Shoot It Now

Old Chevrolet at Wil's Garage, Chama, NM

Old Chevrolet at Wil’s Garage, Chama, NM

Have you ever been out shooting and, for some reason or other, decide that even though the scene is worth working, you’ll just come back and do it later? I’ve found that rarely works out as hoped.

In September 2014, I saw this old Chevrolet parked in front of this old garage in northern New Mexico. It looked like a scene that had been frozen in time—possibly for decades. What an opportunity!

But…it was raining fairly hard on and off. And even during the rain, the overcast sky was pretty bright. Then every once in a while, the sun would peak through the broken clouds for a minute or so. This would cause the scene to be strongly backlit, losing all detail. But the image didn’t work from any other angle. Maybe I should just come back in better conditions.

To add to my hesitations, I was supposed to be meeting my buddy Wes from Mesa, AZ, who was driving over for a week of photographing Fall color.

It sure was tempting to just try to shoot it later.

Despite all these potential excuses, I decided to go ahead and make the photograph while I was there.

I called Wes to tell him to look for me along the side of the road. (It happened to be along the route he was taking.) Then I got out my gear, and went to work under my weather proof focusing cloth. (Was that a subtle enough sales plug?)

I had to take shelter a couple times during the more forceful downpours, but finally managed to set up during a lighter drizzle. Wes showed up about fifteen minutes later, and waited on me to finish.

As it turned out, I really liked the light from the weather conditions, and was happy with the image.

I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “That is one of the most amazingly fascinating stories I’ve ever read. But what’s the point?”

Well, two days later, at a different time of day, I thought the light and weather might be even more favorable. I went back there. And the car was gone!

A scene that I figured had been there, and would be there, for years was actually as ephemeral as the weather.

Lesson reinforced. Unless conditions make it impossible, when you see a potential photograph, set up and make it right then. You’ll regret the ones you didn’t make more than the ones that didn’t quite turn out as good as you hoped.

But what if you shoot it right then, then go back later and find the light and other conditions are perfect?

Well, you shoot it again! At best, you have two variations of scene you like. At worst, you practiced and learned something. Either is a pretty good result.

Just don’t fail to shoot it.

©2015 Tom Vadnais Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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