Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Believe the Best

Dearest Anne and Caleb,

The year was 2003 and Aunty Min and I were students in Tucson, Arizona. In the evening, I drove to the mountains to photograph the sunset, as I often did, while Aunty Min caught back-to-back episodes of “Friends”.

The skies were a flat grey - terrible conditions for a sunset - and it was threatening to rain. Were it not for the narrow mountain roads that made it hard for me to turn back, I wouldn’t have driven all the way to Gates Pass.

Every evening, the carpark at Gates Pass would be 3/4 filled, with families hiking up the trails and couples snuggling up the side of the mountain waiting for sunset. I was the only one there this evening, and it didn’t look as it I was going to see any sunset at all due to the very thick cloud cover. I took a short hike up to the vantage point, looked around a bit and headed back to the car.

“Wasted trip”, I thought to myself.

As I started the engine, the skies glowed a most unreal blue. I grabbed my camera, ran out and took photos from the parking lot.

Gates Pass at Dusk

Like Shawn Colvin’s song goes, “I never saw blue like that before”.

I’ve been photographing sunrises and sunsets a long time now. I’ve learned to look at the weather conditions and predict the photo opportunities that would be presented to me to some degree of accuracy.

And I’ll share with you the one principle which I hope you’ll take with you wherever you go, whoever you meet.

It’s usually the ones you give up on - where the skies seem the most hopeless and the sun doesn’t look like it’s ever going to pierce through the clouds - that yield the most breathtaking photographs.

Marina Bay at Dawn, Singapore

God works in ways that are higher than man’s ways. “Hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). Your mother taught me to believe in the best in people, however flawed and hopeless, because we are all flawed and hopeless; it is not for us to judge. It’s a lesson I’m still learning to this day. But I’ve seen enough “hopeless cases” turn out to be the best of us and many bright sparks fade into darkness.

Carrying a camera bag is a heavy burden, and it doesn’t guarantee an emergence of photo opportunities. But you’ll be ready when and if they appear.