Wait for it…

Photographs are moments in time and as a photographer we are always looking for that perfect moment. The more my photography has developed the more I’ve realized to capture those really incredible moments requires a lot of prep-work. Whether its scouting a location, pre-visualizing a shot, or tracking weather patterns, great shots more often than not don’t just happen. Even street photography, which is the antithesis of the “in the moment” shots is likely the result of time spent in a location, watching and planning. Sure, there are those spontaneous right-place-at-the-right-time shots, but for the vast majority of photos that capture your attention time is required.

Time of course is a finite resource. Well, I should rephrase that. For me time for photography is a finite resource. Part of that is due to the responsibilities of life (i.e. photography ain’t payin’ the bills!) and part is my life struggle of having more hobbies than hours in a week. So while in theory I will wait for the absolute perfect moment to shoot photographs, the reality is most of my shots come during the small windows of time that I am able to carve out. Still, I do my best to think through and do the prep work necessary for a great photograph.

The other week we were out on a group run along the Boise Greenbelt around sunset. The sky was amazing as the sun painted golden light on the peaked fall colors along the river. “Dang, where is my camera!” I thought to myself. As the scene unfolded my mind was going in a million directions of potential photographs and my eyes looking everywhere but at the path ahead. In order to avoid a face plant, I made a few mental notes of potential shots and to come back to the spot at the same time of day. 

Not surprising a day later became a week later and in that time the days got a little bit shorter and a few fronts passed through bringing rain and wind. I checked the weather the day I finally made time to go back to the park which called for no rain and partly cloudy skies. Perfect. Reality though when I packed the truck and headed out – full cloud mono-grey skies. As I walked to the spot that had first captured my attention I noticed that the trees had lost a good amount of their leaves and colors were a little past their prime. The air was let out of my enthusiasm balloon as I searched around for something that might work. I composed a few photographs near the spot I had remembered and while all was not lost, it just didn’t have the same impact I saw the previous week. After Dana and I checked out a few last spots we made our way back to the truck and past where I had been shooting ten minutes prior. The sun had just made its way below the horizon throwing a redish last light into the air. I quickly set my tripod down and composed a few photographs knowing that the light would only last a few minutes. 

As the last of the light faded I looked up from the camera and reflected on the moment. The experience reminded me some important lessons that have been taught to me through photography. One lesson was given to me by Michael DeYoung during a photography workshop and that is when you think you’re done shooting and you see everyone else packing up to go home, stick around a few more minutes, because that is the time when the good unplanned stuff usually happens. Another lesson of photography is to let go of expectations and remain flexible. Pre-planning and working for a shot is important, but no matter how much preparation you do, things can and mostly like will change. The moments are what lies before you.

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