For five nights in a row I had gone out with the camera hoping to catch some lightning and failed miserably each time.
You’d imagine that with the amount of storms we have have this past week, I would have been able to get something. But between my own inabilities and the fact that when it stormed, it stormed right over me, I failed.
These have been some serious rain-producing storms and getting caught under them each night not only meant a soaking for me and the camera, but it meant that I was also unable to keep water off the actual lens, so any attempt to shoot something was wildly blurry.
Some of the failure was so contrived that I genuinely felt that the gods had found out about my atheistic stance and timed each flash to be where I wasn’t, or pointed the rain clouds at exactly where I was standing.
I think it was Thurday evening when I was alone in a completely dark, rain-soaked ball field having missed again anything on offer. I turned face to the clouds and shouted “fuck you all, you miserable shower of bastards.” But the gods were no longer listening, they had gone back to their eternal party and the one dissident old-irish voice from the darkness meant nothing to them.
So, I did what every good photographer should do when faced with deliberate deity-level meddling, I decided to shoot something else last night,
I reached out to a beautiful young woman and asked her if she wouldn’t mind being the subject of my lens for an hour down at the river walk in Tampa. All the wonderful and varying colors of the walk would present some interesting conditions for a test of one of my new zoom lenses and she was happy to help out.
As she, her mom, and I drove down to Tampa (timing the arrival for darkness), the skies over Tampa created the most wonderful tapestry of sunset colors that I have ever seen in my life. The positions of the billowy clouds that ran indiscriminately in all directions created the perfect storm for sunsets and for about fifteen minutes, the skies over Tampa Bay showed us every shade of red, violet and orange that you can imagine in intensities that ranged from pastel to full bodied.
And where was I? In my car on the interstate.
I could almost hear the bearded old bastards giggling in the clouds.
These gods are a tad spiteful in all honesty.
At least they didn’t put on a lightning show I guess. But it is possible they didn’t because their x-ray vision saw that I had brought my lightning lens in the camera bag, just in case. Foiled again!
The River Walk was full of life, and was a true testament to the waning COVID life that we’ve been living this past year and a half (thank you, Joe).
You could almost sense the vacation atmosphere along the boardwalk and people seemed relaxed and happy.
The big negative shock for us, as we made our final approach to the walk was that none of the colors were changing. As far as the eyes could see, blue was the sole color lighting the walk and the nearby bridges.
I stared in disbelief and we realized it’s because the Tampa Bay Lightning is in the Stanley Cup Final, so the city has turned blue.
Emotionally speaking, it is a good decision and I am thrilled for the Lightning and hope they bring the cup home again. But photographically speaking it was awful.
My shoot plans was built around shooting in light of different colors and intensities. Not only that, but the blue lights effectively create the darkest color environment for a camera. It was a real gut punch.
Thankfully not only was my model a beautiful young woman, but she was also a beautiful person and with the help of her mom as a lighting assistant (who thought she was only along as chaperone) we still managed to get some good shots along the way.
Knowing what I do now about the sunset and the blue light set up, would I do it differently, if I had the chance?
No. Not even remotely. We had a great time and in the absence of colors to work with we didn’t just work with what we had but added some colors of our own into the mix.
Hope you like the little selection at the end of the blog.
In fact, it is that last point I just wrote, that gave me my thoughts for the blog … absence of color and how it affects us.
I grew up in an age of black and white TV (yes, I know … I am ancient) so I saw how different life is, when we lose color. Black and White TV was popular in it’s day but its popularity exploded when we got to see life there in living color.
Sports took on new significance when you could make out the colors the teams were wearing. Nature programs all of a sudden became interesting when you could distinguish a well-camouflaged creature from his natural surrounds.
And before that it was movies. They progressed from black and white to color and the scope of what they could portray grew exponentially.
And before that it was radio, where people’s voices or music could travel the airwaves and be listened to in the comforts of our own armchairs. In this case, the color is the sounds being captured, so don’t think too literally when I use the word “color”.
Because even when we got color tv, it didn’t end there. The american Standard was NTSC, which we in Europe used to laugh at as “Never The Same Color” because the clarity and bleed was awful. Try watching a recorded show from the sixties or seventies and everything other than the nostalgia will make you cringe at what we watched.
So we extended the color to include high definition video and morphed that into internet surfing and video calling over our cell phones.
In each case, the color I am referring to is more than just the Red Green Blue combination on a screen that delivers a pattern. It is that aspect that has widened our experience of life in so many ways that even our grandparents couldn’t have imagined.
Think about that. Just two generations ago, our families would have had to sit around a dinner table eating a home-cooked meal together and then listen to grand-pops tell us about the old days when he was a boy and how he had to walk ten miles to school … uphill, both ways!
Technology aside, it is important to experience life in as much color as can possibly get. Sometimes life becomes very monochromatic (big word, I know) and our situations seem very limited by the options available.
We get straight-jacketed into failure by following a path that we have followed before and we find it difficult to even think about an alternative route.
But just because something is being done the way we have always been doing it, and no one has handed us a new play book that tells us an alternative, that doesn’t mean an alternative doesn’t exist.
By exploring other options, we sometimes find a new path and it helps us grow in life and enriches our wealth of experience.
Yes, sometimes we fail or the path leads nowhere. But that’s OK too.
It would have been easy to be pigeon-holed into simply taking blue shots last night in the dark. That is exactly the situation that life had thrust on us. But we found some colors in a box and some lights to shine through them.
Being adaptable and experimental is a key part of navigating through life.
Let the gods play their silly games in the clouds and always carry a box of colors somewhere on you.
Then when life seems to have a death grip on you and has committed you to failure, just stop and think outside the box. Find a color that alters the path you are on and with a little luck it may prove a winner.
When done put it in your box with all your other colors and call upon it again sometime in the future when life seems to have you boxed in.
… just a thought.