When Fate Just Won't Cooperate
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
When do you persist and when do you throw in the towel?
When traveling a long way to a place we may not be able to return to for a long time, sometimes we become incapable of accepting that things don't always go according to plan. Especially for photographers, one rainy day or missed alarm clock can feel like the tragedy of the century. Whether you're an enthusiast, pro, or somewhere in between, it can be too easy to cross the line from careful planning to blind obsession. But honestly, who wants to let a little rain ruin a whole day?
On my last visit to Florence, I had plans to visit Piazzale Michelangelo, which boasts sweeping views over the city. It gets crowded fast so I decided to make a sunrise visit, staking out a spot at dawn to avoid crowds. Visions of the sun gently breaking across the iconic terra cotta rooftops danced in my head, making the 4:30AM alarm worth it. Since it was so early, the buses weren't running yet, so we had to walk. From the hotel, that meant about 1.5 miles in the chilly pre-dawn hours.
We stepped out to a drizzly rain, but at my insistence pressed on. The city was shrouded in a mantle of silence, with mist and fog swirling about. It was just plain yucky out. We made the miserable hike up to the Piazzale about half an hour before the sun should have sliced through the muck. We waited. Sunrise technically came, but no slicing sun. Just slowly lightening shades of miserable gray and an almost apocalyptically depressing vista. I took a few photos but the light was flatter than my chest in 7th grade.
My insistence in persevering came from a blind hope that the weather would cooperate in the end, despite the stubbornly leaden sky and the almost non-stop rain we had endured the last couple of days. Since it was our last day in Florence, I didn't want to "miss out". Rather than work with the conditions I was dealt, I stubbornly tried to exert magical wish-power over the weather. Now, sometimes we are blessed with stunning skies after a storm. The key word here is storm; we had been faced with persistent cloud cover and drizzle. No dramatic storm clouds and brisk winds to push things around, which is when you can reasonably hope the sun will make its own blissful appearance at the critical moment. In the end I didn't get any worthwhile images, but at least I learned a valuable lesson.
When I'm inevitably faced with a situation like this again, I'll work with my circumstances instead of against them. Had I stayed in the city center as morning arrived, some uniquely atmospheric scenes would have presented as a departure from how Florence is typically presented. It would have been a city of abstract reflections, hazy silhouettes, and opportunities for dreamy long exposures as people began their day in the gloom. Whether its a matter of crappy weather, or any number of factors outside your control, there comes a point where you must accept what fate has meted out and find a new path. Even if it isn't what you envisioned, it's better than flailing pointlessly against your situation. You may even end up surprised with how it makes you stretch and grow in your photography, resulting in surprisingly excellent new work.
When have you made the best of a bad photographic situation while traveling? Share your experience in the comments or share this story with your fellow travel photography lovers.