In October, I took a trip to Nevada City, California. Even though shooting fall color wasn’t the reason for the trip, I thought I might find and photograph some there. So I got up before sunrise and went scouting. I didn’t find much good fall color, but I did find, or rather, was found by, a much better subject.

As I walked around Nevada City with my camera, a man approached and started a conversation. His name was Merlin, and he had quite a personal story. To condense it greatly, he’s Canadian, speaks six languages, lives part of the year in Costa Rica, runs a couple of businesses, and has 170,000 Instagram followers. I didn’t believe all that, but later, when I checked it out, it’s all true.

Merlin has a unique look, so I asked if I could take his picture. He was fine with that, so I kept shooting him, unobtrusively, as he talked to me. They were OK shots, but the sun had not yet come up and the lighting was bluish and non-directional. Then the sun came up, and the light got a lot better.

I moved Merlin to a spot where he was lit by the rising sun while the background was not. So, without processing tricks, I had a yellow-toned , well-lit subject that separates from a blue-toned, shadowed background. Sometimes things just work out.

As he talked, I kept shooting, trying to capture expressions and gestures.

He put his glasses on, which gave him a different look.

Merlin as a subject just fell into my lap. I was looking for something else, but I’m happy things turned out the way they did. Reminds me of this Jay Maisel quote: “If you’re out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.”