Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Missed opportunities

A post about images without an image.

My bedroom window faces south. From my pillow I can look south-east and see the sunrise every morning. They are not always even interesting, but this morning there was the most amazing display of blueberry meringue and whipped cherry foam. Layers and twirled tubes and slabs of color that managed to be both intensely dense and delicately transparent at the same time. Yet still I lay abed and merely watched.

I'm used to missed opportunities when it comes to being behind the viewfinder. There have been so many! Alluring old buildings that cry out for the lens, are put off, and then torn down before a return engagement can be managed. People that need to be recorded that inconveniently die before the deed is done. The list goes on. Any photographer has such a list.

But I still didn't get up this morning, find a tripod, and venture out into the prairie cold to record blueberries and cherries. Lazy? Jaded? Unmotivated? None of those actually: just accustomed to passing opportunities and willing, this morning, to merely watch rather than participate more actively.

There never has been and never will be again another sunrise sky exactly like this morning's. Never. That is both the curse and blessing of landscape photography.

I can remember standing on a west-facing headland in Ireland, watching the sun move toward setting behind a cluster of islands. A little trawler, distant but perfectly backlit, moved from right to left in the sound between the mainland and the islands, returning to the harbor after a day's fishing. I was ready: 4x5 view camera leveled, framed, focused, locked down. Holder inserted, aperture adjusted, lens cocked, slide drawn. The perfect moment appeared. Click! But wait— this next one is better. Remove and reverse holder, cock shutter, draw slide. Click! I had four holders and went though all four as the trawler slowly chugged across the frame. Each better than the last, so I thought.

Of course, the ultimate flash of light, the perfect position of cloud, trawler, and wave came after the slide had been replaced on the exposed sheet in holder number four. That one, that missed one, could only be enjoyed, not recorded. My take from that encounter was excellent. But not perfect. Is there, in fact, ever a perfect one?

Sometimes we "miss" through inactivity, and sometimes through too much of it. Such is the life of a landscape photographer. The trick is having no regrets. Or at least very small ones.

1 comment:

Brigid said...

The small regrets though, nibble at our skin at nights as much as the big ones. Thank you for bringing a little bit of beauty into my world.