Every photographer has been there: You get a great idea for a photo, or series of photos, and once you finally get the model, gear, and location all lined up, you get there and something happens (or fails to happen) that makes the image you have in your mind impossible to capture that day. It can be disheartening, frustrating, and sometimes even costly. But it can also be an opportunity to break out of the box of your expectations and make something special.
I faced just such a situation this weekend. The weather forecast called for intense Santa Ana winds in Southern California beginning late Thursday and continuing into the early morning hours of Sunday. I was shopping with my daughter on Wednesday at one of those “big box” stores that I’ll refer to here as “Bostco” when she fell in love with one of those heavy-duty ripstop kites that cost a bit more than any reasonable kite should. But she’s only 8 years old and I’m a sucker for the “cute face” with the puppy dog eyes. Plus, into my head popped a series of images of a happy young girl flying a kite with the type of awesome shallow depth-of-field blur that you can only get with a lens like my new 17-50mm f/2.8. And the timing couldn’t be better with the types of wind that would soon descend upon the Southland! So I bought a bald eagle kite with a 70″ wingspan and a fancy spool of heavy-duty line (and later bought a circular polarizer to fit my new lens, since it’s not the same diameter as any other lens I own, much to my surprise, but that’s a story for another time) and went to sleep that night with visions of a weekend photo shoot dancing in my head.
OK, so how was I to know that the greater San Clemente / Capistrano Beach area would be caught in a gaping maw in the fabric of space-time that would cause the howling, tree-uprooting, tent-toppling, freeway-sign-warning inducing, “wind storm” (as dubbed by the local media) to divert itself around our fair coastal hamlet leaving us in an atmospheric eddy of DROP. DEAD. STILL. AIR. Not a breeze to be felt. Not a flutter in the flags. Not a single twitch of a palm frond. And certainly not enough to get BabyGirl’s behemoth new kite anywhere but lying flat on the ground.
We tried a few locations around town: a local park, North Beach, Capistrano Beach, Doheny. We even tried coming back to Doheny at sunset, knowing that a good on-shore wind usually kicks up around that time, but not this weekend. So not only did I have to put my plans on hold, but I had an equally frustrated and disappointed 8-year-old on my hands. But, in that totally ADHD way that all 8-year-olds have, she quickly switched gears and realized that she was at the beach: “Wanna watch me do somersaults in the sand, Daddy?”
As I turned to reply, I noticed that she was standing on the edge of the berm with a beautiful sunset behind her and a new vision was born. I threw the camera into full-manual mode and exposed for the sky while focusing on the most entertaining gymnast I’ve come across in a long time. It was time for her to play in the sand and me to play with silhouettes! And not just any silhouettes, but silhouettes of a child in very fast motion. In addition to the photo above, I have shots of legs and feet poking above the horizon at all sorts of crazy angles. It was fun for the both of us as we blew off the steam of our failed quest and just enjoyed the moment. Not all of those images will make it to this site because most of them are not art. They’re fun. They’re family. They’re mine.