Where Did That Hour Go?
No, this article is not about Daylight Saving Time, even though it did begin today. It's instead about enjoying what you're doing so much you totally lose track of time. Just where did that hour go?
I wear a watch that tells me when sunrise and sunset will occur. It helps me plan my day. When I'm out shooting though, I'm not so much concerned with what time it is then and there as I am with triangulating my schedule to be where I want to be when sunrise or sunset arrives. In between those points in the day, the exact time doesn't really matter. I eat when I get hungry, and so on. If I tried to live by a "normal" schedule, I'd be eating breakfast as the sun rose and dinner during sunset, more often than not. Such is the schedule of a nature photographer.
Yes, these days, the phone in my pocket tells me about the movement of the sun and so much more. But I often can't get a cellular signal in a national forest, and even if I could, that phone would create too much of a distraction, what with email and all the trappings of life back at home. All I really want is sunrise and sunset information when I'm out shooting.
Before I bought this watch, I went quite a while without a watch at all. If I really needed to know what time it was, there was likely a clock available somewhere for me to take a glance at. As far as dawn and dusk were concerned, I just kept an eye on things and winged it.
To a degree, you pretty much have to wing it in the outdoors. Weather and other factors defy accurate prediction even with the best smart phone or watch. Even if I plan for sunrise or good weather, nature may have other plans. That's just the way of it. And it's what you find in front of you that matter really anyway, not what you hoped you'd find. That's just the way it is too.
There's a meditative aspect to photography, at least for me, and perhaps for you as well. When focused deeply on the possibilities of an interesting subject and how best to capture it, I tend to lose track of everything else. Again, it's what I find in front of me that matters. My task is to get in touch with that, and work with it. That too is just being honest about the way it is. No matter what I had hoped I might find, I can only photograph what's actually there. Rather than hoping for something else, I have to find the best way I can to render what I actually find.
In doing so, I've found it best to forget about everything else. I do a lot of planning before heading out, but all that goes out the window once I get there. And when I'm really enjoying myself, everything but my subject goes out the window with it. I find that I "merge" with my subject almost to the degree that we collaborate on how best to create an image that does justice to the encounter.
I know this may sound a bit over the top, that is unless and until you've experienced the same thing yourself. But when you really get into it, the act of photography becomes a symbiotic endeavor between photographer and subject. The subject reveals itself to you as you search for ways to best express that subject. Everything else is put on hold, for at least a while, as this joint exploration strives for fulfillment. The passage of time too seems to be put on hold. It's just not relevant, at least for the time being.
Sometimes I'll notice some small detail: the curve of a tree branch, or the reflection in a puddle by the side of the trail perhaps. When that happens, I may find myself setting down my camera bag and exploring things for a while. Depending on what I discover, I'll reach for my camera and tripod and explore further. One thing leads to another, and I lose track of time. Other people may walk down the trail past me, wondering what it is I'm so engrossed in. They can't possibly know unless they get down there with me and see what I see. What matters is that I'm enjoying what I find.
Normally, we see the world as being "out there" and ourselves as "in here." The boundary between the two seems obvious enough and beyond the need for much comment. But when time disappears, so does this boundary. It's not that anything actually changes. We just don't see it anymore.
So, some of you reading this are hopefully nodding your heads in knowing agreement, having experienced the same thing on occasion. For those of you though that are a tad bewildered as to what exactly I'm going on about, here's some advice. Whatever type of photography you enjoy, allow it to be your guide. Let your enjoyment of photography help you improve your photography. The more you can let go of everything else, the more you will be creating the opportunity for magic to happen. Don't worry about whatever tasks await you when you get back from your photographic outing. They will still be there when you get back. They aren't going anywhere. It's just that for a little while, set worrying about them aside and enjoy your photography.
Enjoyment is the key to merging with what it is you enjoy. And when that happens, you may just find yourself wondering just where did that hour go? I'm betting your images will bear out my advice here, but regardless, so long as your enjoying yourself, it's all good.