I’m often asked whether I prefer the beginning or end of the day for photography, and I always answer that for me, nothing gets me out of bed faster than the excitement and curiosity of what I will discover during the early morning hours. The crisp air of dawn, the mystery of fog, and the imminent arrival of light which always brings me great excitement and joy.
During a summer camping trip with my family, I sneaked out of our campsite (as I always do!) and walked as fast as I could to the boat dock to find my canoe where I had left it the night before. My excitement became overbearing when I found the lake completely shrouded in a grey heavy fog, and I launched into a world where I quickly lost sense of space and direction. I paddled and drifted, listening for orientation, then paddled some more, and listened again, my senses sharp and alive. Suddenly, forms emerged out of the fog, quiet and serene, reflecting the faint hint of warm light that was now starting to appear. I exposed a few images, then drifted for moments that I still remember vividly and fondly.
I learned something from nature that morning, a lesson worth remembering. You can take photographs of nature, but nature also offers what can’t be captured, only experienced. And as a photographer I’ve learned to embrace that limitation whenever I’m feeling insecure about my work. Whenever I feel like I should leave the camera in the bag for good (don’t we all sometimes?), the experiences get me through these periods of doubt.
On a recent workshop, I asked a student if something was wrong as he didn’t seem to be making an effort to photograph anything. As usual, I worried that our location, or worse my presence was somehow at fault. He smiled, and said “on the contrary, I’m just taking in this beautiful scene with all of my senses, what more can I ask for?”
I became the student that moment, and thanked him for his wisdom.
Any experiences you can share about your experiences in nature? Let me know in the comments…