A Way of Seeing, part 2: A Happy Accident

This post is by littlejailbird

I took three photography classes from August to December last year. In Digital Photography I, we spent several months learning such basics as exposure, depth of field, focal length, ISO, shutter speed and motion, and lens focal length. For our portfolio (final project), we had a lot more freedom than we did for our previous assignments. Our teacher gave us a list of 11 categories and we were to turn in 10 photos, one for each category minus one. Within these categories, it was totally up to us what we would shoot and how.

One cold day in November, I went out to shoot some pictures for an assignment in another class. I saw a pond, across the street from Cedar Lake, and stopped there. While setting up the tripod for the shots for that assignment, the pattern of the ice that was beginning to form at the edge of the pond caught my eye. So, I took a few shots of that, then went back to shooting for my assignment.

When I looked at my shots that evening, I saw that the shots I took at the pond for my assignment did not turn out well, but the pictures of the ice were pretty nice. But they didn’t work for any assignments in any of my classes, so I set them aside.

As time went on, I was having trouble getting all the shots I needed for my portfolio. I had 9 of the 10 shots, but everything I tried for the tenth one was not up to the standard I wanted for a final portfolio. So I asked the teacher if I could use Nature as one of my categories instead of his assigned categories… and he said yes. So, I picked one of the shots of the ice on the pond for my tenth shot.


Interestingly, when I got feedback from my teacher, the ice picture was one of his top three favorite pictures in my portfolio. And when we viewed the final portfolio pictures in class, that same picture received  more favorable comments from the other students than any of my other pictures.

I find it intriguing that some of my best shots are taken when I’m looking for something else.

When have you had a happy accident?

These photos are 8 of the 10 portfolio shots I turned in for my class. I left out the two shots of people in order to protect the privacy of the subjects.

57 thoughts on “A Way of Seeing, part 2: A Happy Accident”

  1. Morning all. I’ve had several situations that I consider happy accidents, mostly because I wanted one thing, got something different and eventually realized what I got ended up being great. When Child was coming up on her elementary school choice, I wanted her to go to Barton. It was an open school and at that time there was an overwhelmingly high percentage of foreign-adoption students due to how their lottery was set up. I also thought the K-8 format would be better, more stable. Unfortunately the year we applied, the school had been forced to change their lottery system and Child did not get accepted. I made called, met with the principal and wrote a letter to the school board, but to no avail. So we “settled” on Burroughs. And it turned out GREAT. Burroughs was still doing 2 days a week PE (which was more than most elementary schools in the city at that point) and was only K-5. Since Child was a jock even back then, 2 days of PE made her happy and when I visited other K-8 schools and realized how BIG some of those 7th and 8th graders are, I was happy she was in K-5!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I first got on the Trail this morning, a picture flashed on the screen but then the screen locked up and when I went back it was blank. Blank here at work as well.

      Hey Clyde – tim and I were talking yesterday and I realized that I never asked for you to send me your second book as I was overwhelmed with work at the time. Still available? Do you still have my email?


      1. I will send it to you. Still rough around the edges.
        My third book is almost done, too, a collection of 33 short stories about NE MN, some very short. The best writing I have ever done. I could put up another one here as a guest post because it is as short as the other one I used a few weeks ago. Only one last story to finish, but Sandy distracted me and typing is so frustrating. Our finances are sorting out a bit. Next month I may buy Dragon. I am flirting with putting up a story each week on a new blog, but not unless I get Dragon.


        1. i would think you could do a cut an paste instead of having to retype the manuscript. it is an a word doc or similar it should be postable.

          shareware must have a dragon equivalent for free

          looking forward to the short stories.


    2. BTW, I started reading your (second) book, Clyde – got distracted by some library books that came up in my queue and had to be read before their due date – but am enjoying it ESPECIALLY your artwork.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The site won’t allow me to post at the bottom all of a sudden. A message: “This can’t be posted” pops up, so I’ll try again by replying this time!!

        In terms of photography, I have a close friend from high school who’s now listed as one of the top ten in the country. When she was only 4, she went through the car windshield during a horrible crash. As a result, her face was torn apart. She spent the next two decades hiding from people, then, as a fluke, a teacher suggested that she take up photography. Her career has spanned from Princess Diana to Andy Worhal to

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, this time it cut me off. Grrr

          Andy Worhol, an award-winning series on grandparents with their grandchildren, and a best seller called “Mother”. For Judy, it was literally an accident which began an illustrious career.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. this is a reply to Barbara’s question since there’s no reply tab under it!
      Can’t find a web site, but google “Judy Olausen” and there’s a whole page of her work!


