When Daylight Saving Time ended this morning, we set our clocks back and found ourselves living one hour all over again. And it started me thinking about all the choices we make as photographers and whether we are learning from the outcomes.
You press the shutter release, and the camera clicks. It's only after that you notice the results are quite as sharp as you imagined they would be. Assuming you are photographing a willing subject that will stay still long enough, you can make the needed adjustments and try another shot. Mountains tend to be more cooperative in this regard than do antelope. Sometimes it's the lighting that changes, and it doesn't matter what your subject is. But as long as circumstances permit, you're at liberty to try again. There is a reason they make those memory cards so big, you know. Go ahead and get your money's worth.
So in at least this sense, we sometimes do get a do-over.
But many other decisions we face as photographers are harder to correct. If you predict the wildflowers will be blooming somewhere on a particular weekend and plan a trip to visit, you hope you won't be disappointed once you get there. If you have the means and the time, You could try again a week later and hope your luck takes an upturn. But logistical difficulties of all stripes prevent many aspiring photographers from even considering this option. If you burned the last of your vacation time on your first attempt, a second would likely have to wait for next year. Now we're into the same frequency as the end of Daylight Saving Time, but you have to wait for a log longer to have a do-over.
I once drove over five hours to photograph the setting sun, only to find I had left my tripod behind at home. That mistake was painful indeed. I went all the way back home to get that darned tripod, but I got the shot I wanted the next night. It was sheer stubbornness that paid off in the end. I can't claim to have gotten by just on skill when I couldn't even remember my tripod. But I can assure you that I learned my lesson that weekend. Ever since then, I double-check before I leave for a trip. I've never even close to forgetting it again, but now I'm sure.
So when you find yourself in need of a do-over, how do you handle it? While possible reactions run the gamut, two primary poles typify the ends of the spectrum. Some people dwell on the negative represented by the lost opportunity. Others welcome the chance to learn from their mistakes. I'll admit to falling somewhere in between. While I'm thankful for a second shot, I can't help kicking myself for needing to make use of it. Darn it, not again.
This Daylight Saving Time thing happens every year, yet it's so easy to forget. Some things are hard to learn, I suppose. I remember arriving at a movie theater an hour early for a matinee showing the morning after the time change one fall years ago. I was initially baffled why they weren't even open yet. Once the time finally did arrive, I was at the front of the line and got a good seat, but that was little solace for the wasted hour. That was in my youth, but I've never forgotten it.
Yet, we are our own best teachers. Others can only teach you the fundamentals and give you pointers along the way. They aren't the ones looking through the viewfinder, so at least some decisions have to remain squarely on your shoulders. As in the movie Groundhogs Day, you will likely repeat your mistakes until you learn from them. A do-over is one thing, but it's of little value unless you're learning all you can along the way.
And if, for some reason, you had forgotten to set your clocks back today, no problem. Maybe you'll remember next spring when we move clocks forward again. But for now, you have enough time to read this week's article a second time. And that doesn't sound too bad to me, at least — no charge for the pointer.