Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Every picture tells a story:

Don't let the moment get away

Many photographers preach the importance of grabbing a potentially great photograph -- a beautiful landscape, a rare juxtaposition of subjects, whatever it may be -- when the situation presents itself. Sometimes, however, we're indisposed, or don't have quick access to gear, so we pass, rationalizing that "there'll always be another time." Only to realize, shortly after it's too late, that there really won't be another chance.

I've had experiences on both sides of the situation. One of the ones that got away still eats at me. I suppose there is a chance I could get it again, but it'll be a blue moon (or two or three) before the situation presents itself again.

It was just before dawn on a weekday about two years ago, and I was outside jogging, nearing the end of my route. As I climbed a slight hill, I noticed the moon hovering near a building that made for a beautiful photographic juxtaposition (I'm avoiding saying much more because I still cling to the hope of getting it!). It wasn't one of those cliched type shots, either. I even came up with a title for it as I maintained my steady running paces. When I got home, I could have lugged my camera and tripod back to the right spot to capture the frame; it was only about five blocks away. But, I had to get to work, I didn't want to be late, and I figured that the moon will come that way again some time. That was before I understood lunar orbital patterns, which don't repeat precisely very often.

I've been looking for the moon to align just the right way again ever since, but it hasn't happened; or, if it has, I wasn't in the vicinity to notice it. I suppose lunar orbits eventually will repeat at some point, but I'm not sure I'll ever know the wheres and whens, or get that second chance.

One opportunity I didn't let get away occurred on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 8, 2005. I opened the front door of my house to get the morning paper from the porch and noticed that one of those picture-perfect snowfalls had moved through overnight. The temperature was warm enough to enable flakes to stick to tree limbs, but cold enough not to melt them. The skies were a solid gray; dense, uni-color cloud cover through and through. I hadn't seen such an alignment of gray sky, beautiful snow and perfect temperature in a long time.

I moved quickly. Got dressed, grabbed my camera and gear, and once out the door, I snapped a few shots of the neighborhood. One of a snow-shoveling man across the street (right), his burgundy sweatpants and short-sleeve shirt and the brick on his house the only color in an image dominated by luscious snowscape, made for a nice wintry juxtaposition. Then I headed to the nearby park, where I had a field day finding beautiful, elegant, artsy images.

Most of the snow on the park's ground, including that on the walks, was still pristine, untrodden. When I reached the landscaped seating area where, in warmer months, parents often rested while children frolicked on the nearby playground equipment, I was taken by how the elements had transformed the area into a surreal, and maybe a bit haunting, work of art: the benches, tree branches and path serving as painter subjects, and the solid gray sky a muslin-like backdrop.

For the longest time after that, a long-range shot of that scene (left), taken from a path entry point, was one of my two favorites from that day's shoot. The other favorite (below) was of a row of tall, stately evergreens perfectly highlighted with white stuff -- not too much, not too little. Then a month ago, I started exploring some artsy features in my editing software, gimmicks that could transform the look of a simple photograph into a virtual painting of various styles and textures.

I tested a few "looks" on an image I hadn't considered a "favorite" previously: It depicted a snow-covered bench in the aforementioned playground seating area, flanked by flakes-covered bush branches and sidewalks. One of those "looks," which used a textured applique that made the snow pop out of the virtual canvas, I loved immediately.

That photograph is now my favorite from the shoot, and it can be seen at the top of Photo Potpourri's s homepage.

And, oh, I've not seen a snowfall exactly like that ever since.

To see a gallery of photos from the Jan. 8, 2005, photo shoot and other winter scenes, check out the "Winterscapes" folder at my site at SmugMug. 


  1. i'm just taking photos for fun...but know exactly what you meant! those are really great snow scenes.

  2. Hello Joe, I read your blog about getting the shot at the moment it happens - I took a photo of a seagull standing on the snow at Nye Beach in Newport OR and to my surprise, the bird stood there and posed for me! It is my favorite photo and I posted it on my blog if you care to come over to see it. We had a great week for snowy beach pictures, I have been taking my digital everywhere with me!