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It's Not Happening

Several years ago I spent a couple early mornings photographing along the east shore of Lake Tahoe. I thought I would come away with a number of stunning photos of granite boulders in the placid blue waters, but it was more challenging subject matter than I thought it would be. (In a future blog post I will examine the issue that it is sometimes easier to make a compelling image of a seemingly mundane subject than it is to do justice to a striking scene!) I made one particular photo that I had high hopes for, that seemed to avoid the "boulder in long exposure smoothed water" cliche that I threatened to fall victim to. Here is the original digital file:

I was photographing before dawn and “exposing to the right,” so the first order of business was to adjust the white balance a bit to remove some of the blue tint, take down the exposure, and add a touch of contrast:

At this point I realized that what had prompted me to make the photograph was the somewhat triangular array of boulders in the bottom center. I tried burning down the upper corners and the water a bit to focus attention where I wanted it,

but the area in the top center was not cooperating, so I tried a 1x2 panoramic crop:

When I was in college, a friend John Juracek used to say “it’s not happening for me,” which eventually got shortened to just “it’s not happening.” This often referred to a pop song that didn’t excite him, or maybe some cafeteria food he didn’t care for. In this case, the phrase aptly describes my feelings about this photograph - it is simply not happening!

The problem is that the image is not balanced. There needs to be something in the dark hole at the top center, or the boulder to the right of the very distinct triangular boulder needs to be different. It's very close to an image that I could be very happy with, and it would fit well with the rest of my portfolio, but it's just not quite there.

Postscript: After writing the above, I thought maybe I had given up too easily, so I tried a more severe 6x17 crop, but felt I'd lost too much of interest with that crop. I'll leave the file on my hard drive a little longer, but I don't have any real hope of rescuing the image in any way.

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Gary Beene
Gary Beene
Mar 10, 2020

Hi Gregg - another old college era phrase might be at work here...and perhaps with all things we see in nature - "What it is, is what it is." Sam Lacy of NMSU and NBA basketball fame shortened this saying one day when he saw me in the dressing room at Pan American Center. He greeted me with, "What it is, man."


Mar 03, 2020

I feel your pain many days. I see it, it excites my brain but I can't catch it with my camera or get there with my computer... I'm sure I will start saying, "It's not happening" But, you do get it to "happen" in many of your photos. Thank you!

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