See a Shot. Take a Shot. (2014)

See a shot. Take the shot. 

It seems like a simple enough message, but too often as photographers we forget. We forget that part of making memorable photographs is capturing a moment and preserving it within the frame. We forget that moments are fleeting. We sometimes act like we get endless chances to capture the same image. If I don’t stop to photograph this sunset I’ll get another chance the next time. Of course, every sunset is not the same, but it’s so easy to wait for the right time; a better time; a more convenient time to be a photographer. 

See a shot. Take the shot.

I recently had two experiences that drove this message home for me. One somewhat comical, the other somewhat somber.

The shot I missed.

I drive the same road home every day. Along this road a large tree grows in a neighbor’s front yard. One day, as often happens when I’m out, the tree caught my photographer’s eye.  I noticed the large branches stretching outward, and a wooden swing hung from a lower branch.  I instantly composed a shot in my head and thought about processing it in black and white or antiquating it to evoke memories of simpler times. In all modesty, it was a great image. In my head. But the tree was in a private yard and I’m loathe to trespass. Perhaps, I thought, someday I’ll stop to introduce myself to the owner and get permission to photograph her awesome tree.

“Someday” didn’t arrive, but driving by a few weeks later I saw the tree again and my heart sank.  The tree had been trimmed. The limb holding the swing was gone, and so was the swing. I eventually asked permission to shoot the tree, but it wasn’t the same. The great image I envisioned would just have to stay in my head.

The shot I got.

Once a month I work near the small town of Darrington, Washington. To get there I travel along the picturesque Highway 530.  The road is nestled in the Upper Stillaguamish River valley at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range. During my hour drive I witness indescribable beauty. I always have my camera in the car, but I’m often in a rush to make an appointment or get home, and I choose to keep driving.  March 21, 2014 was another beautiful day.  The hills were recently dusted with snow and looked as if a giant had sprinkled them with powdered sugar.  A mist hung low, near tree level, but the sun was warm and brightly glistened off the North Fork of the Stillaquamish River.   Again, my eye saw a photograph, but I was on a deadline and I kept driving. The image nagged at me though, and about a mile up the road I stopped, turned around and returned to preserve the scene.

The North Fork of the Stillaguamish River flows through the foothills of the Cascade Mt range. A snow capped Round Mountain stands over the forest and river.

On March 22, 2014 – less then 24 hours after I stopped to take this picture – a massive and deadly landslide choked the river about a mile down stream from this location.  As a result, this part of the river flooded, the road I was on was buried in mud and over 40 lives were lost. This was a beautiful scene and I’m happy I captured it. Today, the photo holds a special place in my collection; reminding me how quickly and dramatically life can change and how fragile our world really is.

See a shot. Take the shot.

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