|Waiting for the Magic Moment
by Jim McGee
I'm lying in a hammock on a Caribbean beach. A hint of first light tinges the horizon and a slight breeze ruffles the hair on my arms.
Soft waves fall onto the sand a few feet to my right and a small slice of moon peaks in and out as the gently waving palm trees stir. A faint delicate smell of tropical flowers comes and goes on the breeze, trading places with the salty sweet smell of seaweed exposed on the rocks. It's all kind of surreal, more like a scene from a movie or a novel than from real life.
I scouted this location at the beginning of the week and have been here with my cup of coffee an hour before sunrise at least half of the mornings I've been on the island. But each morning there have been clouds rising from the sea on the horizon. The clouds rose high enough above the waves that I couldn't get the sunrise shot I was after. Each day as the sun finally broke above the high clouds the subtle orange hues were lost in the low leaves of the palms so I've yet to open my shutter in this spot.
It's quietly frustrating as each morning the sky over the island itself was crystal blue. Now on my last morning here I prop my head up and stare at the lightening sky trying to see if there are clouds on the horizon.
The folks writing copy for equipment ads will imply that if you just buy their camera/lens/filter the perfect shots will come. In reality it's patience - not purchase - that is rewarded. When you see that truly amazing shot from one of those top photographers the story behind it is often that they've been to that spot many times, finally finding exactly the right combination of elements to make that perfect image.
Don't get me wrong, quality cameras, lenses, and filters all assure that you capture on film what you've captured in your minds eye. But sometimes there is no substitute for patience.
There is an upside to all of this though, I've enjoyed several sunrises on this quiet beach, curled up in my hammock, listening to the gulls and waves, and smelling the ocean and wildflowers.
Photography is different for each person. For some it's shooting portraits and being intimately involved with your subject. For others it's fast action, shooting sports or active animals. While I enjoy all of those things it's shooting quiet landscapes that I like best. Maybe that's one reason I still like shooting with manual cameras as well as auto-focus - although I'd not willingly surrender today's wonderful in-camera meters.
I like to be able to relax and to think about the shot, to visualize it, and to decide how I want it to look, then to play with variations on that theme.
For most of us photography isn't about making a living, it's about relaxation. It's something we can focus on and forget work and worries.
And it's about memories. When I look at this shot it clearly brings back those mornings. I feel the breeze, smell the cool air, and remember the moment.
When we look back and remember its not the time spent rushing to the job that we think of, it's those special moments that make life worth living.
As you can see I got the shot, though I'm not really happy with it. It didn't fully capture my vision for that morning. I guess the next time I'm there I'll just have to find that hammock again.
text and photography copyright © 2001 Vivid Light Publishing