Happy Accidents

As I’ve stated numerous times before, I am a rank amateur when it comes to the technical aspects of photography.  My ineptitude concerning ISO, aperture, and shutter speed (and lots of other technical terms that scare the heck out of me) has frustrated my creativity on numerous occasions.  This frustration has propelled me toward taking a photography course sometime this year.

Needless to say, I make more than my share of mistakes.  The bloopers are usually deleted without a second thought.  Occasionally, though, a “mistake” steals my heart because it captures an aspect of the moment better than I ever could by doing everything “right”.  I thought I’d share some of my happy accidents and the reasons why these shots ended up in the keeper file instead of the trash bin.



The first two photos were taken in the Penguin building at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida.  Conditions for photography were dismal – dark room, moving sidewalk, exhibit behind glass, penguins swimming at the speed of light.  Not expecting any shots worth keeping, I still felt compelled to give it a try.  I wasn’t able to acquire one clear image.  Instead, I ended up with two interesting abstract compositions that aren’t so much about cute little birds in tuxedos as they are a representation of movement and speed in rich, vibrant colors.



I live less than an hour from Hershey Park, a popular amusement park located in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Almost every summer we spend a day there, enjoying the thrills from park opening to closing.  The Scrambler is usually our last hurrah before we head home.  It’s a fast, spinning ride that creates incredible centrifugal force.  The person in the outer position in each car gets crushed, so copious amounts of laughter and screaming always accompany the ride.  It’s as much fun to watch as it is to take a spin.

By normal standards, the two photos above are sub-par. They are too dark and very blurry.  Why do I love them?  Because they perfectly capture the speed and energy of the ride and the emotions of my daughter and niece.  If I had to choose, I’d pick the second shot because there is less artifact, but the expression on my niece’s face in the first one is priceless.  I’ll be keeping both images.  Every time I look at them, I’m instantly transported back to that night and I have to smile.


This photo was taken while we hiked the Shades of Death trail at Hickory Run State Park one hot and humid afternoon.  Poor light quality and the fact that I was walking when I snapped the shot helped to create the painterly, Impressionistic quality of this photograph.  I absolutely love it!  (In a million years I would not have been able to purposely make this happen.)


Everything about this photo is wrong.  The orange coloring, the candlelight reflected on the lens, blah, blah, blah.  But somehow I still managed to so completely capture the spirit of my daughter on her 15th birthday that all the technical no-nos don’t even matter.  The smile, the crinkled nose, the position of her hands – everything is unposed and natural.  Can you hear her laughter?  I thought so.  This is definitely a keeper.


This last image is my most recent mistake and the impetus for this post.  It was taken inside the historic Desert View Tower at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  I fell in love with the building, both inside and out, and took copious amounts of photos.  On the way down the stairs to the first floor, I attempted to take a photo of my sons. The stairway was very poorly lit and I could tell right away the shutter was going to stay open too long for a crisp image.  In resignation, I pulled the camera away from my face before the shutter closed.  Look what I got – a circular blur!  It looks like the boys are traveling through a time warp.  It’s a very cool effect that, once again, I’m not sure I could have produced if I’d intentionally tried it.

Photography has always held an element of uncertainty and even a bit of magic for me.  I never know exactly what I’m going to get when I finally press that shutter release button (is that what it’s called?) and I like it that way.  Wonderful accidents pop up now and then that surprise and delight me.  Hopefully, the camera magic that I trifle with now will only become deeper and stronger as I gain a better understanding of the technical aspects of taking photographs.  I’m looking forward to the learning process, the new discoveries, and the many “mistakes” that are sure to appear along the way.

Do you have any favorite photographic mistakes you’d like to share?  I would love to see them!

A Small Happiness (or two)

I’ve been taking advantage of the slower pace of summer to do some de-cluttering.  While I was sifting through a stack of outdated magazines, I came across this question in the January 2011 issue (yes, things have really piled up around here) of Real Simple:

What is one small thing that always makes you happy?

I love questions like this because they force me to be mindful of even the wee things that impact my life and emotions.  Today, my hydrangea bushes are my little source of happiness.  I currently have four plants which are in various stages of bloom: one mophead (full bloom), two lacecaps (just beginning), and one PeeGee (not yet).  This morning I indulged in a second small happiness by taking some photos of the beauties.

Happiness is not a station you arrive at,

 but a manner of traveling.

Margaret Lee Runbeck