Have you ever thought about what keeps you going as an outdoor or nature photographer, and what it all means at the end of the day? Or perhaps you’ve felt that something was missing from your experiences, or your images but can’t quite put your finger on it.
I’ve thought about these things deeply, and I think they’re extremely important on many different levels. A recent post on the Minimalists blog really resonated with me, and I wanted to share it here with you. While I recommend you read the entire article, here’s the part that really sums it up:
“I’m going to enjoy the experience first and embrace the impermanence of the moment. And if an unobtrusive opportunity arises to snap a single photo, then I will. Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s okay to be on the mountain—to be meditative—without proving to everyone else you were there to see it.”
I speak and write often about the experience of landscape photography being at the core of why I photograph and who I am. And I really do believe that it makes a difference, in fact, it makes all the difference. Being in the moment and aware of what’s happening around you, without the distractions of “getting the shot”, can often provide creative possibilities that might otherwise never appear.
The art of seeing is an act of discovery, and for that we need space and sensitivity—free from the mental baggage we often carry around. That’s hard to do when we’re lost in the pursuit of our “latest and greatest” image. Or when we’re wrapped up with the technicalities our expensive gear trying to make sure we “get the shot”; our trophy.
How about when we feel we’ll miss a great opportunity unless we take as many shots as possible, while the “essence” of the moment goes unnoticed. Believe me, I’ve been there and didn’t even know it because I was too busy thinking and doing instead of just being.
“What we think, we become.” – Buddha
If, as Jay Maisel says, “you don’t choose the picture, the picture chooses you,” then photography shouldn’t become a “hunt”, and we the predators. Your time in nature should be an opportunity to reflect and appreciate, to think about why you’re there instead of somewhere else, and figure out what it is you really want to say.
When we’re out in nature as photographers it’s so easy to become prisoners of our expectations, more focused on our fantasies of what can be rather than on what is actually happening. We’ve planned and waited, invested in gear and other expenses, and prepared as best we could to achive our goal; a great image.
But are we really seeing or just performing a well rehearsed exercise?
Perhaps if we change our perspective that means we don’t get to the point where we press the shutter. That’s ok, what’s the rush? Have you wasted your time otherwise? Or have you learned instead to trust your instincts, develop your intuition, and understand why you’re pressing the shutter in the first place?
Ultimately in my opinion, this can make you a better photographer and a happier human being. And that’s simply because the time you invest will give you more in return than simply photographs. It will connect you at a much deeper level to your subject, and to yourself. Approaching photography this way can give you freedom, and peace of mind.
“Our thoughts create our reality—where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.” – Peter McWilliams
In future posts, I’ll talk about specific ways that you can incorporate these ideas into your photography, and how it’s specifically made a difference in my own work.
Have any thoughts or feedback? I’d love to hear your perspective. Thanks for reading!