Among my many other failings and flaws, I am also a big hockey fan. It’s furiously fast, sometimes hard to follow, comes with hotdogs and beer and bursts of mayhem, and the occasional outbreak of fisticuffs. What’s not to love? And it has given us a quote that I conjure back up in my head almost every day, from the incomparable Wayne Gretzky: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I get it.
Back when I was shooting film, especially 4x5 and 8x10, I was a lot more selective in my photographic decision-making. Sheet film was darn expensive for a kid making his living in the studio, but that’s not how it all began. Every week, for years, I’d bulk-roll hundreds of feet of 35mm film, Tri-X and Ecktachrome mainly, and shot so many pictures I thought my little Nikkormat would start smoking. The goal was obviously not to produce masterpieces for the museums, but to practice, process, and learn how to be selective when the time came.
What brings this all up is a casual statement made in passing by a young colleague. An excellent photographer in her own right, I was editing some of her photos. They were lovely, but she mentioned how there were some others that she might have taken (sunsets out on the coast) but didn’t, as she wasn’t sure they would look ok. Well, shoot. Now we’ll never know.
Les Petites Ballerines 2018
No, mis amis, go get those shots. You’re not paying a buck a sheet to make an exposure, it’s digital and it’s free. A friend asked me a while back if I ever took a bad photo, and I answered, all the time, but I have since come to re-evaluate even that. I don’t honestly know what a bad photo is, but I know when I’m unsuccessful, when I didn’t capture what I thought I saw, and yes, that happens all the time. Look, shoot, evaluate, learn, celebrate, curse, repeat. It takes a lifetime, and then some.
Be like Gretzky, says I, and take the shot. The more this becomes your daily mantra, your zen, the more those moments become apparent to you. You can always delete a shot that didn’t work out the way you wanted, but you can never go back and re-create those moments you passed up. Who knows what you might have discovered? Maybe nothing. Maybe something truly fine.
As for me, I’m grabbing a hotdog and a beer and a seat at center ice.