As a rule, I’m not a very optimistic person. I get discouraged very easily, sometimes to borderline depressing levels. As a method of survival, I’ve adopted the “if I’m pessimistic and things go right it’s a bonus and if things go bad I at least expected it” mentality to going about life. It’s not a very good default position, but it keeps me from the paralytic grip of disappointment. Such is the way of self preservation in a world where I set high expectations I cannot possibly meet and failure is a given. I’m the bad kind of perfectionist where if it isn’t 100% perfect the first time I don’t keep on trying until it IS perfect, but give up and assume I can never do it. Fingers are crossed I can change this about myself. Is that possible? I dunno. Maybe I’ll find out, but if yesterday was an example of what I have to look forward to things get bleak.
Last week I was thinking how I’d never gotten up early to photograph a sunrise. I’ve just never done it. My routine involves the pug getting me up early to go for a walk and after I get back I crash on the futon or under the kotatsu. To further my efforts to just stop talking about it and start getting it done, I scheduled a week in advance a day to go out and do just this. I can’t do this during the week because of work. On Saturdays I have the Farmer’s Market very early in the morning. This leaves me with Sunday. So it was decided by my availability that Sunday was the only day I could do this. And I did. Sort of.
Got up early. Kept quiet so the pug didn’t wake up. Gathered my gear and snuck out the door to find…rain. Wonderful. At this point I usually say to myself, “plans ruined. Not worth trying. Go back to bed.” No. I’m on a mission this year, right? I’ve set out to prove I can just DO IT, yes? So I go. In the rain. Walking to the park to the top of the hill overlooking vast swathes of Baltimore. Well it’s raining. That’s fine. I have my gear. Tripod went up, and so did a light stand, umbrella mount and bounce umbrella pointed straight up to cover the camera from the rain (setup shot). Camera up. Now I wait. For what, I had no idea.
Typically, if I’d hadn’t gone back to bed instead, I’d have gotten to the park, seen the clouds and went straight back home, cursing the entire time. Nope. Not this time. This is a NEW me. Yep. So I stood in the rain, staring out into the horizon for the clouds to break, or a nice clear patch in just the right spot to rise up and show some light, some color, maybe create this glamorous floodlight patch of awe in the sky. Remained optimistic. Entirely unlike I’d normally act. So what happens? Nothing. Flat, gray sky getting slightly brighter gray as the sun began to rise. This is optimism, huh? So I change some settings on the camera and bang out a couple of shots. This was the best I was going to get.
Looks like a night shot, right? Nope. Sunrise. Replace the blue with gray and that’s how it’d have looked white balanced to daylight. Switched to tungsten for blue sky, and the exposure dropped to bring the window lights down so they weren’t blown out. Instant midnight shot just before 8am. Literally the BEST “sunrise” photo I could think to take given the circumstances. With that I packed up, defeated and feeling as blue as the color filtered sky I just shot.
Got home, noticed Amu and the pug were still asleep, and crawled back into bed…just in time for Amu’s alarm to go off, the pug to wake up and poof goes my shut eye. Am I happy with that morning? Not remotely. I don’t like the shot I got. It’s just the best of a bad batch. Did I get discouraged? You bet. Still am a bit. I can’t make magic happen, and I’m positive there are photographers out there who could have still made a phenomenal shot from that dismal light. I’m not there yet. Not even close. But maybe things are changing ever so slightly, because where I’d normally crash and mope and accept that I’ll NEVER be that guy who can do magic with a camera I think I can get close enough if I keep trying. What’s most unlike me is that I kind of believe it. Maybe THIS is optimism? Only time will tell.