The same thing had happened to me earlier this year—in Vietnam when, touring Ha Long Bay on an ancient Vietnamese junk, I glanced through the chin-level bathroom window to see a “to die for” sunrise behind the stark karst formations. That time, with my camera near at hand, I scrambled on deck (yes, in my pajamas), the sunrise in full bloom. But I was foiled then too—this time, by my failure to realize that emerging from a room super-cooled by an erratic air conditioner into the steamy outdoor air would so cloud my lens that a clear photo would be a pipe dream. In the seconds between clearing the lens with a cloth and lifting the camera to eye level for the shot, the lens hazed over again and again. The best I got was a photo hazy around the edges after the most intense colors had faded.
We used to make a distinction between “good” cameras—those 35 mm creations that allowed, nay demanded, that you manually set shutter speed and aperture—and those cheaper numbers we called “point and shoot” that didn’t expect you to do anything, but push the button in return for photos that were passable, but usually far below professional standards.
Now, once you’ve selected the appropriate setting (landscape? night? indoor?), a “good” camera can pretty much function as a point and shoot. Taking a good photo is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time—being aware of the moment, keeping a camera close at hand, and going for the shot, all in all, a pretty good metaphor for life. I’ll try to remember that.