“Timing is everything,” goes that famous line. Yes, I can attest to that. Most photographers know about the golden hour, that time around sunrise and sunset that delivers wonderful light for picture-taking. But now I am referring to timing more broadly.
While walking with my husband recently on a blindingly-sunny day, I passed a scene - an historic building with a budding redbud tree - that I felt was aching to be photographed – at some other time. Like on some cloudy day with soft, even light instead of that moment's harsh shadows overhead at lunchtime.
I returned just a few days later since the clock was ticking – those redbuds would not last long. But days of more sun, not clouds, was my forecasted fate, so I aimed for an earlier time in the day, when the sun was still behind the building. I went, I photographed, I was underwhelmed. A sunny day with the sun low in the sky is not the same thing at all as a day of soft clouds.
Walking later on the bike path near my home, I saw the flowering trees and graffiti-covered walls that I pass every day, but that day they suggested an idea. So, I photographed delicate blossoms against frenetic graffiti to my heart’s content. I became hooked on the idea. I loved the contrast, and the notion of showcasing nature in an urban, non-traditional way. The next week I obsessed over finding more graffiti near spring blossoms. My husband spotted another budding tree on the path that I’d missed before, and I vowed to return.
The next day though, I was too busy to stop with my camera on the path, and instead hurried past them. The following day I went back, eager and looking forward to photographing them. Alas, all the graffiti had been wiped clean that morning. I’d missed my chance. Oh, my procrastination, my bad timing!
So, I hit all the areas I knew around town with graffiti. The city’s cleanup crews had apparently been busy. I found a few areas of remaining graffiti, unfortunately nowhere near any signs of spring, and lots of newly-cleaned walls. I’d never been so annoyed to see the local authorities working so hard.
The weekend arrived and I knew what I had to do: schlep to the other side of town – a good hour away given current subway construction – before more graffiti and spring blossoms disappeared until next year. The cross-town saga was the last thing I felt like doing that afternoon. But timing is everything.
I went, I found graffiti, I found signs of spring, I photographed, I enjoyed myself. (I also discovered that my sought-after locale is now a hit spot for pot-smokers. The haze almost kept me at bay, but screw it, timing is everything.)
And now it’s May and the days of white and pink blossoms and tiny chartreus sprouting leaves are dwindling. I think I've done all I can. Perhaps I’ll see what next year brings – with a note in my calendar to hit the path early in the season, so lousy timing doesn’t get the better of me.
(Note: this obsession became my Urban Spring project.)