Exposed Decisions

Early Christmas morning, while Santa was still making his final deliveries, I gathered myself and my camera and went down to Ballast Point to experiment a bit with long exposures.

It was a bit chilly and there was a howling wind coming in from the bay. It felt very much like winter.

The water was therefore quite a bit choppy and was lashing the shoreline with a series of small, but frequent, waves.

If you’ve never done long exposure photography, you might not be aware of the effects wind can have on your end product. The problem is that gust wind moves the camera or tripod and any movement over a 30 second period results in a blurred picture. So, I got quite a few of those.

There is a smaller, older pier to the left of the main pier and I tried taking pics from that, but the pier itself was moving slightly with the wind and waves. So, that was a bust.

Elements provide an interesting distraction to a planned shoot and for a while I struggled to come to grips with what what happening. One of the main problems is that you can look at the little viewfinder on the back of the camera and think that you got a focused shot only later to pull it up on the computer screen and dismay over the lack of clarity.

Also, when you are doing something like a sunrise or a sunset, you have a definite factor of time being your enemy. Things happen and change in the space of a few seconds, so you don’t really have very much time to play with your camera.

On top of all that, it became clear that a large band of cloud was playing with the horizon and likely to kill any prospects of a very beautiful sunrise (twilight, actually). So I diverted my attention to the waves themselves.

It was close to low-tide and the waves were pounding against a collection of rocks that were near the shoreline. And after the first picture of them, it became apparent to me that the long exposure was blurring the incoming waves beautifully as they broke. It created a lovely effect that was almost fog-like and I was seriously pleased with the end results.

I hope you like the images I got. They are at the end of this blog. From the almost sepia-like, near-darkness shot of the pier to the foggy-waves. I like them all! And none of these have been touched up in any way, just in case you are wondering.


Anyway, the following morning, I decided to try to get down there again a bit earlier because having lost some time dealing with the wind issues, I was curious as to what the camera would pick up in near-total-darkness at very long exposures.

And it is this decision that gave me the thought for this blog subject.

You see, often times we make decisions that are good or bad without any witness to gauge our decision-making skills. If the decision is poor, we often sweep it under the rug, so that only the good ones normally get to see the light of day.

In this instance, the first decision that I made was sound. While most people were sleeping off a food-hangover from the day before, I was standing in total darkness at Ballast Point around five o’clock in the morning.

The wind was only a fraction of the day’s before, but I still thought it might be good enough to recapture what was going on at the exposed rocks in darkness.

But rather than just repeat the earlier location, I tried to move to the spot in between both piers which was very rocky and if I was correct, then I would be able to get reddish-fog effect on them with the main pier itself in the background.

So, I climbed down the embankment and began to walk gingerly across the rocks in order to get close enough to the water edge (tide was out again) so that the effect became the main aspect of the images.

Half way out, my decision became a bad one.

I slipped and fell on the rocks and for a moment, I genuinely thought this might be my end.

My left hand, which was free, automatically extended to try to stop my fall, as the camera and tripod in my right hand smashed down onto the rocks themselves.

My left shin hit a nearby rock and gave me the first instance of pain. But the main pain came from my hand and forearm breaking my fall and saving my head from damage.

I lay there for a moment in the darkness, pain making itself known across my forearm and my camera separated from the tripod, lying between some nearby rocks just about in-view. In fact, the only reason I could even see it was because the little screen on the back was still on and giving me a small light to work with.

After I realized I wasn’t dead, I began the process of getting back to my feet, clutching my left arm as if I were a walking-wounded in the Saving Private Ryan movie. I leaned over and picked up the camera and somehow made it back over to the car, feeling every step of the way.

There was no one around to see me. I was all alone in the darkness, so I didn’t have the normal feeling of embarrassment that can mask real pain. So, I felt the pains in arm and leg and was very glad to find myself safely sitting in the car.

By the time I got home the incident report reads as follows: cut and bruised shin. Couple of deepish cuts to the palm of my hand. Bad sprain (perhaps fracture) to the wrist. Glasses lost. Lens destroyed. Camera banged up and viewfinder screen pretty shot.

I think it is fair to say that the decision to walk out at low tied over uneven rocks in near-total-darkness without even as much as a head-lamp to light the way … not one of the best decisions I have ever made.

If I had hit my head, fallen backwards perhaps, I was on my own among the rocks in darkness and when the tide came in, there might only have been an abandoned car in the parking lot to make people aware that some old fool was missing.

Sometimes our decision-reasoning becomes masked by what we view as the end goal. And I am “sure” it would have been a good picture … foggy reddish base to a sepia colored pier. Everyone would have oohed and aahed.

But seriously!

What was I thinking?

And this morning as I sit here typing (mostly one-handed), I wonder how many other life-risking decisions I have gotten away with. Decisions that never made the light of day, but lie there hidden under the rug of time.

I have recounted a couple in my mind already and just shake my head at the stupidity of the decisions. And I am not a stupid person. I’m a democrat, for god sake!

But seriously, when presented with the opportunity, we all make stupid decisions.

While they may not necessarily be life-threatening, do we learn anything from the process when we get away with them?

Do we only finally learn as we draw our final breath, when one of our decisions catches up with us?

I think what I have realized, is that there are quiet moments when we should revisit our past decisions; lift up the rug and let the light in on them. If we are embarrassed by them, we don’t necessarily need to shine a light on them and write about them in a blog.

But at the very least, we need to look at ourselves and ask that “what were we thinking” question.

Why did we make the decision in a certain way and would we do so again today? And if not, why?

Understanding the process of our decision making is what makes us better people. It improves our decision making skills and it also helps us understand our own weaknesses a little better.

Knowing your weaknesses allows you to address them or sweep them under a rug. While the rug may be appealing and the easier option, eventually the pile under the rug is so high, you end up tripping over it.

The path forward in life is tricky enough. We don’t need self-made booby traps under our feet.

… just a thought!