A LUCKY SHOT??? More often than not……… IT’S NOT!!!

Content and images are all ©Jack Graham . All rights reserved.

All images made using Nikon D700 and Nikon Lenses

Over the years,  I hear comments from both photographers and non photographers  alike .. ” Wow you really got lucky with that light”  OR  “You really were lucky to be there at that time” etc. 

Don’t talk to me about luck… I don’t believe in it. More often than not, it’s the photographer knowing the potential of an opportunity that makes for a great image rather than just than plain luck


Those of you that know me know I believe in lots of a preparation. I learned a long time ago, that preparation and previsulation are essential for making quality images.

There are two things that I would challenge my fellow photographers on,  for both amateur and pro’s to think about.  Let’s take  our 10 VERY best images we have ever made…… and really think about two things:

1)  Virtually none  of these 10 images were probably lucky ones. You might have thought they were, but if you really think about where you were, and why, you might discover you really were there as a result of being prepared, not by being lucky. They were great images,  most likely due to knowing what the potential of a scene could be based on weather conditions, time of year, time of day, place of the subject etc.   and…

2) I pretty much know the time that the shutter was depresses, and for that minute or so  afterwards  this image either has the potential to be great image or that in fact that this IS a great image. In other words, you pretty much know you nailed the shot when you make it. Agree?  Think about it.

I’ll give you 2 examples. One year ago last spring, I was driving back from the Palouse and I was tired… really tired. Coming though the Columbia River Gorge heading home the light was something to behold. I was driving though heavy rain one minute, and sun the next. Puffy white cumulus clouds were in the sky, it was late in the day and the angle of the light was really low, making for some nice warm light. I called home and told my wife I would be late since the light had the potential to yield some good images. I drove to a location I had scouted and waited.  It poured rain as I stood there with my rain gear on and plastic cover over my equipment. Then all of a sudden a rainbow appeared over the pond about 50 yards in front of me.

Luck? well maybe, but I knew where I wanted to be, I knew the light and weather conditions had the potential to yield something special, and it did. LAORCRG_BENSON-0805_5528

Recently its been really hot here in Portland area. Its was 107 two days ago. As early as last  Saturday, I knew this weather pattern had the potential to move the marine layer far out into the ocean, offering the possibility of a great sunset out at Cannon Beach. I figured that  Monday night or Tuesday night was the time. Wednesday might have been OK but it looked like the weather pattern couldn’t guarantee me the good sunset, so I choose Tuesday. I told this to a fellow photographer and we headed out Tuesday afternoon. ( I always check the visible satellite image on the Internet, and sure enough no marine layer.) We got there in bright sunlight and waited until sunset. 20090728-LAORCSTCB20_090728_4019We were at the right place, had everything ready (equipment wise) and then it happened…. the sunset I expected.  We were still making images in fantastic light almost 40 minutes after the sun disappeared below the horizon! I could have used a few scattered clouds, but it was fantastic anyhow. We were not lucky to be there in this great light. I know the potential and I was right.  …. and by the way.. Wednesday night was overcast with NO SUNSET at the beach, just as I surmised.

Sometimes the light, doesn’t happen even with all the preparation etc. ( more often than not), but luck had no part in that. Good photographs are not due to luck. You have to make them happen!



About a month ago I was doing an individual workshop for a few days at Glacier National Park in Montana. After watching the weather, I sensed that the cloud buildup on the eastern slope of the park would probably give us some dramatic clouds over St Mary’s Lake. LANP_GNP_StMaryLk1_0907_3513BW So we got into my vehicle and drove over Logan Pass to a spot overlooking St Mary’s Lake.


As I thought the clouds were amazing. This was NOT a lucky shot.





Two nights later we were staying on Swiftcurrent Lake. The weather changed and it  became cold & windy (after 2 days of hot weather).  There were heavy rainstorms during the afternoon. Light after storms can be special, and it certainly was. After shooting a pretty good sunset the night before,LANP_GNP_MtWilber3_0907_3815

I knew sunrise could be a special one as well…. and it truly was.   Lucky? Not really. 


So next time someone tells you you you were lucky to get that shot… ask yourself were you????………..I bet you weren’t.



Great American Photography Workshop Images 2009/Columbia River Gorge

©Jack Graham

I am privileged to do a few workshops with the folks at the Great American Photography Weekend. ( www.gaphotoworks.com )  this organization, founded a number of years ago by Bill Fortney (www.billfortney.net)  The GAPW is one of the premier photography workshop organizations around. In many respects Bill and the GAPW pioneered the photography workshop concept way back when.

This year’s event in the Columbia River Gorge was one of the best workshops I’ve done in the area due mainly to the weather and the great group that was here.  We had 2 magnificent sunrises and all decent light. May and early June was prime time for the wildflowers along with  lots of water coming over the falls and in the many streams that are plentiful here in Oregon in the spring.

I think that the images found below reflect the great conditions and the overall quality of results by the attendees.

Look for me to do another workshop here in the Columbia River Gorge in the spring as well as a Macro & More workshop with Mike Moats in the Smokies in April 2010 for the GAPW folks. It’s a real pleasure working with them. Details are to be forthcoming real soon.

Enjoy the images!



0905_MFA_Oregon_CRG_004_aaaGorge Sunrise

©Mary Andrade









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2nd Gorge Sunrise

©Peter Andrade








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                                                                           Poppy field  © Ted keller





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Bridleveil Creek   © Ted keller





                                                      Western Columbine  ©Mary Andrade




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Mexican Poppys  © Peter Andrade


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Latourell Falls  © Ted Keller


Day 2 scouting included time spent on the east side of the park. Much less rainfall occurs on the east side. The east side has a different feel to it. It is certainly much loss crowded and offers some great hiking and scenery. I am really thinking about getting back here when the aspens are at peak fall color. It must be something. Today, one day prior to the start of my workshop will be spent from Logan pass west. There is a chance for thunderstorms today so I am hoping for some good light later in the day. Yesterday was cool. When I arrived into East Glacier, it was 59 degrees. I don’t think I saw 70 degrees at all yesterday. The next few days should be warmer.

I am also testing out a clip on insect(Mosquito) repellent. It  run by batteries and has a fan in it that expels an orderless repellent.  I think its about $10.00-12.00 at Walgreen’s and refills are between $1-2.00 each. You get 12 hrs or so per refill. So far I have had NOT ONE bite while having it clipped on my belt, and I have been in really bad mosquito areas. NOT ONE BITE!. For me that’s amazing.

All of these were shot with my Nikon D700. One of the Mt. Goat images was made with my D200 using a Nikon300mm F4 lens.  By using the D200 allowed me to increase the focal length to450mm!

Also remember these images were processed using this laptop, so they might not be at 100%!!

Anyhow, here are some images from yesterday. It was another good day in paradise.

I am changing hotels tonight and I am not sure on Internet availability, but check back tomorrow for more images.


Sunset wasnt great last night, but even an average sunset here is pretty amazing.sunset1


medicineriverMedicine River, close to Two Medicine Lakes

Fires occur quite often here. This fire on the east side occurred a few years ago and covered huge areas. However, things are coming back plant life is abundant. I shot this  in color, then changed it to inferred. What do you think?











I managed to see more Mt Goats. They are no in the best shape, coat wise this time of year, but they sure can maneuver in the snowy mountainsides.














This pond is know to be frequented by a Moose. The past two night this little black tail deer was there eating dinner. This is one area that the new mosquito device worked really well.pond1
































Aspen, wildflowers…..  its amazing how in 2 days of warm weather have made the wildflowers appear in amazing beauty.

This is Lunch Falls, just east of Logan Pass

lunch Falls