The Fleeting Moment and Lost Opportunity

November 26, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

As I was finishing my last post, I thought about how, shortly after I made both of those images of the volcanoes, the clouds moved in and the view of the peaks was gone. It reminded me of other opportunities to make images that I have lost or missed.

First, the temperamental nature of nature. I was traveling in Bolivia and we were en route to an archeological site. As we came up out of La Paz, there was an amazing view of a range of mountains, the plains, beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds, and an ancient farmhouse. There was even a turnoff where we could have stopped for me to take the photo from. It was just me, the driver, and the guide, so we could do what we wanted. However, I decided that I would ask to stop on the way back. On the way back, though, it was raining and the view was totally gone. That window of opportunity had closed.

I have a really, really hard time taking pictures of strangers in the street. I have a couple of project ideas involving street portraits, but keep delaying and delaying. But one missed image keeps coming back to me, nagging me to do something to push myself.

My wife and I were walking in the historic center of Quito. We were finishing up and heading back home, it looked like it was going to rain at any moment, and we were a bit lost. As we were hurrying down the street, up ahead I noticed a street vendor, but something caught my eye. On her cart, peeking out from under a jacket, was a little toddler's arm. Her child was with her and taking a nap there on her cart. For me, that one moment captured for me the great sacrifice she was making, trying to work her hardest to take care of that little one. I paused for a half second, then moved on, worried about how we were going to get home, and the opportunity was gone.

Life is filled with so many fleeting moments. Sometimes we like to hope the window of opportunity will remain open, patiently waiting for us to feel it is now convenient. Tomorrow would be a better time to read a book with our daughter; storytime will come again. But time marches on and kids grow up, moments pass, and doors close. That challenge that could bring growth and broaden our vision makes us just a little too uncomfortable, so we pass. The opportunity disappears, never again to reappear.

Photography, for me, is a chance to try and capture that fleeting moment, preserve it and make it last just a bit longer, so we can go back, savor it, and continue to grow and learn from it. As I reflect on these and other missed opportunities, it helps me realize that I need to seize the opportunity when it arises, whatever it may be.


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