Many famous photographers are known for iconic quotes: “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer,”—Ansel Adams; “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow,”—Imogen Cunningham; “Every other artist begins with a blank canvas ... the photographer begins with the finished product,”—Edward Steichen; “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed,”—Garry Winogrand. But of all the famous quotes I’ve heard, nothing rings truer than what Minor White quipped: He was once asked, “What will you take today?” His response was, “What will I be given?”
How a photographer perceives the world is derived from a compilation of many things. What’s the photographer’s mood today? Is it below freezing and all he/she wants is heat? Did late-night star trail photography dictate no sunrise photos? Does the newness of the locale spark enthusiasm or fear of the unknown? Is it simply a down day? But given these downward factors, would amazing light and an iconic subject cancel out the above negatives? Would the thrill of a new camera inspire one to fill a flash card? Did attending a workshop motivate you to eat, drink and relish the thought of creating the next photo? The mind can govern what gets captured. When thoughts align and you’re on your game, you’ll come back with better photographs than if stress or distractions dominate your thought process.
Reason vs. end result—Is the potential capture of the great shot your prime motivation to get out in the field or do other factors drive you out of a warm bed? Could it be you simply want to get outdoors and the photography is an excuse to feel the sun on your back? Perhaps you arranged to meet some photo buddies and you look forward to a nice breakfast after the session—if you get some great shots, it’s a bonus. The point of the above rhetoric is for you to realize and understand WHY you grab your camera and head out to make pictures. What transpires after that plays into the images you bring home. The overarching principle is this: does the reason you head into the field satisfy the end result? If the driving force is to come home with spectacular images all the time, you may set yourself up for failure. Some sessions will always prove more productive than others—maybe many others. The bottom line is to enjoy your time in the field. It’s what we love to do. The end result may be zero pictures, but you got outdoors, cleared your head, and de-stressed. Not so bad after all! And that one time where you almost rolled over under the covers but decided to get out into the field may net you the million-dollar photo.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.