Clint Eastwood may be one of America’s greatest philosophers! In fact, as anyone who is a fan of Clint Eastwood knows, his movies are full of incredible life lessons IF you read, or rather “hear,” between the lines.
In his movie “Heartbreak Ridge,” Clint plays Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway who is assigned to train a bunch of misfit Marines in a recon platoon. When the platoon falls out for their morning run, each one is wearing a different colored T-shirt. Gunny Highway orders them to take off their shirts saying they will all wear the same shirts or none at all, and off they go on their run. The next morning, the Marines fall out again for their morning run. This time, they are all wearing the same color T-shirts and are quite proud of their accomplishment. However, when Gunny Highway again orders them to strip off their shirts, the young Marines are puzzled. Why, they ask, do they have to take off their shirts when everyone is wearing the same shirt? Gunny Highway answers their question with a question of his own: “The same as me?” The Marines then ask how they are supposed to know what shirt Gunny Highway is going to be wearing. Gunny Highway’s response to this is simple: you improvise, you adapt, you overcome. What a life lesson!
Right now, you are probably thinking “How in the world does a Clint Eastwood movie have anything to do with photography?” Well, in photography, especially outdoor photography, it is not unusual for things to not go as planned. In fact, I would say it is a rather common occurrence for your best-laid plans to go awry. The skies are clear when you want them to be cloudy, it rains when you want it to be dry, the wind blows when you want it to be still, and so on and so forth. It’s Murphy’s Law at its finest. If something can go wrong, it probably will. But that is the nature of outdoor photography, part of what makes such photography fun, exciting, and challenging, and that is where Gunny Highway’s advice is so relevant. When things don’t go as planned, you have to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
The photograph above is an example of that philosophy. I photographed this barn yesterday morning a few minutes after sunrise. My original idea was to capture a silhouette of the barn against the bright, bold colors of the sky just before the sun came up. Unfortunately, I misjudged where the sunrise would occur, and it ended up in the exact opposite direction I had anticipated. So, I adapted to the situation before me. Instead of bright bold colors in the sky, I shot the warm, golden tones of light on the distant tress against the rich blue sky. Rather than a silhouette, I captured the barn and surrounding area in the deep shade that actually existed.
Nothing went according to my original plan, but I was able to improvise and adapt to the circumstances and overcome the challenge I faced. The end result is a photograph that, to me, captures that quiet, tranquil moment when the new day has arrived, but no else has awakened. Thanks for the advice, Gunny Highway!
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 58mm, 1/20 sec., f/22