As nature photographers we’re out there more often than most folks and in position to see image possibilities. But do we act on these possibilities? Yes and no. It depends on your situation at that moment. Are you tired and headed back to the barn? Maybe you think you’ll be back tomorrow and at that time you’ll get the shot. Do you have another destination in mind, and stopping is not an option? We’ve all had a reason (excuse) for not acting upon a visual calling of the moment.
In my 50 plus years of photography I have images that exist because I stopped to act, and only memories of those I wished I had stopped to capture. On the “acting” side I submit this series of images taken in February a few years ago near the end of Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. I noticed a small stream cutting through the snow a ways from the road. I found a place to park my vehicle and trudged through knee-high snow to observe a beautiful miniature waterway with lattices of ice.
Why did I stop? I shouldn’t have. I was on my way out of the park at the end of a week of winter photography; my wife was in the van coming down with pneumonia and ready to head home; my wrist was incredibly sore and aching (I didn’t know it was actually broken from a motorcycle crash that happened a few days before I left for Yellowstone); and I was tired from dealing with freezing temperatures during the previous week. To top it off, my father had passed away just as I arrived in Yellowstone the previous week and I’d traveled to the funeral and back. Leaving my nice warm van was a difficult decision. As you can see, I had every reason to just keep on driving, but I didn’t. It was a good lesson in acting on the possibilities, as I’ve gone to that same location several times since to find . . . nothing. The stream was either buried in snow or non-existent. If I hadn’t photographed that day, I would have missed a wonderful opportunity, these images, and a great memory.
Now, when I come across a photographic opportunity and I just don’t feel like acting upon it, I remember that day in Yellowstone. So I stop and take a better look, and often enough it pays off. Remember, it won’t be there tomorrow, at least not the way it is at this moment that’s calling to you.