The Three Ps of Nature Photography
This is the second entry of a three-part series on the mental approach to photography.
Preparation, Persistence, and ...
An unfortunate truth of landscape photography is that things don't always happen exactly as we hope, when we hope. For example, performing due preparation, we identify a scene with great potential and take all the necessary steps to put ourselves in place for what we think will be the best conditions for photographing it, only to be disappointed by unexpected weather or thwarted by an unanticipated swarm of oblivious photographers in our scene. Or you find a composition that lacks one element (a shaft of light or just the right cock of the head from that grazing buck) for perfection.
It's easy to be discouraged by these failures, to forget the potential and move on to more cooperative opportunities. But nobody said this is supposed to be easy, and in fact the best images are the unique images that everyone else found to be too much trouble. Some suggest that the second P should be "patience," and while I agree that patience is a huge part of photography, I like "persistence" because it is patience with a dash of stubbornness. And it's stubbornness, that fierce resolve to refuse defeat, that has resulted in successes I had no reasonable expectation of achieving.
Does persistence guarantee success? Of course not. But it does give me a better shot at success than would walking away from something that might be special. And the more disappointments I have, the greater the thrill when something great happens.
I spied the scene for today's image while walking the banks of the Merced one fall afternoon. The elements had aligned almost perfectly: a quiet bend in the river reflecting Half Dome framed by beautiful fall color and the complementary blue sky. But I thought the lower part of the frame needed something to break up the flat sky. As I stood there contemplating the scene a leaf drifted by and I thought a leaf in the empty part of the frame would be exactly what I need. (I realize placing a leaf here with Photoshop would be a piece of cake, but since I photograph first for the thrill of discovery, manipulation like that is absolutely out of the question for me.)
So I set up my tripod, composed my shot, and set my exposure. Then I waited. And waited. For the next 90 minutes I watched perfect leaves float by above and below my frame, and one painfully scruffy leaf spin right across the heart of the fame. As I waited I became very familiar with the currents and eddies in my small corner of the river and got pretty good at spying leaves upstream and anticipating their route. I honestly felt I was engaged in a battle of wills with Mother Nature, and when she finally realized I wasn't going to relent, she gave in and delivered this perfect, heart-shaped leaf. Dinner was particularly good that night.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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