You want to know the secret to getting a lucky shot? The absolute holy grail of photographer knowledge, seemingly eluding would-be artists throughout the century and a half that photography has been around? Don't worry, we're in the same boat. No matter how hard anyone tries, there just isn't a perfect formula for capturing the perfect picture. Some people prefer the "take photos sparingly" method, wherein the massive storage capacities of digital photography are ignored in lieu of a nostalgic idea that taking fewer frames forces one to focus more on form and content. Others just snap away like hell until their card is full. At the Ron Paul event at UCSD this past Friday night, I was definitely in the latter camp.
Regardless of the fact that I was a pretty decent distance from his vehicle, and that I had to hold up my camera with its massive lens high above the crowd to even avoid getting an obscured shot, Ron Paul just happened to glance at my camera during the exact moment that I pressed the shutter button. And glance might be an understatement. At full size, it's clear that Ron Paul's face has some motion blur on it, a function of the fact that he wasn't posing for my camera in the least bit. Still, regardless of his or my intention at this specific moment in time, the outcome is a one-in-a-million photograph that I can add to my collection.
The rarity of such a photograph is also interesting in the context of the current age of digital communication that we live in. Nowadays, with the prevalence of smartphones and easy-to-use pocketable cameras, few people travel about without a camera on their person. Did Ron Paul catch a glance at me because my lens stuck out like a sore thumb in the crowd of cameraphones? Or was it a fluke of nature, a "right place at the right time" sort of deal? I'm not sure. And I'm not sure if there's any way to ever be sure. Herein lies the difficulty in giving any sort of advice about capturing the perfect "lucky shot"--it's all about luck, plain and simple. There are things you can do to improve your odds at capturing a great photograph, like equipping yourself with the proper gear, or attending events where you'll have a chance to take interesting photos, but anything more is often out of your control. The best weapon at your disposal is your own will to get out there and take photos. Now that cameras have become so commonplace, however, it seems somewhat odd that so many "non-photographers" are willing to go out and take photographs everywhere they go, whereas many photographers find it much easier to stay at home and hoard over their gear (myself included, more often than not).
If this is the case, then what's the point of spending the entire rally holding your cell phone high in the air to record a speech given by a public figure that you know full-well will be available online by the time you get home? Well, there's no easy answer. Everyone has their own motivations, and whether or not they can articulate or pinpoint their specific intent is irrelevant. In my own case, the reason I spent the entire rally holding up a heavy camera (and taking over six hundred photos in the process) was a blatant desire to capture a shot that I could add to my portfolio. For others in the crowd, photographs might serve a communicative purpose, wherein an individual might snap a photograph on a phone and tweet it out moments later. Still, for many individuals, the reason to capture an event already inundated with cameras comes down to memory. A photograph can act as a marker, a personal statement saying "I was there." Even if this photo is never printed or shared, and merely lives in a virtual album on the user's mobile phone, it still serves as a bookmark of sorts. It is a folded page in the annals of one's own narrative, another stamp in the passport of life.