When we asked 8 pro photographers to share the best advice they were ever given, incredibly talented abstract aerial photographer Tony Hewitt said:

I was once told to ‘Always stick to the Plan!’ When you have a shoot planned and the weather looks bad, don’t cancel, go any way as you never know what you might miss!

This advice would come back to me just a few days later in a different form—a story told to me while I was exchanging emails with amateur photographer Carey Sherrill.

Inniswood Barred Owl by C Sherrill on 500px.com

“A couple days ago I went to a local garden park and only took one 50mm f/1.4 lens to photograph flowers and insects,” he told me. “I was lucky enough to see their Barred Owl and get a photo, even though I had to crop it down to 800px because I didn’t have a long lens.”

He continued on, completing another story that he had started earlier in our email. A fishing boat had ruined a time-lapse he was working on for an hour the morning of our conversation—that, too, led to a great photo opportunity.

“On the way home I stopped and got some cool shots of the sunrise through a ground fog that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d finished the time lapse,” he explained.

Both stories have made Carey realize something about his photography. “I’m a planner—I like to scout locations, use the Photographer’s Ephemeris, and plan which lens I might need,” he said. “But some of my favorite shots have been unexpected.”

It’s a lesson many of us learn at one point or another: planning is important, crucial even; but you can’t plan reality and, sometimes, reality has a better idea than you could have come up with.

So yes, stick to the plan, but keep your eyes open and embrace serendipity. Go out even if the weather or light isn’t cooperating, and when the plan falls through for any of a million reasons, another opportunity might be waiting for you around the next bend in the road.

Indian Run Falls by C Sherrill on 500px.com

A big thank you goes out to Carey for suggesting this editorial and sharing his story and photography with us. If you’d like to see more of his work, be sure to visit him on 500px, Instagram, and Flickr. You can also keep up with his stories by checking out his blog.

Do you have your own story of when serendipity trumped planning? Go ahead and share it in the comments down below! And don’t forget to link to the photo you captured as a result.