Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Luck Equation

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.  It’s an old catch phrase that most people have heard, and one that I’ve used before when talking about photography.  I like to call it the Luck Equation.  Having been asked more than once about one of my more successful shots from a recent trip to Texas, I can’t help but invoke that catch phrase once more.  You see, with much of the travel-style photography I do, I put myself in places and explore the surroundings and simply wait to be affected by what I see..affected in ways that make me curious, excited, inspired, or some other emotion that compels me to create a photograph. 

Such was the case as I drove across the Roy B. Inks Bridge in Llano, Texas.  I’ve always thought bridges were beautiful and captivating, but as a Civil Engineer that appreciation is even more compelling.  I knew that I wanted to pull over and explore this old bridge’s beauty.  It was on a plaque posted at one end that I learned that it was named for a former mayor of Llano and built in 1936. It replaced an earlier 1892 truss bridge that was swept away by a 42-foot flood crest in 1935. The Inks Bridge was designed in late 1935 and is composed of four 200-ft Parker Truss spans and was opened to traffic in 1936. The bridge features the original west side pedestrian walkway with lattice railings and all-riveted construction typical of the 1930s. In 2006, a new, wider pedestrian walkway was added to the east side in conjunction with a bridge rehabilitation project.

Well, it was that pedestrian walkway that was to lead me from my initial views of the incredible falls on the Llano River to an even closer view of that cascading spectacle from its center.  The music of the crashing water complemented the visual drama making for one of those truly inspiration moments.  Taking it all in, it was from the center of the bridge that I first spotted the Great Blue Heron.  I’ve seen plenty of them in the Southern California’s coastal marshlands near my home, but was surprised to see one in the middle of Texas Hill Country.  I’ve observed these birds before and have a sense of their behavior.  You have to be patient if you want to see them move because when they’re not hunting, they‘re likely to stand in one place for an hour.

This of course is my opportunity…one half of the Luck Equation.  As I’m enjoying the falls and taking additional pictures, I being thinking about and making Preparation, the second half of the Luck Equation.  Preparation for the inevitable repositioning flight of the heron caused me to ensure I had a fast shutter speed (I had been using a slow shutter speed to give the falls that creamy dreamy look you often see in photographs).  I also needed to ensure that I had my focus mode and focus settings right so that if, or when, the heron took off, I’d be all set.  So as luck would have it, the equation was complete.

I saw the heron begin to move, spread its wings and begin to take off.  I was ready for this and began taking multiple photos of its flight.  Of course I have no control over where it flies, but I do have control over my ability to capture that flight’s drama with appropriate exposure and sharpness.  It was only when I reviewed back my images, and really, when I saw them on my computer’s large monitor that I realized more fully what I had captured.  Among the nearly dozen shots I had taken, one of them showed the heron flying directly in front of a particularly interesting section of the falls.  Not only did I have nice large boulders and rock in the frame, but the heron itself with its dark grayish blue colors was set off by the brilliant white of the rushing water. 

The Luck Equation’s reward had been calculated in my favor…. 

If you practice and are active with something, in any endeavor, you improve your chances for luck happening to you.  Please check out some of the other Texas Hill Country photos on my website gallery ( and see if you can spot any more evidence of luck.  If you do, I’d love to hear from you--

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