, NY. This is a shot from a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorites from this race. There’s a lot of emotion on the finish line. I saw one of the runners coming across the finish line. I noticed the other one waiting, and then they were approaching each other. Anticipation. I saw it coming together. And I ended up with a shot the shows the emotion of the day for these two people.
What role does luck play for you in your photography?