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A Tale of Two Photographers

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness." Two different photographers can have quite different experiences under similar circumstances depending on how they approach things.

What you put into your photography can determine what you get out of it. Good photography requires the active participation of the photographer. You are more than just an observer with a recording device in your hand.

Consider the following: two photographers with different traits go on remarkably similar trips. They bring with the comparable gear and encounter similar conditions. After hassling with traffic on the road getting to their destination, both arrive too late for sunset. Both settle down for a well-deserved night's sleep, planning to get up early the next morning for sunrise. But when their travel alarm clocks interrupt their slumbers a few short hours later while it's still pitch black, the two react differently.

The first one hits the snooze alarm while he attempts to regain his composure enough to get out of bed. While lying there he becomes aware of the sound of raindrops lightly tapping on the window. He considers what this means to his plans. It may clear off, and it may not. He hits the snooze alarm once again as he continues to weigh his options. He waits a while longer to see what happens, hoping the tapping will subside. The alarm goes off again and he reaches for the snooze button once more. No change yet. Eventually he realizes that even if does get up now he likely doesn't have enough time left to get to where he planned to shoot from. Things are getting complicated. He finally rationalizes his predicament and resets the alarm for later on, concluding that a cloudy morning with even light rain probably means no beautiful sunrise. A fresh start and overcast skies though should mean he can shoot other subjects long past when might be practical under full sun so all isn't a total loss. That seems to make sense given the situation.

Our second photographer is presented by a similar predicament when his travel alarm goes off. He too hits the snooze button to make sure he doesn't accidentally fall back asleep in the dark. The awareness of light rain enters his consciousness in a similar fashion with raindrops tapping outside on the window pane. Rats, his photography plans just got a bit more complicated than he had hoped. He considers what to do as he works to rouse himself from his slumbers. On the one hand, it could be a total bust for sunrise. He's experienced it before. Rather than the sky turning glorious shades of orange and golden on one horizon and pink on the opposite side of the sky, the entire dome of the heavens slowly goes from b black to dark gray and on through lighter shades of gray without any touch of saturated color whatsoever. Increasing details of the clouds overhead gradually become more apparent, but it's hard to tell which direction the sun is supposedly in the process of rising from given the otherwise uniform nature of the dull colorless sky that can be seen above.

What the Dickens should he do (if you'll pardon the pun based on the name of a certain famous author)? One the one hand, he could get up and find out what happens. On the other, he could catch a few more winks and reassess the situation later on. He reaches for the alarm again. But unlike our first photographer, he turns it off and gets out of bed. The only way to find out what's going to happen is to get up and see. It's entirely possible that any wish of an actual sunrise is indeed a lost cause. But it's also possible the rain may pass before the real action gets started for sunrise. Or it could be raining where he is now but not where he plans to shoot from at the appointed hour. Even a passing break in the clouds might be sufficient if it lines up with where he points his camera. Fickle weather can sometimes lead to great images only possible under such conditions. He reasons it's time to go find out what happens rather than guessing.

The only real difference between these two photographers is how they approached their situation. I'm not even going to tell you what actually transpired as the morning progressed for each since the whole thing was purely hypothetical anyway. But it can and does happen all the time, to every one of us whose photographic fate rests at least in part on Mother Nature. It doesn't even have to be the weather that becomes the unknown factor. Do you go on that hike seeing as there are no wildflowers at the start of the trail? Do you assume the snow won't have melted yet, or that it melted too early and you'll find conditions past their peak? Do you even go on the trip at all given everything else you need to get done at home?

It's all up to you. It all depends on how you approach your photography. No reason all of us need to approach things the same way either. Only you really know what you want out of your photography or what you are willing to put into it. This is all just something to consider — something to reflect upon and perhaps to act upon. But giving it some thought may be a far, far better thing that you do, than you have ever done for your photography. Well, you get the idea.

Date posted: May 3, 2015


Copyright © 2015 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Two Opposite Ways to Get Out of a Creative Funk
The One That Got Away

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