  2. I’m at a loss to find anything accidental in your excellent photograph. If you had stumbled, nearly dropping your camera, and while fumbling with it had inadvertently clicked the shutter, yielding this photo, THAT would have been a happy accident.
    In this case, you were out with your camera, you had your eyes open and you were seeing with that high degree of sensitivity and awareness that comes with carrying a camera with intention.
    Finding shots to fill a set of categories, as in your class assignment, seldom results in really great images, in my experience. There’s only so much you can do with point of view and framing. You did well with your assignment, but it was only when you went “off script” that you found the magic.
    If I may, I’d like to suggest that the question ought to be something like, “When have you found something you didn’t know you were looking for?”

    Liked by 6 people

    1. True.

      I called it an “accident” because I was actually out shooting for another class (those pictures not shown here) and did not stop at the pond in order to shoot the ice, but something else entirely.


  3. ljb, thanks for sharing these photos. I agree that the icy edge one is my favorite, but I also like that arched window. I would like to take a class like yours.

    Lots of my adult life, really – I knew people who said “we need a fourth person for our San Francisco apartment” in 1969, and then each move was because I’d met some person I wanted to spend more time with. (In some cases it was myself.)

    Finding this house was a happy accident, and now we’re leaving it (Sob!)
    Husband had helped a co-worker move into the house next door, and the rest is history that most of you have heard before…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I learned an incredible amount from my 3 classes. About photography, yes, but also about myself.

      It sounds like your new house in Winona also came about because of a couple happy “accidents.” I hope that you will be very happy there.


  4. Those are very nice pictures!
    I took a photography class about a year ago.
    I sort of knew the fundamentals of taking pictures, but, to actually do a project focusing (!) on depth of field or F stops or motion was very good for me. Plus learning a few more things about the camera itself. (because who reads the manual??)

    Several time since then I have seen things and thought I really should just go get the camera and photograph this… and then I don’t because I don’t *have* too. I’m not saying that’s a good answer, it’s just the answer.
    I have had more happy accidents than I can remember! and part of that comes from not having a clear idea in the first place or trying lots and lots of things.
    For me in designing lighting and designing sets especially in regard to painting, lot of happy accidents. Because sometimes I don’t know what I want… just that there has to be something and I know I want blue paint so….. try this and try that and maybe this stencil roller and Surprise!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Ben. I agree about the projects/assignments on specific things such as depth of field, etc. A lot of the pictures I took for those type of assignments weren’t that great, but that was okay, because the purpose was to learn about the topic of the week. And I could learn a lot by seeing side by side the difference various f-stops or focal lengths had on depth of field, for instance (shooting the same subject with different settings makes it more obvious). Then, for the final project, we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted within the assigned categories. It was cool to put it all together. And fun to not be limited by the precise limits of previous assignments.

      Now, if you want to take some good pictures, keep your eyes open… and bring your camera with you sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have “fallen into” at least two friendships that began as incidental contacts that later amazed me by becoming deep friendships.

    The woman I write a letter to each morning is an example. I started writing her right after her husband of sixty years died. I thought i was acting from a charitable impulse to ease her way through her grief. It took years for me to see I needed the correspondence at least as much as she did. By that time the letters had become a fixed point in our daily life, a reflective moment that made each of us stronger and happier.

    The other friendship started with outdoor trips I took with a guy who was amusing to me since he and I are so profoundly unlike each other. He later shocked me by describing an exquisite evening he spent by a campfire in the wilderness. He remembered thinking that could have been a perfect moment “if only Steve had been here.” My feelings toward him were nothing like that. Confused and embarrassed, I began looking at the friendship with this new perspective. I realized the man whose company I had taken for granted was actually my best friend and someone whose companionship was a treasure in my life.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I used to teach photography as a summer class for HS students, with darkroom work. That was so much fun. I produced three professional photographers, all of whom have gone onto other careers. All are now in their fifties.

