One day, it seems like the perfect day for some fall photography—the leaves are beautiful, the sun is shining—but you just don’t have the time that day because life’s other demands are calling. The next day? It’s snowing! That’s a picture-perfect example of how opportunities can truly be fleeting.
Sometimes, we miss photographic opportunities because we think, “It’ll be there another day, I can always come back to this.” But, the problem is, that isn’t always the case. Seasons change—sometimes rapidly before we really realize what is happening. We pack up and move across the country, and then we look back at where we came from and realize that we missed opportunities while we were still there.
The world is full of change. In fact, change is the biggest constant. It’s the only thing that we can guarantee, that our children will grow older, that we’ll go through different phases in our lives, that everything will slowly shift as time goes by. The cool old building we want to photograph someday might get torn down. We lose people, they leave us or pass away—and then that opportunity is gone.
And I think that’s why it is so important to take photographs as we see these opportunities come along. Of course, the practical realities of life do get in the way sometimes. Perhaps you’re seeing a gorgeous sunrise on the way to work, but you just can’t stop because it’ll make you late. This happens, but also, there are probably many other times when you may put off photography because you’re tired or have other things pulling at your attention. These are the times to go out and take those photographs if at all possible.
If it helps, think of it as future-proofing. You got the shots before the chance was lost. Instead of someday having a thin portfolio and lots of thoughts of the “could have beens” or “should have beens,” you’ll be building a collection of images that proves you took opportunities as they came your way.
And another thing to think about… perhaps you’ve looked at someone who has an artistic career or does something that you think is really cool. Is it by chance? It isn’t. And more often you’ll find that such things are the result of people seizing those fleeting opportunities as they came along.
The same rationale can be applied to photography. Is it by chance that one photographer’s portfolio is filled with absolutely beautiful images? Did that photographer blithely stumble across the perfect shots each and every time he went into the field? This is probably pretty unlikely. More, photographers with these kinds of portfolios saw opportunities and took them. If we could see their archives, we’d probably be amazed by the sheer number and variety of images that didn’t make the cut, each one an opportunity that the photographer saw potential in, all of it contributing to the body of work that he has carefully created.
Never assume that things will be there waiting for you whenever you are ready. Sometimes, we’re proven wrong when those things disappear—and then the opportunity to create new photographs and to improve ourselves as artists are lost.