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.



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