I’m often asked what are some of the things I practice in order to improve my photography. There are many as you might imagine, but one that I’m constantly working on is patience. In fact, one of the things I see most often when I’m teaching workshops is a lack of patience.
A recent blog post by Art Wolfe brought this into sharp focus for me as he described his approach to photographing a tree he found captivating:
“Cold and damp, and hidden by spreading boughs from passersby, I spent a couple of hours working the angles.”
When was the last time you spent two hours at one time photographing one subject in nature? Regardless of your answer, there is still a great deal to learn and appreciate from this bit of behind the scenes information.
As an aside, that’s one reason I don’t believe in “timed” workshop shoots. We’re done when every student is finished working, and not before. I don’t believe in interrupting the creative flow, after all, that’s what we’re all there for…
The art of photography is all about simplifying an idea until we arrive at the very essence of what that idea is. A painter starts with a blank canvas—simplicity defined—but we start with chaos, and must reduce it down to something that can communicate our ideas to the viewer effectively.
But that only comes with contemplation, refinement, and most of all patience.
When approaching a subject, think about what’s most interesting about it. How many possibilities are there for an interesting composition? If you get stuck, put the camera down and just hang out for a while. What does it feel like? Does getting out from behind the camera give you a different sense of perspective? How does that interruption in your thinking affect your vision when you pick the camera up again?
When you put the camera down, you release yourself from the burden of making images, and thinking about the the practice of photography. You become more aware of your surroundings, your emotions, and why it is that you’re even there. The possibility of making a connection is greatly improved, and your photography will benefit from it.
I’ve done this repeatedly over the years, and I can tell you it not only helps the creative muse, it cultivates patience. This can often make the difference between a good photograph and a great one.
You’ll notice how the light changes ever so slightly over time, and how that affects your composition, or creates a new one you hadn’t visualized before. Each of these need to be not only seen, but felt as well.
“Anything you do to make your image more specific, helps to make the photograph more powerful.” – Jay Maisel
Patience fosters curiosity, and that’s the key to everything in nature photography.
I’d love your feedback and opinions – thanks for reading!