Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

When on my recent trip to Arizona, I encountered a photographer who was fully decked out in Camouflage. He was in a blind and had a Canon 1D MK IV with an 800mm lens. In other words, this guy was serious. I saw him at his truck so I walked up and introduced myself. I asked him what he was photographing. “Eagles!” he replied with enthusiasm.

Now I know a thing or two about photographing eagles so I was very surprised he was in Arizona in May trying to photograph eagles. I asked him why he was at that location and he simply said he was hoping to get lucky.

Okay – time to take a breath. There are about a dozen breeding pairs of eagles in Arizona. Unlike Alaska where there are literally thousands of eagles, Arizona has few. Moreover, the locations where these birds congregate were hundreds of miles from where I encountered my well-prepared new friend.

In other words, this guy had a better chance of seeing the space shuttle land in front of him than he did an eagle.

I tried to gently inform him that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he would have none of it. He insisted he’s been lucky his whole life.

So – knowing there’s no way I would convince him otherwise I moved on. The temptation to laugh at this poor fellow is tempered with my pity for him. He’s spent a bunch of money on top-quality gear. He’s devoted himself for the weekend to sitting in a hot blind. And he’s got no shot at all of getting an eagle picture.

But I try to find something positive in every negative. He will at least have some experience setting up and handling his gear. And I can use this encounter to hopefully teach others that luck is not a strategy.

Do your research. Whatever your subject, eagles, bears, little kids, CEOs, do your research. Right time and place have a great deal to do with success in photography. Don’t depend on luck. Depend on common sense, research, and lots of experience.