Surprisingly, yesterday morning shoot didn’t involve a sunrise. I wanted to take the new lens on its first real maiden voyage and so I earmarked a slightly later than normal start down by Lake Hancock.

There is a trail at Circle B that runs a distance by the edge of that lake and though I knew already that sections of the trails are closed because of alligator mating season, I hoped I could at least get as far as the little pier that extends out into the lake.

Unsurprisingly, you could hear the gator-growls as you walked down the trail and I was happy to be right as they had closed off the trail immediately after the pier.

While I understand their desire to keep the pier open (it gives a true vantage point on the lake), their logic is a tad flawed, thinking that alligators would respect the sign and closed gate that was erected on the trail just a yard beyond the pier.

Firstly, I am not sure that alligators can read and secondly, if there was ever a good place to hunt humans, it would be the pier. There is only one point to get on and off and a fifteen foot alligator coming at you from that point only leaves you the option of jumping into the water to escape (which is crawling with alligators, btw).

But, I was very glad for the pier to be open because I knew the sun would be low and I needed a vantage point that used the sun behind me while I photographed whoever might be resting on the tree-line.

Not only would it give me brighter subjects (shooting the other way would silhouette them) but it also allowed me to significantly increase the shutter speed, if there was any action happening worth capturing.

I set up the tripod and fixated on a single Osprey who was about 200 to 250 feet away in a tree. I seemed to be able to get a decent focus with the new lens and hoped that instead of just sitting there, he might eventually take off so that I could capture a moment where he might spread his wings for me.

It was probably only ten minutes but it felt like forever and I stood there ready to pounce and losing patience by the second. I would never make a real nature photographer. Those guys spend days or even weeks waiting for that one shot.

When I reached the end of my patience, I noticed a lovely white egret walking along the water’s edge and so I rotated the camera and pointed at him to take a few shots.

That is the exact same moment the Osprey decided to take off. Victor Meldrew’s famous line “I don’t believe it!” played loudly inside my head. Except I added a few expletives that only the darkness of my soul heard.

I just stood there, camera pointed at nothing and watched him fly away. Apparently even the gnats were laughing at me for my lack of patience.

Before I could take out my whip and begin the self-flagellation that I so richly deserved, destiny turned on a dime. He hooked a large catfish from the deep blue waters and began to return from whence he had left.

I couldn’t believe my luck and quickly pointed the lens back just in time to pick him up on his landing approach. I got so many great shots that the folks at National Geographic must be weeping in their igloos, jealousy eating away at their insides.

The new lens had won the day. It performed admirably and in that one shoot was worth every penny that brought it into my possession.

There were several other creatures that I shot yesterday while there, but I only have added the pics of the Osprey to this blog. You’ll find them at the end and I hope you enjoy! I certainly did.

As I drove home my mind was replaying the experience over and over as if I had just snorted a few grams of the white stuff. I was like a child who had just gotten everything he hoped for under the Christmas tree. And I couldn’t wait to open them all on the PC at home and see if they really came out that clearly in large format. That is the one downfall of digital cameras … the viewfinder is so tiny that you may think you have everything in focus, only to find out when you blow the picture up to full size on a computer screen and see that you were ever so slightly off.

But as I thought about the whole experience it dawned on me how many of life’s experiences are opportunity based and can turn on a dime if you aren’t read to seize it.

Opportunity generally doesn’t hang around very long for most of us and our timing can be critical in even witnessing it. For example, if I had immediately walked away from the pier when the Osprey left, I wouldn’t even have know that an opportunity to catch a moment was about to exist.

So, being in the right place at the right time is a major part of experiencing magic or rewarding moments in our lives.

In the majority of cases, it is pure luck. Sometimes luck is with us and sometimes it works against us. Some people are inherently lucky and others inherently unlucky. I am one of the latter group, unfortunately.

I do have many wins (don’t get me wrong) but I typically have to work very hard for them. Things rarely just happen that are good to me. But that’s OK.

Irish people are historically among the most unluckiest on the planet.

It is where the phrase “luck of the Irish” actually comes from. It was a derogatory statement that was derived from mining disaster stories of the 1800’s when the full sentence was “Any luck is better than the luck of the Irish”.

You didn’t know that, did you?

Interestingly enough, when American commercialism found a way to make money from being Irish, they used Shamrocks and Shillelaghs and four leaf clover and created this happy view of the lucky Irish.

Meanwhile Ireland went through famine that reduced the population from 8 million to 4 million, endured invasion and oppression from the English, lost generations to sustained emigration, and endured a violent civil war that pitched brother against brother. Not to mention that it lost a quarter of its country to an annexation from England.

But that’s OK. As long as no one runs away with me lucky charms, things will be fine. There is actually an old saying from within Ireland that simply states “Sure, if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”

Anyway, I digressed quite a bot there…. sorry.

The first point I was trying to make about opportunity was that you have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right moment in time. (Why couldn’t you have just left it at that, Neville?)

The second thing about opportunity is that you have to be ready and able when the opportunity strikes.

Unlike the luck element, this is the one piece that we can (generally) control.

Successful people in life are generally not just people who were in the right place at the right time, but they had the skills, the attention, or the devotion to seize that opportunity and make it work for them.

We can never position ourselves to be able to take care of every opportunity that comes our way. Some are simply out of our reach.

“Prima Ballerina just broke her ankle … quick we need someone to take her place. This is your moment, Neville!” Well, not quite because I couldn’t dance to save my life and besides, I left my tutu at home.

But opportunities that we should be able to grab onto form the basis of some of life’s biggest regrets. When we had the chance to be someone or do something and for whatever reason we found ourselves wanting or unready … those are the ones we carry to our grave.

I look back on my life and see a few that I have missed and they hurt. But for every one of those, I suspect there might be hundreds that I wasn’t even aware of. If you buy into the multiple parallel universe theory, then for every missed opportunity, there is a version of us that took the opportunity and they are living a different life than we do.

Wouldn’t it be nice though to feel that of all these lives in these universes, that you were actually following the best path? Well, that doesn’t mean you would have had to have taken all the opportunities that crossed your path, just the best ones.

Be alert, focused, and ready … the rest of this lies in the lap of the gods.

… just a thought!