Why Luck Is the Secret to Creating Good Nature Photos
Have you ever noticed that sometimes luck seems to smile upon you during a photo session?
If so, you certainly have felt this strange feeling. You might think that without it, you would not have been able to capture the pictures you wanted to create.
This has happened to me several times before. It is a strange feeling, because in these situations I have the impression that I must rely on forces that are not under my control.
In this article, I will explain that luck exists. It is one thing that is for certain. I will explain how if you sit quietly at home waiting for luck to smile upon you, you will never be able to create interesting photos.
You must provoke it by taking action.
A Good Photograph Requires a Skillful Mix of Several Ingredients
In a previous article, I mentioned the 10-10-10-30-40 rule.
In the form of percentages, it outlines all the ingredients needed to create a good nature picture.
Indeed, for me, a good photograph is above all things, a clever mix of different elements that you must know how to adeptly combine to create the finished product.
In the rest of this article, I will revisit each ingredient more specifically, one of which is luck.
Luck is a non-quantifiable, indefinable, unpredictable factor.
Yet, it is luck that will allow you to create photos that will remain memorable, timeless, and emotionally strong.
Definition of Luck
In the dictionary, luck is defined as:
“the possibility or likelihood of something that may happen, referring mostly to happy events.”
Applying Luck to Photography
This general definition needs to be clarified in the context of nature photography.
I believe that the chance to make a good original photo is an exceptional moment that happens rarely, in an utterly unique way.
For example, in wildlife photography, this moment can be a behavior, an expression.
In landscape photography, this moment will be linked to lights, colors, or a state of nature.
In underwater photography, it will be an opportunity to photograph an extremely rare species or an extraordinary behavior.
Luck in nature photography means being able to freeze a unique and exceptional moment that no one or at least a rare few will be able to reproduce in their own way. Luck is essential for unique photographs.
Luck Is Unpredictable
Some photographers, who are superstitious, refer to luck as "Fate".
They think that what is meant to be, is meant to be.
They think events are predestine, “written down” into time itself, and that one must wait for luck to arrive when it is due. It is a justifiable point of view.
As I cannot make an argument with a contrary opinion, I must accept it. It is a way of seeing and living life.
Personally, I believe that luck should be sought.
You must step outside of your comfort zone. Luck will only come forward if you show tenacity and self-sacrifice.
You must provoke it. You cannot find it by sitting quietly in front of your computer.
That is my point. Is this perspective on luck better or more credible than the previous idea of fate? The answer is no because I cannot prove it either.
My many years of experience in the field makes me hold fast to the belief that I am not far from the truth.
However, one thing is certain: luck is totally unpredictable.
I have made hundreds of trips. I have completed hundreds of photo shoots where nothing ever happened. And yet, I have lived great and indefinable moments where an extraordinary scene presented itself in front of my lens. I was in the right place to capture the moment.
These moments that I define as memorable and magical are the greatest rewards of my patience and persistence.
I am used to repeating myself like a ritornello, that truism so well known to players: "100% of the winners have played their luck".
I always keep this maxim in mind to always provoke the extraordinary moments that will remain forever fixed in my photographs.
Luck Is Not Enough to Create a Good Nature Photograph
Luck will allow you as a nature photographer to capture a magical and extraordinary moment. It will give you the opportunity to capture an event that happens rarely or in a unique way.
It is a necessary but insufficient condition for you to create good pictures. Indeed, even if you are a good photographer, you should keep in mind that your photographs should reflect the emotions you feel when you turn your camera on.
Your role is to convey a clear message, that is, to testify to truth.
For example, if you are lucky, but you forgot to choose your point of view or you did not frame the shot properly, or if you did not think about how to arrange the different elements in the photograph, your shot will be missed. It will lack fruit.
You will have lost an opportunity to use good luck.
Knowing How to Take Hold of Luck
I have often met nature photographers who do not know how to take advantage of the opportunity. They do not know how to look at the warning signs of the event that is about to happen.
As far as I am concerned, I am always ready. I keep my camera and tripod next to me.
When I am on long car trips, I am always ready to stop and take a picture. I recommend that you have a wide-angle lens mounted on a body.
I always check that the camera battery is charged, and that the memory is inserted. As always, it is the experience that speaks.
One day while I was driving in Utah, in the United States, I saw an osprey resting on a tree devouring a prey. At that time in my career, I was providing nature photography for several magazines. I was sure that this image, if well composed, would be a hit with art directors.
Immediately, I stopped the car. Taking my camera and my tripod, I walked to the tree where the bird was lying two hundred meters (six hundred feet) from the road.
I started taking some pictures. When I wanted to check if the exposure was correct, I noticed that no picture was displayed in the back screen.
I had forgotten to insert the memory card. Since that day, I have been incredibly careful to ensure that the equipment is in working order under any circumstances.
Always Provoke Luck
To get lucky, you must seek fortune out. It is not by sitting behind a computer, or by making plans about the comet on improbable pictures that luck will manifest itself.
You must step into the field to provoke luck so that you can find it.
Fortune favors the bold. It is found by those who show patience and self-sacrifice. Contrary to what some photographers think, it always appears after consistent dedication.
Even I have my doubts sometimes. Sometimes weeks go by before I achieve a great image.
Sometimes, in the space of a few days, I can make 5 or 6 exceptionally beautiful photos. I do not understand the logic of events at all.
Nevertheless, I believe that being positive and optimistic helps me a lot in my quest.
I have often found that when I was happy and cheerful, I was able to provoke situations that would not have happened if I had been moody.
That is what makes me say that a person’s state of mind has a lot to do with it as well.
You'd better see the glass half full to cross Ms. Chance's unpredictable path.
To Be Lucky Is to Be a Good Nature Photographer
If you are skeptical of my theory regarding the importance of luck, try a simple test.
Choose your thirty best nature photos. These photos must have been seen by other people who have told you that they were really interesting.
Do not just take pictures that you like because it will distort the game.
For each one, analyze objectively why it is interesting. Was it solely because of your technical qualities, or the preparation of the session?
I am sure you will find that you were lucky.
Do not get me wrong. Your qualities as a nature photographer are not what is in question.
You were able to use your experience and skills to provoke an event and seize an exceptional moment that was unexpected.
I think it is in these moments that the qualities of a good nature photographer are judged.
As important as it is, luck should not be seen as the only element necessary for good nature photography.
It is part of a recipe whose ingredients must be perfectly proportioned and well accommodated.
But one thing is always certain: an unlucky photographer will never be able to make good nature photos.
Yet his quest must not stop. He must continue to move forward, to seek luck, to provoke it.
Persistence is the best asset for discovering luck in nature photography.