Happy Accidents

Happy accident (n): in photography, the unintentionally successful production of an interesting image.

Building on my previous post, I thought it would be good to talk a little about those images that result not from visualization and planned compositions, but that emerge out from shear happenstance.

Occasionally, when I am out shooting something happens that I did not intend. I might bump the tripod during a longer exposure, accidentally get my finger in the frame, forget to check my level and wind up with a crooked horizon, or, as is often the case, I try to take a quick shot without checking my settings and wind up either dramatically over- or under-exposing the shot.

Most of the time I get a blurry image or something that is simply solid black or white. I usually delete these little mishaps, but on occasion I have had some kind of neat results.

Generally, I don’t post these kinds of images and I certainly don’t feel like I can take much credit for them as my involvement was almost entirely inconsequential. I happened to hit the button, but the result was entirely unintentional.

Still, when these accidents lead to something interesting, it seems a waste not to share it – not for the credit, but for the fascination of it; for the fun of it!

A few weeks ago I was out skiing at the farm. I had my camera with me and stopped at various points along the way to snap a few pictures. I had been shooting in the woods, which were somewhat dark, and then emerged into the bright snowy fields, when I saw what looked like an interesting scene and took a photo . . . without checking my settings. About 1/2 a second into the shot I realized my error, but I held the camera as steady as I could and let the 1 second exposure finish.

The shot was wildly over-exposed – a total blank.

While I was processing the photos from that weekend, I came across that blank white shot and thought “There must be something there. I wonder what it would look like if I just pulled the brightness all the way down?”

I was surprised.

A little more tinkering and I found this, hidden inside the white:


Neat huh?

A bit like a charcoal sketch or something. The trees to the right run down the lane at the farm, while the cluster at the centre is the neighbour’s farmhouse across the road. On the left is an open field that gives way to a forested area.

I am not advocating this as a good practice for photography, and I won’t say that this is “my image”, but it seemed like a waste not to share it. It’s just plain interesting to me! I hope you like it too.



2 responses to “Happy Accidents

  1. I’ve enjoyed your last two posts Mike. That is a neat image that you lucked into. Makes me want to go through the Recycle Bin on my PC.


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