Lucky Shot?

Meter Matey

Every once in a while, I’ll go over a day’s worth of shots (or will be looking over someone’s shoulder while they’re browsing theirs), and one or the other of us will comment that a shot was “lucky.” I got to thinking about this. What role does luck play in all of it, if any?

I hesitate to chalk it up to skill, after all. I mean, if you’re Joe McNally or Moose Peterson or whomever, then yeah, you’ve got oodles of skill and experience behind you. I’m none of those individuals, however, so I don’t have quite the same reservoir of skill and/or experience to draw from. So some shots clearly are luck, because they’re the convergence of just the right time, place, and subject, and you, or me, or even Joe McNally being there (I’m sure even he gets the occasional lucky shot).

So if it’s not luck, and it’s not skill, what is it exactly? Woody Allen once said* that half of life is showing up. Arthur Fellig (a.k.a. Weegee) said** something similar: “f/8 and be there.” So. Be there, and have your camera. The rest, at least in theory, will take care of itself. All the luck in the world isn’t worth a hill of beans if you don’t have your camera, though, so make sure you have it.***

Since I like to give examples, have a look at my neighborhood Jack Sparrow. I’ve seen this guy at least half a dozen times in the last year, and each one of those times, I haven’t had my camera. Can’t blame him. He was there, after all, dressed to the nines and being his photogenic self. I was there, too. But my camera’s not his responsibility, so missing the shot those other several times I can’t blame on anybody but me.

Any of those other times could’ve been a lucky shot, but wasn’t. It’s the preparedness — having your camera, knowing how to use it, and being ready to use it — that separates the lucky shots from the fish stories, the missed stuff and all that we wish we could’ve gotten but didn’t. There’s some truth in the adage that we make our own luck, but if we don’t have what we need to capitalize on it, it goes to waste.

*At least I’m pretty sure it was Woody Allen. I think from now on, I may just attribute everything to Abraham Lincoln, just on general principle. Sooner or later, I’m bound to hit on something he actually said.

**Yes, I’m sure this time.

***Why don’t we attribute this one to Yogi Berra while we’re at it? The “hill of beans” bit at least sounds in character.

…And More Photographic Randomness

It’s time* for your monthly installment of good reads from around the web; links go to the original posters’ websites.

For starters, there’s a thought-provoking (and certainly debate-provoking; read the comments) post on Jim Harmer’s Improve Photography, titled In DEFENSE of Momtographers Everywhere. Read, and join in the debate.

Point-Counterpoint, both courtesy of PetaPixel: A bride complaining about “wack” wedding photography prices (be sure not to miss Nikki Wagner’s thoughtful response**), and a photographer suggesting that people who want his work for free come and work for him at no cost.

A sure way to gin up controversy? Make a top 10/20/50/100 list of anything. You want proof? Complex’s The 50 Greatest Street Photographers Right Now is it.

Popular Photography has announced their 2012 Readers Photography Contest. Details are at this link. One caveat: I haven’t yet read the terms and conditions to see if they’re reasonable, so I’d suggest you have a look before entering.

A great little post is up on Inspiration Feed, titled “8 Digital Photography Tips to Tell Your Children.” It’s good reading if you’d like to encourage your little one to get behind the camera.

A very short film called “School Portrait” is making the rounds lately. It’s a collaboration among Greg Ward, Agnieszka Mruk and Liang Peiyu, who are grad students at London College of Communication. Ward’s website notes:

Many years have passed since the photos were taken; physically they have all changed, but to what extent are they still the same people? In general, most people have had school photographs taken of themselves when they were younger. The photos are fantastic visual records of how people once were, however how often do we look back and reflect upon what we were like as kids? Sometimes in order to know where we are going in life, it helps to remember where we have been. (h/t

One time years ago, I saw photos from Japan of construction machinery that was painted in pastels and festooned with stenciled butterflies. More recently, I came across this gem from Visual News: a series of decorated manhole covers from various Japanese cities.

And finally, if you need a shot of inspiration:

*Porque I said so
**Which, incidentally, should be required reading not only for brides but anyone who’s thinking of hanging up their shingle as a wedding photographer