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Failure is an option

I knew I had two chances – slim and none – to get a good photo from the annual underwater pumpkin-carving contest put on by the Yakima Dive Club.

First, I am not a scuba diver (I prefer water in the form of snow). Second, I’ve never done any underwater photography and third, the water in the lake where the event took place is a murky brew of water, silt and duck and goose poop. Not a good combination of factors.

Still, I wanted to try even though photographic failure was almost assured.

I (left) get last-minute instructions on the use of the underwater camera from Brian McGuire as we float in Lake Aspen. (photo by Dick Carmody)

Being unafraid to fail and a willingness to take chances should be important to all photographers.

Of course, there needs to be a back-up plan, a “CYA” photo, if a photo must be produced.

So, take the “CYA” photos, especially when your job is to produce photos. But it’s also important to take other photos. Photos which may be more creative or be less obvious. Photos which you, the photographer, enjoy.

Who knows? That creative photo, that less-obvious photo, may ultimately be the right one.

Luckily, there was no photo expected from my self-assigned underwater pumpkin-carving contest. If I got something, great. If not, well, no big deal. Still, I challenged myself to produce a publication-worthy photo.

As expected, photos of the actual carving were not possible. The water was just too murky and my rookie scuba skills prevented me from diving deeply enough. Using an unfamiliar camera in an underwater housing didn’t help matters, either.

Failure. The dark area is part of a diver. I think. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

Finding that the underwater photos weren’t working I figured I could photograph a diver surfacing with his carved pumpkin. Hardly as good as an underwater photo but still publication-worthy. We had never photographed this event before and having a photo¬† from the event was good.

Ken Zahn surfaces from Lake Aspen in Yakima, Wash. with his just-carved pumpkin Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Zahn was taking part in the Yakima Dive Club's annual underwater pumpkin-carving contest. in which contestants must be completely submerged while carving the pumpkin. The buoyancy of the pumpkin makes carving underwater, says Zahn. Zahn, whose pumpkin took first in the contest, said he was able to scoop out the pulp and then use several rocks from the bottom of the lake to hold the pumpkin down as he carved it. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

So even though I failed to get the photo I wanted – and the photo I wanted our readers and viewers to see – it was good for me to try. If you don’t try you’ll never succeed.

–Gordon King

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