Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Photography and serendipity

click photo to enlarge
The word "serendipity" was coined in 1754 by the English writer and historian, Horace Walpole (1717-1797) from a "silly fairy tale" that he had read called The Three Princes of Serendip (Serendip was a former name for Sri Lanka). It means, "the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident" (OED), though over the years it has come to have a second, linked meaning of - "good fortune, good luck or happy chance or circumstance".

Since Walpole invented the word it has been used widely and has spread across the world, even crossing into other languages. Moreover, people have come to recognize it as an uncontrollable attribute akin to fate or luck, though its positive qualities endear it to people more than those fickle powers. In most walks of life - business, science, technology, medicine, the arts etc. - serendipity is recognized as that unforseen but fortunate happening that can be seized and used. I find that in photography it can play a significant role.

Take today's image. I was standing on the bank of the River Slea at Sleaford composing this photograph. To the right I placed the short section of fence - a bit of foreground interest among the nearby nettles and grass. I moved slightly so that the reflected trees fell to the left and right of the upright post in the water. Then, surveying the scene through the viewfinder I wished for a little more interest on the left of the composition. At that moment the inverted reflection of two walkers came into view, so I waited for them to reach the patch of blue sky above the reflected bank in the top corner then pressed the shutter button. Serendipity had struck again!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On