Lessons in Preparation and Perseverance

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location” – Joe McNally, “The Moment It Clicks”

These are the simple yet, profound words from the esteemed photographer who has worked in the photography business for a few decades.  He made this point to illustrate that once you’re done photographing your initial subject, keep your camera available to capture images that may develop as your initial work concludes.  You may discover opportunities initially unforeseen.

However, we could also say the prelude to this advise is equally true.  

“Unpack your camera before you arrive at the location.”

As the family and I left the hotel Saturday evening, I debated whether or not to remove my camera from the bag or keep it packed until I arrived at “the location”.  Although there was no set location in mind, I thought taking it out the bag at the hotel was too early.  No sooner had I decided to keep it tucked away, we began to see all manner of individuals dressed in costumes and outrageous attire.  Several photographic opportunities appearing and disappearing before my eyes while my camera remained in the bag.  All I could do was shake my head in disbelief as the opportunites missed based on my decision passed me.  

Now, you may think, “Why couldn’t you just pull out the camera?”  However, I hadn’t used it since earlier in the day.  Therefore, I had to change the settings to compensate for the nighttime environment.  I also had to mount the external flash.  All these adjustments require a minute or so to accomplish.  Unfortunately, opportunities that appear quickly, disappear just as fast.

I read many articles, books, etc. that emphasized the need to be prepared for those unexpected shots.  As photographers, we’re so focused on the correct composition, exposure, lighting, etc.  However, just having the camera ready to take a shot will suffice.

I had a slight moment of redemption when several men wearing tropical shirts, lei, and accompanying party hats walked towards me.  Prior to seeing them, I removed my camera because I realized there were many sights to see this evening.  However, not fully prepared to shoot photos, my settings were not correct.  Nevertheless, I knew I wanted something instead of nothing so I took the shot.  The result was blurry and not the most photographically-correct image.  However, it is infinitely better than a mental image that would fade over time.

Therefore, as I already knew to keep the camera out when I’m done with an initial shoot, I’ll prepare it for work as soon as I leave my home…or hotel.

Secondly, a lesson in perseverance paid big dividends.  I wrote about the “Magic Hour” also known as twilight in my previous blogs–check it out here.  This is the time when the sun has set and the sky turns a cobalt blue.  It happens before sunrise and after sunset.  However, this period only lasts for 10-20 minutes–depending on the time of year.

Deborah and Jordyn went to a popular restaurant to eat.  I wanted to join them.  However, we went to eat just as twilight was beginning and I wanted to photograph the town of York during twilight–taking great shots require a sacrifice of sleep or dinner at times.  I walked to the bridge, set up my camera and began shooting.  Unfortunately, the photos did not materialize the way I visualized it.  Nevertheless, I kept shooting as I hoped to salvage something from this setup.

I eventually packed up, not wanting to waste more time at this site.  A bit disappointed that I missed dinner with the girls and nothing to show for it, I walked towards the restaurant.  As I turned the corner, I  noticed that Clifford’s Tower was lit at night.  I remembered seeing the lights surround the tower earlier that day.  However, I forgot about them.  As I looked at the tower glowing above the city, I noticed the twilight sky had not turned black.  I quickly setup my tripod and camera and began shooting.  When I was done, I left with a feeling of sincere fulfillment.  I did not capture what I intended.  Yet, I captured more than I imagined.

The lesson here is similar to the phrase, “Reach for the moon and if you miss you’re still amongst the stars”.  There are other sayings, scriptures, anecdotes that are equally applicable to this story.  The bottom line is I made an effort and put myself in position to achieve something.  Although my initial goal was not accomplished, I was positioned to take advantage of the other opportunity available to me.

You do not need to be a photographer to value the importance of preparation and perseverance in any aspect of life.  Therefore, always be ready and run this race with patience and determination.

      Side note:  If you look closely at the picture of Clifford’s Tower, you’ll see a couple standing in the street taking a picture.  You can see the bright light from their camera’s LCD screen which is the tower–just a little detail I found interesting.

Keep Shooting and God Bless.


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Sun, sun go away bring back a cloudy day!


    I’m not in DC this spring.  Therefore, I missed the Cherry Blossoms.  However, I did such a great job last year.  Why should I try to top perfection :-).  Also, I decided to cancel a trip to the Netherlands to photograph the tulips at the world-famous Keukenhof garden near Amsterdam.  Therefore, I decided to make the best of my local flora opportunities. The flowers are blooming here in the United Kingdom as spring is in full swing. Vibrant yellow colors from the rapeseed plant line the motorways as we drive around the country.  However, the flower du jour is the bluebell. This is a beautiful blue flower that grows abundantly in many forests throughout the United Kingdom. It has been featured in the newspapers and on television.  When the flowers are in full bloom, the forest grounds are peppered with bluebells. This Saturday was an unusually warm day. Deborah and Jordyn went on a shopping trip to a London mall. I dropped them to the meeting spot to gather with the other shoppers and now the day was mine to enjoy. I researched the bluebells and I had some forests I wanted to visit.  After a week of deliberation and research, I drove 40+ miles to the Heartwood Forest.   This particular forest was mentioned in the local paper for the quality of their bluebells. There was one major problem with the journey and I hoped it would be resolved by the time I arrived.   The weather was mostly sunny with clouds playing hide-n-seek with the sun. Unlike the other 99% of the people in the world, I didn’t want today to be sunny.   I was hoping for a nice overcast day so the sky would be an enormous softbox to illuminate the forest grounds.   When the sun is bright, the trees cast strong shadows. The ground has bright areas where the sun hits directly and dark areas caused by the trees shadow.   This wrecks havoc on a photograph. The contrast is so great that consistency is lost and the viewer struggles to view the image.  However, I had a few hours before I had to pick up the girls. Therefore, I planted my camera on the tripod and I waited for the sun to hide behind the clouds.   I planned my image composition when the sun was shining. At last, my patience was rewarded with the clouds hiding the sun. The overcast provided soft light giving the images a consistent tone. Therefore, while many dread going outside during an overcast day, I use it as an opportunity to photograph flowers, people or other subjects not requiring a bright blue sky. To see more of these images, please visit my Flickr page. -Roger