I’ve not yet departed and I’ve nowhere near arrived. And while I am neither fully operational nor fully unplugged, I am spending more time thinking about photography than I am spending doing photography.
Nevertheless, now might be neat (or appropriate) opportunity to share something with you that’s been on my mind for the past two years:
This triangle seems to define nearly every shot I’ve taken (or posted to this photoblog). In order to capture a “good” or “excellent” or unique photograph, three major components are required (before we even get to f-stop, shutter speed, equipment, or experience): access, luck, and timing (or ALT). In order to get a photograph of cadet basic training or graduation, Tommy Gilligan needs special access before either luck or timing come into play. Before he captured Yosemite, Ansel Adams needed access–and he needed to “know where to stand.” =) And many of the shots I post here require access–sometimes accidental access.
Edit: Ack! I just realized I need definitions! Here they are:
Access: able to photograph (legally or illegally). Able to see or be in an environment with the subject.
Luck: the “je ne sais quoi” of great photography. That which is unplannable, unaccountable, and spontaneous.
Timing: being in the right place, at the right time, with your finger on the shutter release button.
These three components are so crucial to good photography, that they are frequently unknown, not considered, or assumed away. Leave all three out and you have a soon-forgotten snapshot. If you have all three, you have something you can sell–or it will automatically sell itself. Do we need all three, though? No! But plan on having two–if you care about your photos.
While I believe that great photographs are produced through access, luck, and timing, I believe all three are not required. Think of it as a tripod (since we’re talking photography, anyway): if you have three sturdy legs, the camera will support itself. If you have but two legs–or a monopod–neither will stand unless additional support is provided. Access, luck, and timing play great roles in the images produced by Ansel Adams, Tommy Gilligan, or me.
It is possible for luck and timing to compensate for the lack of access–think of street photography. No special access is required–although you still need to be there to get the photograph. For street photography, luck and timing play a much more central role as access becomes more general or commonplace. And for me to photograph the West Point area, access was automatic because I both work and live here. I could take a photo of West Point every day–but luck and timing have produced some of my best shots. Just by carrying a camera with me to and from class–or by having my camera on the passenger’s seat–has enabled me in ways (think: luck and timing) I could not have imagined.
So for your next planned photo shoot, think ACCESS, LUCK, and TIMING!