Photographic Regrets: We’ve All Had a Few

It is always interesting to meet other photographers when I’m out with one of my cameras creating a few images. The discussion often leads to the ‘missed shot’ or other photographic regrets.

Most of us have had experiences where we’ve missed images for one reason or another. Sometimes we decide that its time to go, and after we’ve put our gear away something happens that would have made a terrific photograph. Or, we’ve just arrived at a location and haven’t finished setting up when an event like that happens.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/6.3, 1/5, ISO-1100

I was recently at Hendrie Valley early one morning when a kingfisher flew straight at me while I was on one of the bridges. When it got within about 25 feet of me it banked hard to the right providing me with a wonderful opportunity to capture it close up in flight. All I could do was smile at this incredible flying display – my camera was still in my bag!

While on photography tours in New Zealand and some desert states in the US I had a number of occasions when I saw potential images flash through my mind while driving. A few times I stopped, circled back, and captured the photograph. More often than not, due to time pressures, I just kept driving. All the while I had this nagging feeling in my stomach that I had just missed a wonderful image. Even now I can recall specific feelings from those trips.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO-160

Sometimes photographic regrets can occur when talking with other photographers as we lose our concentration and can miss opportunities to capture photographs. For me this typically happens when I’m out doing some bird-in-flight photography.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 138mm, efov 373mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-560

Buying new photographic equipment is often an exciting event. There can be a great amount of anticipation when we open up a camera or lens box for the first time. It can also lead to photographic regrets if the gear fails to meet our expectations.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 201mm, efov 543mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250

Looking back, I haven’t had many disappointments with camera gear, and those that I did have were mainly the result of me not doing a sufficient amount of homework about my specific needs before making a purchase. Hindsight is always 20/20!

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/16, 1/2, ISO-160

I suppose many of us have had moments where we’ve thought, “if I had it to do all over again I would…”. A few of my photographic regrets would fall into this category. These include making the shift into full frame camera gear, and my rather short-lived experiment with some M4/3 gear.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-800

It took a few years for me to realize that full frame gear wasn’t the best fit for my specific business. By the time that realization set in I had invested well over five figures in full frame gear and wasted a lot of time as well. Luckily I was able to sell all of it at reasonable prices and recouped a good portion of my initial investment. My experiment with M4/3 was a faster learning experience. I came to my senses within 10 days and the financial impact was limited to several hundred dollars.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, efov 38mm, f/9, 1/500 sec, ISO-160

Being a neophyte with video gear also resulted in me accepting ‘must have’ suggestions before fully understanding my needs. On the positive side I have been pretty diligent getting rid of gear once I discover that I don’t really need to have cash tied up in it.

Have you experienced some photographic regrets? If you feel comfortable, please share them!

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12 thoughts on “Photographic Regrets: We’ve All Had a Few”

  1. one of the great conflicts in our marriage is that I don’t care when I get somewhere (if at all)

    my wife is a point-to-point person and believes that the interstate highway system was constructed as her exclusive high speed route to wherever we are going

    I have had days of travel where less than a hundred miles were covered (a couple of times less than twenty)

    I have found those days extraordinarily satisfying…it would be safe to say she did not

    actually once divorce came up

    my take…perhaps the relationship could be salvaged but I could never get shot again

    1. Hi Craig,
      Neither my wife or I are ‘point to point’ people…but she does have a higher sense of urgency than I do when we are out on a road trip. Luckily I work pretty fast so our stops are not lengthy…but plentiful!

  2. Photo 2 and 3 are my favorites of this page.

    Sometimes I regret not taking my camera on my daily dog walks on gloomy days when it is rainy. Sometimes the sun peeks out and lights the treeline up against a deep gray sky. Or the clouds clear just enough for a brilliant sunset.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Great that you bring this up, Tom. Somehow, the saying “Some of the best photographs you take, you take with your eyes,” seem very appropriate. In my case, either I didn’t bring the camera with me or I had it stashed for the day when opportunities present themselves. I guess it’s akin to fishing tales about the one/s that got away.


  4. Ca. 1960 missed a whole shoot of a storm in the mountains. Back then only select journals were printed in color. Editor of Adirondac, the B&W bimonthly journal of the Adirondack Mountain Club, asked me to get her B&W negs (most hikers were shooting color slides so the editor’s photo files were getting thin). Took 36 exposure Tri-X and one of my father’s series iii Leica bodies and his Summicron f2 collapsible mount lens w/ rotating polarizer, got myself atop a 4000′ summit looking at a dramatic thunder storm breaking on higher mountains to the west. Perfect! But the film would not wind. With a film camera the film advance mechanism must be disengaged, with a button or lever, to rewind exposed film. On my Kodak Signet 35, opening the rear door when reloading automatically reset the winder. I had forgotten that on the Leica, the tiny disengage lever on bottom plate needed to be manually returned to shooting mode. So I returned to car with no photos. Still have the Sekonic light meter I carried; reminds me of this stupid embarrassing blunder.

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thank you for sharing your ‘storm in the mountains’ experience! As I read your description my mind couldn’t help but create its own vision of those higher mountains with the storm breaking over them. Your story made me wonder if you were ever able to capture other storms in the mountains, and if so, if they ever lived up to the one that was missed in 1960.

  5. I was photographing h’birds in the Rio Grande TX area, and had a dinner appointment with my hosts. I had waited out the last 15 min. cycle and put away my gear, when one of my subjects returned and hovered, literally within touching distance, outside my pickup window. He stayed for at least a minute, and in my own anthropomorphic way, I believed he was saying goodbye after a week of shooting.

    Interesting thing is, that “photograph” has stayed with me for some 20+ years, much longer and more vivid than almost any actual photograph I have taken.

    1. Hi Bill,
      I just LOVE photographing hummingbirds and can I only imagine what a thrill your experience must have been! Having the memory embedded in your mind is a true treasure.

  6. When traveling I tend to be a Point A to Point B type of person; and I want to get there with as few stops as possible. I can think of many times I could have stopped and shot some pics, but did not. Several of those missed opportunities still “haunt” me, even years later.

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