Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Best Pictures I Never Took

Have you ever had one of those encounters where someone wounds you with a cutting remark, and you’re tongue-tied? You know they’re wrong, that you should be able to defend yourself, but you can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t make it worse. Then later your think of the perfect comeback? I know I have. One of the perks of writing fiction is the ability to use these moments, to rewrite life so that this time, I come out on top. And in my writing, I can capture other missed opportunities.

Photography is a long-time hobby of mine. My father taught me to use a twin-lens reflex camera with manual focus and light settings. It produced a 2 1/4 inch square negative that made developing and printing a breeze. But I missed a lot of shots trying to adjust the focus and aperture/shutter speed on that camera. Besides, the thing was huge, not something you’d carry around casually. Nowadays, the high-quality camera in my cell phone means I can snap a picture whenever something catches my interest, but I still miss some great opportunities.

Chugach Range
I once saw a double rainbow stretched across the Chugach range, but by the time I grabbed a camera, it was gone. Just imagine the photo here, but with green instead of snow and a double rainbow above it. 

One autumn night, a harvest moon had just risen above the almost bare white branches in a grove of birch trees when a raven flew by. For just an instant, the shape of the soaring bird was silhouetted against the golden moon. I still feel a shiver when I remember it.

On a corner I drive by frequently, a man sells moose planters he makes in his workshop. He usually has a half-dozen or so in various sizes displayed on his lawn. One day when I was passing, a real bull moose crossed the road in front of me and stopped to sniff one of the moose planters. Now that would have been a great photo.

There are so many others: the bumblebee on the fuchsia flower, the laughing face of a child on a sled, the glimpse of an old bridge, visible for two seconds from a busy highway. These photo ops will never come again, but it’s okay because I can use them in my writing. I can paint a picture based on what I’ve seen and share it with my readers.

Are there pictures you wish you’d taken? Things you wish you’d said? Will they end up in a story?


  1. Sometimes the pictures in our minds are the most beautiful (though I love that shot of the mountain, even with leaf-less trees and no double rainbow). Once, I was sitting in traffic at a corner on a sunny, windy summer day. The lot at the corner was empty, I was nearing 'country', and thistles were blooming everywhere, bright purple in the sunlight. Goldfinches were flying among the thistles (the Pennsylvania Dutch call them 'Distel Finks' - 'Thistle Finches' - because they love thistles). It was so beautiful, the birds wheeling and singing, the sunlight on the bright purple and brilliant golden yellow... I wished I had a camera, or could draw. But that memory has given me much enjoyment over the years.

  2. Oh, I can see it! The deep golden color of the birds contrasted against the purple flowers, ever shifting as the birds fluttered around. Lovely!