The above photo was included in Tuesday's final post in the "Eagle River Redux" series and I wanted to talk a little more about the emotion behind the image.
I've titled the image "Almost" in my catalog. As in, I "almost" got the whole bird in the frame. The photo was "almost" in focus. The eagle "almost" caught a fish. I "almost" had a photo worthy of hanging on the wall. As a life event, it was a very exciting, memorable experience. As a photography event, it was incredibly frustrating. Frustrating because it was an opportunity that went unrealized.
Photography is my form of "collecting". A wall worthy shot of an eagle or osprey snagging a fish is something I'd really like to add to that collection. Turning that wish into reality is all about making the opportunity happen and then executing when it presents itself. Now the ideal opportunity would be to be sitting on the shores of the eagle's winter fishing grounds in Homer, Alaska with 300 or so of these magnificent creatures to photograph using the best equipment money could buy. Right. Well, that may be a while.
While this situation may not have been the ideal, its was a pretty good opportunity none the less. I have an excellent camera in my Nikon D300s, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow my wife's Sigma 150-500mm lens, I'm sitting along the beautiful, peaceful Wisconsin River with not 300 eagles, but 2 - all of the pieces I needed to make it happen. So what went wrong? In a word - me. I wasn't well enough prepared when the time came to put it all together.
"Well, maybe if you had the new $3K Nikon Dxxx or a $10K Nikon 600mm f/4?". How many of you know THAT photographer? The photography forums are FULL of them. These are the people who pre-order the instant the "new model" is announced and can recite the spec sheet verbatim. They'll cut you down because you're shooting with an "old" camera and tell you how great they are because of what's in their gear bag. And then you look at their photos. You think to yourself, "They could have just as easily taken those shots with the camera in their cell phone.", and then you feel sorry for all that gear going to waste.
Instead of blaming the gear, the lighting or the eagle for moving too fast, I'm going to go on record as saying I wasn't prepared enough when the opportunity presented itself. I don't need a new camera (although a faster, longer lens would be nice ;-), but instead I need to continue to get myself in front of more opportunities. I need to continue to study and understand those thousands of camera options and the conditions in which I will benefit from using them. I need to focus on my technique and most of all I need to keep putting the camera to my eye and pressing the shutter release.
Maybe someday I'll find myself at the winter feeding grounds in Homer, Alaska with hundreds of eagle shots to choose from. Or maybe, and more likely, someday I'll find myself looking through the viewfinder at that single bird on the river. Both scenarios provide the opportunity. It's up to me to provide the preparation.
Think about it.