The professor who I will quote in a minute took the quote from
some kind of advertising flyer and taped it to his file cabinet
in his office.
I on the other hand heard it in a shoot em up movie starring Stephen
Segal (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) when the big bad guy recovered a CD which was needed for his
diabolical plot. After he picked up the CD and turned it in the
light he said: "Chance favors the prepared mind."
I remembered that phrase the other day as I was taking photo after
photo and only occasionally would one "turn out."
My project seemed to truly be a bit of both, chance, the prepared
mind, and in this case, the prepared equipment.
When I went out searching for the origin of the quote I found that
it was spoken by a master of experimental research; Louis Pasteur. A literal translation of
the French does not do it justice. For those who speak French, he
Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que
les esprits prepares.
Lecture, University of Lille (7 December 1854)
Wiki quote provides a translation as follows: In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.
Unfortunately I don't speak French, but I do understand the difficulties
and the nuances that are lost in translation. However, in this case,
the subject at hand does indeed happen to be one of observation,
and one of chance.
But before we get to the story, I am going to digress just a second into ancient history and bring up a quote from Sophocles that indicates that the genesis of this thought may rest in a period of time, long before Louis Pasteur. In Fragment 302, Sophocles is translated as saying: Chance never helps the men who do not work. (translated by E. H. Plumptre in Sophocles: Tragedies and Fragments volume 2).
Anyway, to the story at hand, I was prepared, I was out there working, and chance smiled upon me.
Here in New Mexico lightning kills more people per capita than any other state in the United States. (as of 2003 - Note that's per capita, not the most people killed in a state. Florida has that honor). To me that's quite surprising,
especially since there are so many lightning strikes in places like
Florida and this state is after all, quite sparsely populated.
I do know that we have almost daily afternoon thunderstorms in
the summer and they can be quite intense, but absent that, I'm not
sure why so many people get hit by lightning.
Aas the storms rolled in over the Sandias the other
afternoon, I stood on the north balcony of the house and stood there
with my tripod and camera and fired and fired and fired away.
The thing about shooting lightning is that especially during the
day, the only way you get the shot is if you get lucky and there
is a second strike that happens as you hit the shutter in a reflex
to the first.
So what does it take, besides the equipment and the desire?
It takes time.
Lots of time, especially if you have a couple of slow moving storms
to track. I am quite sure that part of the opportunity that I have
here is because of the fact that the storms seem to move quite slowly
down the valley.
It can also be frustrating to decide to chase storm number two
and just as you move the camera a five-strike hits the peak you
were just focused on.
But this is where the digital camera shines, for there is probably
nothing more frustrating than getting a roll of film back only to
see photo after photo without a good strike.
On Tuesday I took 200 photos and got 6 or 7 that I really liked
enough to consider creating a gallery of lightning strikes.
You should see them on a full screen.
I'm still trying to figure out some of the technical issues, such
as why is there pink in this image and none in the images I took
the other day?
I also learned to make a couple of adjustments that should improve
the quality of the images for the next batch.
It's getting so that the plain old up and down strike is not going
to make it into the gallery. I want to see loops and multiple strikes
By the way, did I mention that it took over 2 hours both days to
shoot all the images.
This shot, which is clearly brighter than the other two, was taken
100% by chance - and I got favored. I was trigger happy at this
particular moment and before the lightning struck, I depressed the
shutter so the two events just happened to come together.
Makes you think perhaps that one should not run around with a golf
club in weather like this.
It rained again on Wednesday and I took 200+ more. This time I
only got one or two images that I really only barely like, but then
the conditions were not as good as the day before and most of the
shots were attempted after dark.
Dusk I think offers the best light for lightning, but then again,
this is after all a subject of chance. It's not like I can move
a thunderhead around just so that the light is arranged to my liking.
Observation and chance.
Let's add to that patience, a quick reflex and plenty of opportunity
and we just might end up with some interesting light in the night
Ride with me.