August 25, 2011
A Magic Moment
There is a story I would like to share with you. It is excerpt from a story told by Thom Brown about a trip in Africa he did with Galen Roswell, one of the greatest photographers of all time.
by Thom Brown
"I remember a time in Africa 12 years ago when, on the way back from an exhausting day's worth of shooting in Botswana (I seem to remember chasing a monitor lizard at one point), my late mentor and noted adventure photographer Galen Rowell suddenly woke from a car nap and started yelling at the driver to stop.
While I noted the big orange ball of sun in front of us nearing the horizon, I looked around excitedly for the exotic animal that Galen must have spotted. For Galen to be so emphatic, it must be something great. Cheetah, perhaps? Black Rhino? What? Where was it? What was it doing? Could we get whatever it was against the sunset?
Galen frantically dug through his gear and pulled out a body, lens, and tripod, walked a short distance from the vehicle and started shooting...nothing but the sunset. Now, to put this into perspective, we were in a rather non-descript area a long way from any of the small villages, we were on an ugly dirt road lined with trees that had seen better days, and there wasn't an animal in sight. The locale was so awful photo-safari-wise, that out of 14 photographers, Galen and I were the only ones who pulled out our equipment and got out of the vehicles looking for a shot, despite the brilliant ball of orange in front of us.
Just as I got my camera framed on the sun setting exactly between two trees down the road, along came a jeep, coming right out of the sun and throwing up dust to make a dramatic silouette that lasted all of about three seconds. I got off a shot, then ran into the field and found a termite mound to frame against the setting sun. Another decent shot.
As Galen and I walked back to the vehicles in the fast-gathering dusk, I asked him "why the urgency?" Galen looked at me and replied "You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either."
He pointed out that I now had a shot that none of the others in the group had, and that I wouldn't have that shot if I just sat in the vehicle and watched the sundown show. He went on to give me some advice: "Most of my best sunrise or sunset shots were taken because I planned to be there. Sometimes I had to go back multiple times to get the shot, sometimes I just happened to see a cloud and knew where I needed to be when the light changed. But even if you don't have a plan, there's always serendipity. Look around and find the thing that stands out, couple that with some photographic skill and a little physical ability, and almost every sunset can provide you something to shoot."
I share this story with you because there is a very powerful message inside that most people miss when reading it for the first time.
"You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either."
It is yet another example of us taking control of our purpose. You can see immediately that shooting sunrises and sunsets are one of Galen's largest passions. Because of that he makes sure he never misses an opportunity to experience either. He does this because he knows his days are not infinite.
This is a very powerful realization; knowing our days are limited. We have ad naseum in the past about how most of us like to stay ignorant and naive to our mortality and go about our lives as if they will go on infinitely. We all know deep down this isn't the case though. As we have discussed in the past it is essential for us to embrace our mortality so that we may live our lives like Galen; never missing a moment that truly makes us happy.