I just read a post on David duChemin’s Craft & Vision blog yesterday in which he discussed the photographic skill of patience. David talked about our need as photographers to pass through time gracefully and intentionally, waiting and remaining receptive and open to possibilities.
That resonated with me and prompted me to reflect on how I practice patience in my photography. No doubt, most would connote this with an ability to sit and wait for something to occur or present itself to you. The concept of identifying a scene, setting up the camera, composing the frame and then waiting for that “decisive moment” to present itself and release the shutter is probably the classic example of that form of patience. David discusses several of those kinds of scenarios.
For myself, I have decided that the form of patience that I have been practicing of late is somewhat different. I sometimes find myself walking out onto the driveway, looking up and making a decision based on that limited view as to whether or not a drive out with my camera will be worthwhile. What I have found, and have to continually remind myself, is that is not a very good barometer at all. Invariably I am rewarded with at least one scene that makes the drive out a fruitful one. And even those times that I don’t come home with anything that excites me I have reaped the benefits of being out there taking in the sights, sounds and smells and continuing to hone my skills of vision and seeing.
My current form of patience is continually moving down the road being open and receptive to those possibilities that are going to be out there. I see a cloud or some structure on the horizon that piques my interest and I make my way in that direction. Sometimes I get there and I get a shot and sometimes I don’t. More often than not I find other things along the way towards what has drawn my attention that rewards me with an image that I hadn’t even considered or had an inkling of.
Picking a spot to setup and wait for the light to present itself just so doesn’t do it for me. Sure, there have been the times that I have come across something where I could sense that the light was dynamic enough to present me with numerous possibilities and I have spent time waiting, watching and taking in all of the other sensory data that infuses so many of my images for me.
But more often than not I find the patience is in continuing on down the road knowing that special things will unfold in front of me if I maintain that openness and receptivity. As I write this I am wondering if our forms of patience that we are required to practice aren’t driven in large part by the imagery that we find ourselves driven to pursue.
Here on the high plains where the vistas are so continually and dramatically changing with each mile further down the road those possibilities that we are keeping ourselves open to are multiplied many fold with that continual motion that I am referring to. I think in some ways I am effecting the change that creates the possibilities for me to sift through by my motion. In the case of more urban and street scenes though, we identify the base composition and then wait for the inherent motion of life coming and going to create that change and bring together those elements to create that special image that we feel in our hearts is going to present itself.
Maybe I’m off base in my thoughts on this. What I am certain of in the case of this image is if it were not for my getting out there and working my way along the dirt roads, letting my muse and the weather direct my turns, and watching and waiting for this crossroads of elements to come together I would not have it to present here today. And if I had listened to doubt out there on the driveway and just gone back inside to work on something else I definitely would not have been where I needed to be.
I’ll close this with a quote from David that I found in one of his writings a couple of years ago:
“Seeing is truly an act of the mind, not the eyes, and the mind gets distracted by a million things; so it seems to that there are few photographic skills more important than patience.”
(Originally published August 11, 2016)