Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Take the Time or Lose the Moment

They say that you should live your life such that the only things you regret are the things you didn't do, not the ones you did. That's true in photography, as well, of course. Every photographer has a mental list of missed moments, missed subjects, and also a pile of successes...those shots where everything came together at just the right time. You caught that fleeting smile that lit up the subject's face, or you took a photo of that interesting building days or weeks before it was demolished.

But for every one of those captured moments, there are ten shots that could have been. I remember one day on my morning drive into work, I drove past a field I drive past every single day...only this one morning, there were two coyotes taking their ease in the dew-speckled grass, with a low-lying mist softening it all. Where was my camera? Safely stowed in its bag...at home beside the couch. Why would I need it when I was just on my way to work? Nothing interesting ever happens when you're commuting, right? Well, that morning proved me wrong. Not that I've ever seen coyotes at leisure in the grass again, but now, I'm always looking.

And sometimes, there are things you didn't shoot when you could have because it seemed that they would always be around. Just the other day, an old maple tree in the front yard at my grandparents' house had to be taken out because it had gone rotten inside. That tree was, as best we can figure out, at least 65 years old. It had been there forever, a fixture in the front yard. I can remember my grandfather sitting in its shade in a lawn chair, watching the summer day go by. My mother and aunts have been sharing their fond memories of climbing it as children. It has served as the background to any number of family photos over the years. And yet, I've realized, I never took the time to walk up to that tree with my camera and to explore it through the lens, shooting the texture of the bark and the pattern the branches made against the sky. And now I never can!

I think that we sometimes need these reminders...that nothing in our lives is as permanent as we might think, not even a 65 year old tree that, despite being well-loved, had become nothing more than background. And since nothing is permanent, we must take our chances when they are offered and capture what moments we can.

Here is a wonderful old shot my mother found of her standing beside the tree that is no more. 1959, this was!


  1. How very sad! But how very motivational to prod us to seize the moment!

  2. that's a lovely and charming picture, great shot!