Missed opportunity?

Missed Opportunity?
On first glance, you may think the title is about a derelict gas station on some forlorn stretch of lonely desert highway.

You’d be wrong.

It’s about a photographer realising the shot he’ll never have another opportunity to shoot could have been so much better.

The landscape is pure Nevada desert. The lines offered by the highway, the building structure, the concrete pump Island… sublime. The sky… Oh my gawd, the sky is freakin’ fantastic.

And it was the sky, the landscape and that beautiful graffiti-laden wall which perhaps mesmerised me that day. Those visual elements and the fact I was towing around a 35-foot long rolling viewing platform over 10 feet tall. (My fifth-wheel RV trailer.) Oh! The perspectives I could shoot from!

There are at least three things a photographer is always looking for in taking a shot:

  • Magic light
  • Interesting subject
  • Provocative perspective or point-of-view

And I had all of ’em, right there.

But if I’d just moved the fifth-wheel 30 or 40 feet to the right, that big flat wall would have turned into a wonderful set of converging lines and rhomboids — an interesting shape. I would also have seen more of the road, felt it connect with that section reappearing above the wall and vanishing off into the distance, perhaps.

The resulting photograph would have been so much more dynamic. So much more pleasing to the eye.

But I’ve already said waaaay to much about missed opportunities.

The only value in recognising missed opportunities is learning from them. Learn, and move on. Edison said it this way,

I have not failed.
I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Or as a film colleague of mine likes to say, “What have we learned?”

Sit a little longer in the moment. Don’t be overwhelmed by the perfection of a few elements. Take in the whole of that moment, and spend some time considering each of its elements separately. Can the perfection before you be improved?

Hmmmm… Just a sec… Didn’t I shoot a few more images of this scene?

Abandoned Gas Station TooScanning through my CD of that image set and… Yes, there it is. Actually, I shot this one first!

And, now that I look at it, I’m not sure it’s any better. I understand why I moved 30 or 40 feet to the left in order to try one with the flat wall. Although I like the shape of the building in this bottom image, the clouds aren’t quite as dynamic, and I miss that little hillock just to the right of the highway. And seeing more of the mountains, too. The angle of the Island doesn’t provide as strong a line, and is working against the clouds. The red hump of soil behind the buildings isn’t doing anything for me either.

Maybe that flat wall shot is as good as it gets on this day?

Hmmmm… Now, what have we learned?

First, don’t dwell too long on perceived missed opportunities. “Missed” is a matter of perception, and that perception could well be altogether wrong. You can’t possibly know exactly how other opportunities may have played out if chosen. Maybe you actually didn’t miss anything.

Second, sometimes you can’t make a moment perfect, or ideal, or even beautiful. Sometimes, it is what it is. And, sometimes, that’s good enough. Actually, it has to be good enough: that’s as good as it gets.

Now that I’m looking at both, maybe 40 feet to the left — the flat wall shot — is better.

But I wonder what another 5 or 10 feet to the right would’ve done??? Or, maybe another 10 feet to the left?

Hmmm… Maybe it’s time to go on a little roadtrip?

; )

Route 66
Nevada, United States of America

Taken during travels, 1997