To consistently produce great photographs, there are many concepts that need to be learned. I consider reading the light to be the most important. Without good light, a good photo is hard to produce. I’d rather photograph an ordinary subject in great light than a great subject in ordinary light. Next on my hierarchy is composition. Even with a great subject in great light, if the composition is weak, the image will lack drama. Other essential aspects are controlling the depth of field, controlling backgrounds, and subject choice. Along with these obvious notions is one that has nothing to do with how well you know the art of photography. It’s the art of persistence. Without it, you’ll miss many a great image as you won’t persevere or be patient enough to let drama unfold or wait for the perfect moment when the subject displays the decisive moment.
The decisive moment happens when the action reaches an apex, when a subject portrays the perfect expression, when an animal conveys a special look, when the light becomes its most dramatic, etc. Waiting for this fleeting moment to occur may take, if you’re lucky, five minutes but it also may take hours. It may also never happen. The one guarantee is if you don’t wait it out, you won’t get the shot. I’ve been told that I’ve been “lucky” that I got the shot where peak action or the perfect expression is captured. I offer to you that persistence played a much greater role than luck. Staying with your subject, waking up a little earlier than other photographers, staying out a little later, keeping your eye up to the viewfinder even though it’s not comfortable all determine the “luck” and increase the opportunity to get the shot.
In the two images that accompany this Tip of the Week, persistence played a huge part in capturing each moment.
Image 1: There are two lakes about 25 minutes from my home that always have waterfowl of some sort on or near the water. Both bodies of water get worked by a number of the nature photographers in and around my area. Given the magnitude of times I’ve been to both, I sometimes question whether I should make the effort. Blasphemy! I negate the trigger of my complacency, I come to my senses and wipe the thought from my head knowing it’s the kiss of death to think like that. So I persevere. I set my alarm, grab a snack, and get my camera gear ready for the shoot. On a very chilly winter morning I made the drive. I was rewarded with fly by after fly by of many of the species of waterfowl. Had I fallen victim to my lack of commitment, I wouldn’t have this photo in my files.
Image 2: Persistence lead me to create what I call my “Five Minute Rule.” Just when I feel it’s time to pack up AND I’ve persevered a long time, I look at my watch and institute my five minute rule – from whatever time my watch says, I wait an additional five minutes. I have to admit that some of my most memorable images have come as a result. I was leading a photo tour to Arches and Canyonlands and we were experiencing some horrible weather. The group felt snake bit. On about the fourth morning, we headed out and once again, the windshield wipers were ON. We got to the sunrise destination and all I can remember is slumping over the steering wheel and becoming giddy with laughter. I was incredulous that the weather refused to break. Next thing I know, the drizzle stopped so we got out of the vehicle. We set up our cameras and tripods and within 10 minutes, the sun broke, light kissed the formations, and as if in an apologetic way, the weather gods created a double rainbow. Persevere and be persistent – you will be rewarded.