One late November day, in the middle of my latest cross-country road-trip, I was in Rhode Island and on the way to Warwick Point with the intentions of photographing a beautiful sun setting behind the old lighthouse stationed there.
I had just turned onto Warwick Neck Avenue when off to my right I saw a quaint idyllic cove with a cozy little park, sailboats moored just off shore, docks across the way, and calm waters. I made a mental note that this would be a nice place to shoot, time permitting.
My trusty assistant (who just happens to be my older sister — Cyndie) and I continued driving the few miles toward the Warwick Lighthouse; meandering past ritzy, upper middle class, and wealthy old money family homes until we finally reached our destination — only to discover cyclone fences and Department of Homeland Security signs blocking our way.
Of course, my sister, being the daring sibling, tells me to just go ahead and jump the fence.
I get out of the car and soon realize that from this side of the fence there’s no clear shot of the lighthouse. Okay. Plan B. The idyllic cove.
I look at the sun. Ouch. Life lesson. Never look directly into the sun. Take two. I shade my eyes and again look at the position of the sun in the sky. I deduce that if we don’t dawdle, we can turn the car around and get back to the cove just in time to get a beautiful shot of the setting sun reflecting off the calm waters.
Jumping into the car I squeal the tires, do a 180, and burn rubber like we’re hell bent for leather…
Ya… you know that’s not true. I drive more like an old geezer out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive. So much so that my adventuresome sister, knowing that we’re “chasing the sun” (photog speak), keeps telling me to drive faster, run the stop signs, pass on the shoulder, and certainly don’t stop for any school busses.
Indubitably, I don’t heed her advice. I remind her that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. And she reminds me that she’s the oldest, then smacks me up-side my head, and even tries putting her foot on the accelerator. But to no avail, I hold my course — slow and steady.
But to be honest, I did notice that the sun was getting lower in the sky so I broke the law and dared going a few miles over the posted speed limit. It was exhilarating.
Shortly thereafter we arrived at the cove, parked the vehicle in the designated area, and popped the boot… oops sorry, getting all British for a moment… I popped the trunk, and proceeded to prepare my camera equipment. I’m sure by now you’ve already surmised that I am quite anal, so indeed I did have to carefully unpack my neatly packed gear, choose a lens, clean the filters, and… Cyndie, having had enough of my fastidious habits, just grabbed the camera bags and hauled them over to a spot that she thought we should set up in. Yes, she does have a good eye for photography. It runs in the family.
Like a scolded puppy I followed after her to the perfect location. With bags already open and ready for me to choose the best gear to use, I proceeded to get right to work. I picked a good lens, decided on a filter, cleaned it, affixed the camera to the tri-pod, adjusted all the settings, and looked at the sun. Ouch. It was going down quickly. I composed the picture, took a few test shots, adjusted this, adjusted that, and then waited for the perfect moment to present itself to me so I could capture it for all eternity. Dang, sometimes I am so poetic.
We waited. The sky was getting close to what I envisioned. I mentally prepared myself as the instant drew near, and carefully approached the camera. Trying not to disturb the settings and composition, I placed my eye to the viewfinder, held my breath, and waited.
It was time. The artistry had arrived in all is magnificent glory. I exhaled as my finger hovered over the shutter release and…
What the hell is that? Movement in my shot. I quickly pull my eye away from the viewfinder to find that some GWC (Guy with Camera — photog speak meaning — amateur) walked into the middle of my frame at just the exact moment I was about to take the photo. With no concern, or inkling of manners, courtesy, or even attempting to abide by the unwritten rules of good Photogmanship*, he just plopped himself in my picture and started taking his own. How rude.
Here I am, all set up, with equipment piled around, a trusty photo assistant by my side, a beautiful field of view permeating my lens, and this clueless dude has the nerve to walk right in front of me and ruin my shot like I didn’t exist.
So, like any good photographer worth his day rate, I roll with the tide, go with the flow, and… start taking pictures… of him. After hearing so many shutter snaps he begins to realize that he is now the focus (pun intended) of attention. He turns to look. I wave hello and take another photo. I could see in his demeanor that he was wondering why some strange man was taking his picture and waving at him. After a disconcerting thought, he reluctantly waves back before returning to his task at hand. Idiot.
Cyndie was ready to give the guy a piece of her mind and some skin from her fists… But me, being the calm, reasonable, (sometimes smarter), and easy going sibling, knew it would do no good to confront him. So I held her in check, calmed her down, and simply adjusted my composition. No, I didn’t get the image I visualized. I got a better one.
And before I knew it, the guy was gone, the sun was gone, and so were we.
Moral of the story: Everything happens for a reason and you do indeed get the shot you were meant to get.
- Photogmanship. Yes, I made that word up. Photogmanship. Meaning — the art, ability, skill, or manner of a photographer who is aware, courteous, and respectful of others — especially other photographers.
Lon Casler Bixby is a professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.
See his writing here — www.amazon.com/author/loncaslerbixby/.