Serendipity and planning

Luck and patience in getting a good shot

In Am I digital dinosaur?, I spoke of the need to revisit locations at the right time to get better shots. As you may guess if you read that, a lot of my images are the result of at least some degree of planning and forethought.

Planning and patience

One of my all-time favourite field studies is ‘Pinstripes’, taken just before sunset after there had been rain to darken the soil. I had scouted this field several times before: you can see a shot taken just for the record as well. While it is OK in composition terms, it is rather dull, lacking the impact of the other one, because the sun was higher and the soil was dry and dusty. The point is, having visited the field several times and watched the light direction, I had a pretty good idea that the last time I visited, I’d be able to get a good shot. In fact, I got two or three, but it is this one that has an indefinable edge over the others: it  still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I look at it full-size, despite having been taken on a modest 5MP camera.

Luck and opportunity

Some of my favourites are also pure serendipity: being in exactly the right place at the right time. A good example of this is St Agnes’ Lighthouse. I was on a very rare holiday on the Scillies, and we happened to be at the lighthouse in the afternoon when the sun was casting shadows that enhanced the curves of the tower. When I saw how the two shadows related to the pair of windows, I knew this architectural detail shot was what I wanted as soon as I framed it in the viewfinder.

Lady Luck therefore has a big input into my work; my contribution to the result is in spotting the opportunity and making the most of it: that is, seizing the moment. At the lighthouse, I could have gone just for the standard scenic (taken just for the record, and probably duplicated in many family albums), but to my mind, the semi-abstract works much better.

There are some circumstances where you always have to see what turns up of course – one of my obsessions is beachcombing, and apart from checking the tide and hoping for treasure after rough weather, I just have to see what’s on offer. Sometimes, it’s worth the punt.