The Photographer’s Patience
|The Fields. The Sky.|
It seems quite obvious that if you are serious about photography as an art form, you have to be patient. For all kinds of reasons.
The first thing that comes to mind is the patience you need when you are out there in the field. (I am talking mainly about landscape photography here, but the principles apply to almost any kind of photography I guess.) Once you are out there, you wait until you find the right spot, the right angle, until that cloud moves, the fog settles or the sun comes up. Whatever it is — you are waiting patiently for that moment, when everything seems right for you, when it feels like the right moment to take the picture. And it needs to be that exact moment that feels right for you and you only.
But even once you experienced that excitement that is typical for that moment you feel you got something there. When you are totally sure you have the material you need. When all the exposures are made, all angles covered and you just want to head home and start working on what you just photographed. Even then you’ll still need to practice patience.
If you start developing in the exact same way you have developed other images; if you use default settings without even trying something new; if you skip experimenting you don’t grow and you are not treating your image as the unique potential piece of art it is. Be patient and try something new. Take as long as it takes and then some.
And if possible, make a print. Making a print will teach you to be even more patient and if it was only for the wasted paper and ink if your print isn’t good enough. This, of course, assumes that you want the best possible quality for your images, technically and aesthetically.
The thing is that in this day and age we take pictures with our phones, use the same filters on them as millions of others do and then post them. Which is totally okay for those snapshots, but if this kind of workflow; this quick fix for our need for immediate gratification also find its way into our workflow as an artist, we’re doomed to get stuck in our growth as an artist and human being. Or we might even stagnate.
If we publish images prematurely, unfinished and not conveying something (which was hopefully our intention), it is like something we said in a discussion without thinking it through. It is said, it is out there and has left its mark. We can never really completely take it back. The impression is made.
I am guilty of all of that. Of having been too impatient. Of not having been careful enough with those moments I was lucky enough to witness and record. Of not realizing that I had a responsibility for my artistic integrity if you will. To try and give it all you got each and every time.
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
— Ansel Adams
It is and cannot be about quantity. Then that’s the need for gratification speaking. It is about the technical quality of course, but even though this is important, this is secondary. It is all about meaning; about a personal vision; about maybe touching someone who looks at your image and for some reason even that person might be unaware of, it moves something inside him or her. That happens rarely enough, but it will be even more unlikely to happen if we get sloppy and try to take shortcuts.