    An update. I do not think I said much about Sandy and recovery. Her surgery went much faster than expected, much simpler than expected. did not have to repair work they had planned. Pathology was all clean. Recovery has been slow. High pain for first week. Now not much. She was very confused for a few days. Now back to short walks in the mall. My daughter’s surgery also went fast and very well. Her recovery was a bit slow but now fine, she and husband back to park walking. They have the goal to do the hiking club walk in every park. In two weeks I am going to start a diagnosis and treatment process that I hope does not end in a new hip or two. Mr. Tuxedo switches schools next fall. He left the K-5 school with the record for accelerate reader points.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Beautiful photos, LJB. Serendipity-well, we chanced upon a lovely string concert at St. Martin in the Fields when we were in London, all because Greenpeace protesters had closed down the British Museum on the morning we hoped to go there.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great photos. As a gardener I sometimes have happy accidents. For example, some lettuce seed I planted during the summer for a fall ended up as an early spring crop. Apparently the seed didn’t germinate at the time I planted it because it was too warm. Somehow the seed remained viable sitting in the ground through the fall and winter and then sprouted early in the spring. This happy accident produce a good crop of lettuce that emerged before the lettuce that I planted that spring. That was an edible happy accident.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hope that is a compliment? If so – thank you!

      I tend to notice things that others don’t notice. Or I find a good photograph in things that other people see, but don’t think to photograph. Then, of course, there are the things I think will make a good photo – and don’t. I don’t show those shots to other people.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The day I turned 50 I sent my mother a sympathy card saying “so sorry you have a daughter old enough to get the senior discount at Perkins”.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. tell your son happy birthday grandpa.
      glad your personal stuff is on a roll.
      an extra 175 a month is wonderful. enjoy

      my kids are getting old too. 29 moved to reno last week
      27 wants to get a career locked before kids and i told her just to go for it if thats waht she wnts
      22 is finding himself and doing a good job
      17 is ready for senior year next yea and picing colleges
      15 year old starts driving lessons next week.

      my 17 year old had a psychology assignment for school. they wanted the student to talk to older people and when they found these 50+ year old people the could interview them
      she laughed and told them she didnt have to leave the house.
      it was interesting what the 30 something teachers thought was a generational question

      i asked my daughter how old everone elses parents were and she said 40 ish.

      god i remember the 20 year old parents when i played softball at that age and the parents of kids in first grade who were 22 or 23 years old. i felt sorry for the kids of the kids. it has to be hard having parents who are grappling with their braces and trying to fix their acne.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice shots! When I had -just- started taking photos, I had my ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ image. I was taking shots down in Canal Park in the middle of a freezing rain storm (people were in the Maritime Museum staring/pointing at me in disbelief). I took, what I thought would be, a pretty pedestrian shot of a lamp post that had been half-covered in ice by spatter from the waves crashing. When I got the image back, I found that some of the wave spatter had frozen onto my lens, creating this ‘sparkle’ effect. People still go crazy for that image on those (now) rare times I display my photo work.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My b-i-l had an expensive camera and a basement darkroom back in the days of film cameras. He had a nice portfolio, but the photo everyone would single out was a photo of an elderly man with his face sort of scrunched up into an odd grin like Popeye the sailor. My b-i-l said he had been looking for subjects in downtown St. Paul and asked this probably-homeless guy if he could take his picture, thinking he had an interesting face. The guy said yes, and just at the moment the photo was taken, made the face that was captured in the shot.

    My b-i-l always felt he hadn’t earned the credit for the photo, since what made it compelling didn’t have to do with the composition or lighting or his skill as a photographer. He hadn’t really even chosen the shot – he thought he was just taking a picture of an old guy with a sort of ordinary, weathered face. It was the subject of the photo that turned the tables on him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve seen that photo!

      I used to be a photographer. I was the kind of photographer who could usually take a competent photo of some subject with intrinsic beauty. For example, I won a small contest with a photo of a carousel horse. But it was the horse that was beautiful, not my picture of it. I never was the kind of photographer who had “the eye” to see beauty in unexpected places, like ljb has.


      1. I suspect you are understating your talents and ability to see beauty, Steve.

        Thanks for what you said about my eye – that’s one of the nicest things anyone could say to me.


  11. From time to time I refer to a person I usually describe as “my artistic friend.” Some of you might remember her steampunk jewelry. She lives a fascinating life these days. She just spent two weeks creating a sand sculpture in Carefree, AZ. Two sculptors worked two weeks to make this astonishing work from 29 tons of sand. The resulting sculpture is almost impossible to photograph. It is a life-sized elephant playing chess with a mouse.

    I hope I can post this link without actually invoking a photo. Some of you would enjoy seeing this.

    Enjoy your weekend, friends. We anticipate two days of 100-degree weather here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had actually seen a photo of that sculpture on Facebook a day or two ago, and I wondered if your “artistic friend” was one of the sculptors, Steve. I love the whimsy of the piece.


  12. Luckily our weather tomorrow will not be as warm as Steve’s in Portland – mid-70s and partly sunny in Robbinsdale… just a reminder that there’s a pot-luck open house in the back yard here from noon till 5:00.


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