As luck would have it

Even with all the schooling, experience, talent and skill in the world, sometimes it just comes down to luck to get a shot. But as Louis Pasteur is credited to have said: “chance favors the prepared mind.”

I’ve been the recipient of luck many times in the past and I try to be ready for it when it happens. Among the things I’ve found are a hitchhiking clown, a boy in an inflatable sumo suit waving to passing cars, a teen playing the guitar while skateboarding. But I’ve missed plenty of opportunities in my lifetime and those instances become something like big fish stories (you should of seen the one the got away).

Life is full of photographic moments and when they happen you have to be ready. There are times that something will happen and you can wait for it to happen again. Other times it’s just a one-shot deal. Either you’ve got it or you don’t.

A couple of weeks ago I had an assignment to cover wildflowers growing in the Sierras. Reporter Dana Nichols and I were given a tour of the areas where the flowers were most prevalent by Julia Stephens and Heather Campbell with the Twain Harte-based Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center. We spent several hours near streams and meadows finding wildflowers of every size, shape and shade.

Near the end of our trip we came upon a field of lively purple blossoms which Stephens identified as checker bloom. I had already gotten more than enough shots, several of which could have been the lead shot for the story, but I liked how the field looked. It was late in the day and we were all a bit tired so I got out of the car for just a quick shot or two, I even left the car running to keep the air condition on for the others. Near the center of the meadow a small boulder rose above the surrounding vegetation like an island in a sea of purple and green. I busied myself at the edge of the field taking close-ups of the flowers. Unseen by me, Stephens had gotten out of the car and trotted into the meadow to check out some of the flowers. She was on her way back when I looked up. She then hopped up onto the rock and sat down looking out on the ocean of flowers. I don’t think she noticed when I raised my camera to my eye and fired off a single frame. Stephens then stood up, bounded off the rock and ran back to the car.

Stockton photographer Rich Turner has a wonderful picture of a sunset in the Delta, one of the best I’ve ever seen. There are beautiful clouds with rich, vibrant colors. That would be enough to make that a fantastic photo, but a flock of geese in a perfect V formation flew into the frame giving and accent to an already wonderful scene and turning a great shot into a perfect one. There are things you can’t plan for but you have to ready for when they occur. Turner calls it serendipity.

Whether you call it serendipity, providence or just plain old luck, the question remains: Is it better to good or to be lucky? Neither it’s best to be both.

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