Remove ego before photographing. This photo is nice, but it’s not the one I wanted. Why fuss and fret when you can’t catch the drop as it falls through the air as you wish? Turn away, let go of your intention, and there it will be.
To awaken to a morning where ice coats the world—and nothing is damaged, nor do you need to travel—is truly a creative gift. I put aside other activities to photograph this rare opportunity in my own yard, and possibly drive around later for more photos. But it was dark, too dark to enliven the ice to its magical translucent quality, and already the air was warming so it had lost its perfect glassy reflectance. And I didn’t really want to run around and photograph ice this morning. I really didn’t feel like driving around or walking the trail looking for photos, I had other plans I’d been looking forward to. I’d photographed an ice storm almost every year for the past ten years, and I really didn’t feel I had anything new to say with an ice storm this morning.
But as I filled the bird feeders I decided I could find some interesting close-up photos of tiny icicles, ice coating a patterned basket, and possibly those little twirlies from the grapevines growing on the pussy willow branches completely encased in ice, and I didn’t even have to go outdoors—I could just open the windows and use my telephoto lens for those photos. This would take a few minutes and I could go on with my morning as planned.
I worked my way around the windows and did get some nice photos, ending up at the second-floor window in the bathroom where the ice coated the grapevines and pussy willow buds. I photographed those, and then saw one long graceful branch arching over, steadily, slowly releasing a drip of melted ice water. I love drips and droplets. I’ve photographed plenty of those as well, also from this very window, but today I wanted something different, to make all the effort worth it—I wanted the drop just after it had released from the end of the branch and was falling through the air.
I could do this, no problem. I watched its pattern, set my camera settings, steadied it against the window frame, focused, and waited, and snapped. No luck, just a fat drop. Photographed again, three shots in quick succession. Fat drop, two wet branches. Moved a bit so my finger had easier access to the shutter button, began photographing just to set the pattern before the drop was even ready to fall. Drop increasing size through four or five frames, then three wet branches.
Easy, right? There were more tries, and I was tired and cramped and getting cranky and feeling bad I’d not only wasted my time but lost the momentum for the project I’d wanted to begin first thing and felt unfocused. I looked back at the early shot of the elongated drop and knew I really, really liked that shot, the only thing keeping me from liking it completely was my will to get the shot I probably could not get without a ton of luck using the camera I was using. I let go of all the angst and decided I’d gotten a really nice shot, and I’d share it today, and I had actually enjoyed those moments of deep focus, fine tuning my creative senses for the day.
But I’d had the luck to get the elongated drop, and what if I’d hit the shutter just a portion of a second later totally by chance? That could happen too. I was overplanning this, too confident, wanting the bend the force of light and time and weather and gravity and physics and shutter speeds to my will. I decided I’d try once more without all the pomp and circumstance and ego, knowing I should be able to get this shot. I wuld just leave it up to chance, which was how I got most of my favorite shots. They are gifts, not highly planned projects. I checked my camera settings, turned around, manually focused on the drop just in time, hit the shutter four times and got my precious photo. My day was restored.
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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.