Here’s some advice for lazy photographers – myself included: Turn the car around and take the damn shot.
Let me explain. A year and a half ago, we were driving around the Hanford area of Washington. It’s a beautiful desert-like place with dried grasses and few trees. Speeding along Route 240 one morning, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a dirt road behind a gate with a row of utility poles paralleling it to a hill in the distance. It was stunning.
For miles I debated turning around. I slowed, sped up, slowed again, only to admit that I had traveled too far away from it for it to make any sense to go back. I reasoned that there were many such roads in this country and I’ll stop at the next.
Of course, there were no more such roads (and obviously none like this before it). The sun had been perfect – it was the early morning, and soon that faded to a dull brilliance. This missed shot haunted me for months. I thought about it nearly every day. At random times, while washing dishes or at work, it would slip back into my conscience like a shadow. It was haunting, depressing and I started to figure out a way to get back to the Hanford area – about 200 miles away.
A year later, we found ourselves back on Route 240 on a chilly morning drive. The sun was just coming up and, remembering this missed shot resting in my mind, I kept a clear eye to the west, hoping to catch this same gate, road and telephone poles.
But when they finally appeared, it was nothing like I remembered. While the gate was probably the same (my mind remembered it as wooden, but minds create what they want to see), the road was changed. Gone was the dusty two-track with grassy rise in the middle. It was now replaced by obviously-new crushed rock. The mood had changed, everything about it was different.
I had envisioned a color photo, the dust of the road mixing with the brown and golden grasses, the blue sky, all accented with shadows, the sun low and behind. But with the bright gray of crushed granite, everything was off.
I still wanted to capture this – at least it would be a reminder to take the shot when you see it. But it had devolved from a something worthy of old Ektachrome shot through a Mamiya 645 to whatever black & white combo I was holding at the time.
In this case, it was a Ricoh KR-10 – a competent SLR, with Panatomic X – a lovely low ISO stock that sometimes slouches towards the unremarkable.
Lesson learned – turn around and take the shot. Always.