whL.slipperdI have been thinking lately about how ephemeral photography can be. Sometimes the opportunity to photgraph something is maddeningly brief and sometimes it can be joyously long. Peak fall color here in Vermont often lasts 4 to 5 days so anytime in that window and you are going to get great shots. Photographing spider webs in September in my meadows is a two to three week window so I really don’t have any excuse to not get out and blast away at some spiders. Winter landscapes in Northern New England last for months and months and months and months…excuse me, I got distracted, and there are lots of opportunities to get great winter wonderland shots.

But sometimes the window is vanishingly short. I remember when I first got to Vermont and I was working on my book, The Nature of Vermont, I discovered where I could go to photograph the incredibly sexy wildflower, showy lady slippers. It was in a bog about a hour away but I had to go on a cloudy day (misty would be perfect) when there was no wind and no other people visiting the bog (bogs quake-move- when people walk by on board walks) so I could use the  long shutter speeds necessary for lots of depth of field. Within the year that I did the book I had exactly 6 hours to get the shots I wanted. Six hours!!!! The rest of the time that year it was very very sunny and very very windy. In other words, I had a moment, just a moment to get the shot I wanted.

This is how most photography is if you think about it. For anything with a heart that is moving- kids, horses, wild animals, farmers, lobstermen, Maasai warriors, Uganda children- moments come and go but mostly they go. Everything is right for just a moment and then, pooooof!, the moment evaporates right before your eyes. More moments will come and you have a chance of catching one if you are paying attention but moments are brief and frustratingly fleeting.

We search for moments, moments when everything is right, everything is set, everything is singing. We search for moments because we know that is when magic happens. We search of moments because magic is what it is all about.  Every successful pro knows how to capture moments, in fact, she has made a career out of recognizing moments and  getting them in her camera.

Think about moments, good moments, moments when you are present, ready, able, moments that will define you as a photographer. My moments are the most precious things I know- tide pools, old-growth forests, wrens. They define me, inspire me, comfort me. They are me. Find your moments. Find them all.