Sometimes you can come across a scene that seems so perfect, you’re not sure where to begin to attempt to capture it in a photograph. This was the situation I found myself in when I accidentally happened to come across this amazing beach in the northeastern side of Cape Breton Island National Park last year. The light was magnificent, changing every minute or so as fast moving clouds did their dance on the horizon.
Sometimes I just wait and watch, and ideas will come slowly as I absorb the moment and identify those things I’m reacting to the most. Other times I need to put the camera to my eye and change my perspective—see what an actual photograph would look like. I did both in this instance, and immediately realized the sound of the surf was what held my attention in complete focus – what is commonly known as flow. Flow is when you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time, where you are or anything else that is not in your field of concentration.
With the sound of the surf in my mind, I noticed the beautiful patterns they were making in the immediate foreground, and looked for similar shapes in the scene. The foreground rocks, far side of the coast, and clouds all combined to create the composition I felt was strong enough to convey the uniqueness of the moment. Now I just waited again, and made a few shots while experimenting with the timing of the surf. A relatively fast shutter speed of 125th sec @f/11 made sure I froze the movement in the water, closely repeating the distinct patterns and lines of the clouds in the sky.
For me flow is an absolute pre-requisite for my best work. I would argue it’s essential for your work as a photographer as well. This topic is one I’m researching for a new book, including what it is, how to harness it for creativity, and what steps we can take as photographers to improve our chances of enjoying flow when we go out in the field. I want to start to introduce ideas here on the blog for conversation and feedback from you.
Have you ever experienced flow while photographing? Do you find this idea interesting and useful? Let me know in the comments below – thanks for reading!