Is it luck, or is it preparation?

When people say to me, “Oh you’re so lucky to have gotten that shot!”

There is some luck involved, yes. But what you don’t see is persistence, the hundreds of hours spent in field, waiting. You don’t see the work Ákos does looking at terrain, records of sightings, his knowledge of the habitat and habits that inform where we even start looking.

My first attempt at Peregrine Falcons when Ákos took me to this Blue Mountains location in 2017.

Then there is the whole other layer of the technical side of things. Equipment is one thing, but knowing how to use it is an entirely different ballgame. Additionally, our gear doesn’t capture these kinds of images on the default settings, Ákos has fine tuned a heap of modes and customisations in our cameras for a variety of situations for what the camera needs to do in those conditions.

Then there is the practice. When we first got this Olympus gear it was a big mental switch for me to learn a whole other system. I started in the backyard photographing Noisy Miners, Common Mynahs, Rainbow Lorikeets… thousands of frames, hours and hours of trying to create what I saw in my mind. Trial and error, understanding my own response time, missing hundreds of shots and slowly improving my ‘keep’ rate.

By 2019, my skills improved and I scored nice shots like this on one of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs headlands.

And then when we finally get out to a location, we have to find the subjects. Sometimes it’s walking through a swamp, clambering along a cliff, there is often mud, sometimes leeches, last week I got bitten by something that is still being treated with steroids. We are often rained on, bitten by ants or mites, or alternatively covered in harsh chemicals so that we don’t get bitten. We get assaulted by malicious plants, I’ve had grass seeds get into my shoes and scratch at my skin until they bled (and I nearly cried), thorns, splinters… you’d be surprised at what plants can come up with.

When we get home, we download, analyse where we went wrong what could have been done better. We pore over settings, understanding what happened. Was the ISO too high? Should I have pushed that shutter speed more? Did I close up the shadows? Did I clip the highlights? Should I have risked putting on the 2x converter and potentially missing the shot or should I have had a crack and filled the frame? Next time… next time.

2022 season and I am nailing the images perfectly!

So when I post images like the above, that show the progress of my skill over the last few years, people might assume it is because I’ve got better gear. That’s also true. But it’s also years and years of commitment to this craft, a passion and ambition to get better and better… years of all of the above, that coalesce in the moment I click the shutter.

‘Luck’ is the reason the bird appears. The rest is all the effort behind the scenes that you don’t see, when I post one of these images.

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