Today I would like to tell you a story about how I took the image of the skater that you see above. That experience taught me a valuable lesson and perhaps you will find it useful as well.
It was an ordinary day. I was driving home from work. I was tired and eager to get to the comfort of my room where I could finally relax. That’s when I saw the skater practicing his tricks in front of a high school. I was instantly drawn into the scene - the location provided a great colored backdrop, the lighting was dramatic and interesting, and skateboarding offered an opportunity to make a dynamic image full of energy. What an amazing moment.
But I mean… there wasn’t really a convenient place to park. I’d have to get my camera out of the bag in the trunk. I was kind of in a bad neighborhood. I was tired. After all I’d done enough work for the day, I thought.
“What if it doesn’t even turn out that great of a shot anyway? Is it worth the hassle? Nah, better to just go home and forget about it. Besides I’ve already driven past the scene. I’ll just have to get it some other time.”
Some other time. That’s when it really clicked. There would never be another opportunity. Each and every moment in life happens only once. Not once every day - once in history. As a photographer I realized that if I didn’t take that photo right then - it’d be gone for good. Sounds obvious, but it really made sense back then.
I quickly checked my mirrors and turned the car around, accelerating past my excuses that were beginning to scream louder and louder as I sped up. “It’s too late! The guy probably isn’t even there anymore. You blew it! Should’ve taken it the first time around.” But by then my desire to overcome my personal limits for the sake of photography was stronger than any excuse my fear and fatigue could come up with.
I parked my car in the “inconvenient” spot, grabbed my camera and in a minute I was already lying on the ground, snapping photos of the skater, and feeling totally awesome. I was relieved that he was still there and that I was able to beat my excuses. It felt right.
I shot from several different angles, making sure to capture the decisive moment. After getting a few frames that I really liked I confirmed focus, waved to the skater, and left. The whole thing took no longer than ten minutes.
Driving home, pumped up and smiling, I realized that something special happened in those ten minutes — I broke through a personal barrier.
The thing is, oftentimes, we begin to come up with excuses when we sense that we are on the edge of our comfort zone. These excuses are indicators of our limits. And what lie beyond those limits are opportunities for greatness. So instead of seeing excuses as a fence, we should instead see them as little flags indicating that we have a chance to be a part of something amazing and that all we need is a little push.
In my case that little push was my desire to get the image and my order to my hands to turn the car around despite the voice in my head. Once it was done, there was no way I was going to back down. And now I have this image of the skater hovering over a fakie heel - a once-in-the-history-of-life split-second moment that photography extended indefinitely into the future. To this day this photograph remains one of my favorites.
So next time you find yourself coming up with excuses, know that you are approaching your limits and then push through them. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet greatness.