A few years ago, I planned a photography trip with another photog friend to Lassen National Park in Northern California. In the meantime, a major fire broke out but we decided to go anyway. Needless to say, we were alone in the camp ground, with embers burning a few hundred yards from us. Obviously the area wasn’t closed so we made the best of it. We tried shooting the creeks, landscapes, lakes, and I even did a bit of fishing. There were plenty of fire fighters around, signs at many of the stores thanking firefighters for all their efforts.
We got some OK images, so you might ask what is the "Lassen Moment"?
It starts with a story. I was fishing one afternoon, while my photog friend slept in his tent. When I walked back to the camp, several firefighters were resting next to our camp, smoking cigarettes, just taking a break. They had been working from the night before, and were covered in black ash. I talked with them briefly, went back to my car and put up my fishing gear. My friend woke up, we went out in late afternoon in search of more landscapes.
Now for what I call the “lassen moment”. I was so focused on landscapes and HDR, I overlooked the most powerful images I could have imagined. Those firefighters I mentioned were smoking, black faces(think coal miners), clear eyes, and some of the best portraits I could ever ask for. Those signs thanking fire fighters with fire vehicles and firefighters around would have been great. You see, I was obsessed with finding HDR images and didn’t see the obvious. It didn’t dawn on me until some time later. The “lassen moment” is being blind to all those images that come to us when we aren’t ready for them. I can still see that portrait with those bright eyes, cigarette hanging from the mouth, black face, worn dirty gear, and bone tired posture.
Every time I go out, the “lassen moment” is in the back of my mind and I vowed never to allow that moment to occur again. Observation skills are a big part of being a photographer, which means being vigilant for that special image even if it is not what you are looking for. I made that mistake and I will never forget it.