You Are So Lucky, Your Camera Takes Such Good Photographs!

Published September 10, 2023

Kathmandu, Nepal

This is a dead body being ceremoniously burned alongside the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. But we will loop back around to that in a bit.

I slightly bristle every time someone says something to me along the lines of, “That photo is so beautiful! You got so lucky!" And I’m thinking, Huh.

Did I?

Get lucky?

It seems to happen a lot then, this "Luck." In fact, almost every time I show up to a location, that I have extensively researched beforehand, donned with all my camera gear, sometimes lighting equipment, and many years of schooling and experience under my belt, and then return to that same location day after day for several hours at sunrise or sunset, until the natural light is just right or something noteworthy finally happens…

Then yes, it’s amazing! Almost every time I do all these things, I get super lucky and eventually end up with a good photograph!

While "You got so lucky" is at the top of my list of pet peeves, it is followed by a close second, "Your camera takes such beautiful pictures!"

Aside from it being one of the more insulting things you can say to a photographer, once I chalk it up to ignorance and get over myself, I just love the notion that while I'm sleeping or doing crossword puzzles, my camera runs off to the Himalayas or the Sahara Desert and takes a bunch of great photographs without me.

"Great job, Little Guy! And here I thought you weren't listening, Camera, when I explained about mise-en-sćene and the importance of proper backlighting. Well done, You!"

But all jokes aside, there have been many times that I have shown up somewhere with the highest of hopes only to realize, there’s not really as much there to photograph as you might think.

The pyramids of Egypt come to mind. I'm not sure what I thought I was going to do photographically with the PYRAMIDS that hadn't already been done before.

Then there are other situations, like this funeral pyre in Kathmandu. I could not have possibly predicted when I woke up that morning that this is a photograph I'd end up with at the end of the day. The ethical implications of me taking pictures didn't set in until much later, because at that moment, once I realized what it we were witnessing, I think I set a personal record. I wasn't even aware that I was capable of changing a camera lens that quickly. I do recognize that at this exact same moment, someone, somewhere, was probably experiencing profound loss; but a thrill of excitement ran through me, and I cannot recall a time in recent memory when I felt as lucky as I did right then and there, to be at this very place, at this exact moment in time. (My cynical brain also couldn't help but thinking that of course they burn their bodies, they burn everything here! You can read me rant more about this HERE.)

Anyways, yes, lucky is a shameful way to describe stumbling upon the funeral pyre of a complete stranger, almost 10,000 miles away from home, but in that moment, I was all too aware that I was witnessing something I had never seen and will probably never see again.

I truly believe that when you live each day hoping to capture the unexpected, then you are rarely let down.


Go HERE to read about a similar phenomenon -- people asking you to show them which magical settings to use on their camera so that it will take beautiful photographs for them.