#658. Carpe photo … or regret it !

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Oct 20

I blame Netflix. My attention was so focused on the latest developments of one of my favourite character’s life that it was only at the end of the episode that the red blaze of bright ruby sun rays lighting up the hills and cloud underbellies just outside my window became jaw-dropping-ly obvious.

Springing from the settee like a starving ocelot pouncing on the first juicy prey in weeks produced two things:

  • A really pissed look from a sleepy cat after an uninvited flying lesson.
  • Snide remarks from then resident teen

It took me no more than 15 seconds from sitting to shooting (via sprinting up dangerous metal stairs, switching on the Sony, removing the Otus 85’s front lid and framing. Battery full, card empty, so atypical of happy-go-lucky me). Still too late.


A blazing ray of evening sunlight on a provence hill. Sony A7rII and Zeiss Otus 85/1.4

Close but no cigar


This shabby rendering of one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen, in fifteen of looking through those window at those hills, may evoke The remains of the day, but certainly not the startling King Crimson Epitath visible just three warbler trills earlier. Bugger.


Which brings three thoughts to mind.


First among which is deep respect for those who do manage to be there when things get spectacular. Highest on my list is Galen Rowell. The Marathonian slash visionary artist slash master of the craft wrote an interesting article on a similar topic: Expect the unexpected. Before his death in a small plane accident, he would spare no effort to get the shot he had imagined. Among the most iconic of those is his portrayal of the Potala Palace, for which he sprinted a mile at an altitude of 13 000 feet. Galen cites this proverb from the Old Testament, which is central to my personal and professional life : “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. He and others have the ability and will power to apply this to their photography. Kudos.



Secondly, grab things while you can.


This poppy field was taken in the afternoon, with the sun setting behind my back. In the morning, backlit, it was a riot of colour and contrast that this completely fails to convey. I drove pas it in the morning and could have chosen to go back home and pick up the camera for a quick shoot but didn’t return until the evening. No cigar and not even close. The next day, all had been mown down.




This photo by Philippe shows the exact opposite. It depicts street art painted on paper. A few days later the paper had been torn off and the art was partly gone. Another good reason not to hesitate to photograph someone else’s art, particularly ephemeral art.



(c) Philber


Thirdly, make the most of your immediate environment.

The local guy always wins. That’s what this blog is about. Travel photography puts you at an unfair advantage. You deal with available light, available sight, available time. Visiting a location alone with the sole purpose of returning to a set of pre-scouted locations again and again isn’t travel photography. It’s a photographic trip. Travel photography is about visiting places and documenting what you encounter. This blog tries to awaken creativity and share tools and techniques for doing a good job of that challenge.



But the local guy always wins. Being local means you get to view a scene hundreds of times, under different lights, different cloud formations, different seasons. It’s your opportunity (and your duty 😉 ) to create photographs of these events in a way that not available to others (except for the occasional fluke).



Our world changes faster than we think. I’ve been putting off a photo tour of the 16 old fountains of my village. Never enough time. Last week, one got taken down. I’ll never complete that project. So, don’t be like me 😉 Carpe photo, or you’ll regret it ! Right ?

What stuff have you photograph that’s no longer there to be seen, or failed to photograph in time ?


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  • Fabrizio Giudici says:

    Still too late.

    Yeah, I know what you mean. It happened lots of times!

    The next day, all had been mown down.

    One of my favourite subjects are lonely trees. Once I saw a very good one, in very good light, and it was not early morning or late afternoon – I mean, the good light was to stay for a while. I had other primary subjects in mind to go first, the tree was just along the road. I said to myself: what could happen in half an hour? I’ll do it on the return route.

    Well, it might happen that some farmers arrive and start working the grassfield just near the tree, where they park their car. And looks like they will work for some hours, because you wait for another half an hour and they don’t leave.

    Anyway… the tree is still there, right? And it’s a place not far from home, where I can return often. Next time will be good. Good light is not always sure, but I repeat that it was sort of normal light, that you get in a certain season easily, if the sky is not overcast. I can redo in a few weeks.

    A few weeks later the lonely tree was gone. Or, better: it was still there, but no more lonely: they planted a vineyard all around (sure the vine plants weren’t already there, but they had prepared all the infrastructure, poles and wires, you know).

    Other times it happened that a lonely tree was cut, or destroyed by a lightning.

    Absolutely: carpe photographiam!

    • pascaljappy says:

      You should write novels. All along I was thinking to myself “oh no, they didn’t cut that tree !!!!” 😉 But, yeah, from a photographic point of view, it was lost all the same. We often don’t realise the importance of things until they have gone.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Fabrizio, that takes me right back 65 years to the day I took my first photo. It was a lone tree – one I could see from the back door of our house, one that I had admired and loved since I was a little kid, and the one thing I want to photograph, more than anything else in the world, when I was given a second hand Kodak Box Brownie for my 10th birthday. I’ve long since lost the photo, but I can still see that black and white image, in my mind’s eye. 🙂

      • Fabrizio Giudici says:

        Well, if you talk about something that you’ve been fond of since the youthhood… Near the road where I’ve always lived (*) there are two monumental wisterias. The former is 30/40 meters long, following the railing of a garden; the latter is covering several square meters on a large wall.

        So far I’ve been never able to take a photo of them (even though I’ve shot a number of other wisteria plants). The same vanishing fate seemed to apply to the latter one (the one on the wall) as, because of some maintenance, it was completely destroyed. Fortunately they didn’t eradicate it, and a few years later it was there again (also a few weeks ago it has been destroyed again, but I do hope for the future).

