You cannot create experience. You must undergo it. – Albert Camus
In the southern part of New Brunswick where I live there are several trails that follow along the coast of the Bay of Fundy. A few times a week Codi, my pug, and I walk these trails while enjoying the highest tides in the world and the sounds of the Atlantic Ocean.
A couple of months ago during one of our excursions we crossed the path of a young red fox. The three of us were just 20 feet away from one another and we stared each other down for several minutes. Eventually, the fox lost interest in us and took off from more secluded parts. As luck would have it I didn’t have my camera with me; it was just meant to be a short jaunt to walk my pup so I left my gear home.
I learned a important lesson that day after some reflection on the chance that I missed. As a photographer you need to be prepared for the opportunity when it presents itself. I learned something even more valuable, in that the moment itself can be just as memorable as the image that could have been.
While I would love to have a photograph of my encounter I still feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to see a wonderful creature. Fortunately for me our neighborhood fox stuck around for a few more weeks and I spotted her on several occasions but as usual not in camera range. Then early one evening I could hear howling. I quickly gathered my equipment and tracked her down in a neighbor’s yard. I was able to get off a few dozen photos before the she disappeared for good not to be seen since. At last I had made up for not having my camera on the trail a few weeks previously but in my mind it still wasn’t the photographs that were the most meaningful for me; it’s was the encounter with a magnificent wild animal.
Regardless of why or what you photograph remember it is not only about the exposure on the camera or the exposure it may bring to you, but it’s the experience and the lasting impression that is made on you.