        Sooner or later, I’ll have a shot of them.

        (*) I actually lived also in a different tow for business reasons, and something it happens again, but this doesn’t change things.

  • philberphoto says:

    This is so, so right! The only good camera (no, it is not a dead camera!) is the one you have with you, loaded with full battery and not-full card (so much better than the opposite, just sayin’).
    Life is full of minor magical moments, and cameras can capture them for sharing ans safekeeping.
    You are so, so right!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Not sure whether this is real or spam. Sounds so much like an ad for a Smartphone 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 (sorry)

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Have you been looking over my shoulder, Pascal? This article says precisely why:
        1 – I don’t care which camera it is – I almost never leave the house without one
        2 – I run multiple projects at any given time. Like the seemingly endless series of shots looking down my street towards the harbour, mostly taken from the same spot on the footpath, and with differing times or seasons, the variations in lighting and colour are quite incredible. Or the series of closeups of tree bark (nature is also amazing in its endless variety).
        3 – And yes you’re right – as a local, I CAN choose my timing. One of the heartaches of travel shots, as a tourist, is that the lighting is whatever you cop when you are there, and it’s not much help if you can only be there at the wrong time of day – but at least that’s one problem that the locals don’t have.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        And just for that – you are hereby sentenced to taking a selfie – on a selfie stick! – “sorry” is a word used mainly by people who are simply sorry that they have been caught in the act!
        Speaking of selfies – I just found out that the first use of that word was made here in Australia, about 15 years ago, by a young guy who got drunk at a mate’s 21st birthday party, fell flat on his face on a concrete floor, resulting in a quick trip to hospital for stitches to his lower lip (his teeth apparently went through the lip, in the fall), and on emerging from hospital he took a photo of the mess on his chin & posted it on the net – calling it a “selfie”. At least, that’s the “official” explanation of the etymology of the word – vouched for by Britain’s Oxford English Dictionary. There – a major contribution to the development of photography, from the upside down continent on the other side of the world !!! 🙂

        • pascaljappy says:

          So you are finally admitting that this whole debacle is your fault !!! Aussies account for 0.001% of the world’s population but single-handedly broke photography for the rest of the ages. Oh my word !

          For your penance, you’ll have to send us a selection fo these harbour shots taken throughout the seasons. That sounds like a lovely project indeed !

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            Even worse – I have finally decided to “photoshop” a photo – and to make it REALLY bad, it’s a photo of one of Rodin’s sculptures. I removed the post that holds it in mid-air, so that the sculpture DOES show an athlete jumping (hurdling?), flying through the air. It looked too peculiar with a square pole stuck underneath it, holding it there. Bizarre & uncomfortable! So I “went” it! 🙂

            And armed with that success, I’ve decided to take the advice of one of my friends and do what she suggested, to one of those photos down this street. Put a soft blur over everything in the frame, except the two ladies crossing the street in the rain, in front of the camera.

            Wild times !!! I wonder what our mentor, Susan Sontag, would have to say about this kind of behaviour! 🙂

  • NMc says:

    Is that a melancholic tone in your writing?
    I had a vaguely similar sunset experience this week only was too far from home for a ‘good’ camera, or from a location with a view with a nice silhouette or foreground for a decent photo. I also realised why it was so attention grabbing, it was so magenta in parts that a true realistic capture would look quite fake and over processed. So I just decided to just give myself a moment to appreciate the quirky lighting with even distribution of unusually small clouds.

    Perhaps, with the benefit of hind-sight, you should have simply just enjoyed the transient moments of that sunset. Like you say about the difference between travel photography and a photo trip, perhaps the local should only photograph when it enhances their appreciation of the environment, and not detract from enjoying the magic moments.
    Regards Noel

  • pascaljappy says:

    Hi Noel,

    all of this is very true. As it happens, this is a draft I started before last summer of, for some unknow reason, never finished. So I did and published it. The fact is that I had completely forgotten about that sunset until I read the draft of this article. So, the balance between capturing moments and enjoying them is really a very fine line and I don’t have an answer. It’s a very personal thing and someone like Philippe is always ready. He never goes anywhere, any time, without his gear. Whereas I have to be in “the mood” to make photographs and, some other times, I just prefer to take in the sight. No answer, then, but interesting question 🙂


  • Adrian says:

    I had arranged a photo shoot with a Singaporean physique model, and was scouting for locations. We had tentatively agreed a skate park, so I went to look around the night before, finding camera view points and places for the “talent” that I liked. There was a particularly interesting piece of graffiti of an owl, which I took some snaps of. When we went back the following evening, it had been painted over with something new and much less interesting.

    So I agree with your sentiments Pascal. Sometimes even with planning things don’t work out, and in some ways I find highly organised photography can sometimes rob the process of spontaneity (in some ways related to the tyranny of “destination photography”). There can be an energy to seizing the moment and being forced to find a way to make a time and a place work.

  • Steffen says:

    I was photographing in an abandoned house that I trusty passed for some time. One week after, it was demolished.

    However, I’m not carrying my camera always with me. I’m fine with just letting go. The best memories are in my mind. There’s no need to photograph every single beauty I ever see. I was having a camera on me but stopped it after some days. It put such a pressure on me, always on the look-out, always to bring something home, always to stop what I was doing right away and snap. More stressful than relieving.

    So I pass these places that inspire me and always say “One day I’ll get back with a camera” and I make notes. Some of them I pass regularly and I notice how they change over/during time.

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