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The Art of Waiting in your Photography

The Art of Waiting in your Photography

Jun 10, 2023

For years I have taken photos of various scenes and landscapes and have come away with some pretty decent photos. This comes from years of practice and learning, some from others and some on my own. The success of those photos really only hinged on some planning and being in the right place at the right time. But during all of that, I had done myself a little bit of a disservice in the process. Most of the time, I showed up and took the photo and left. Very rarely did I wait around for anything to change, or even shown up early to prepare and maybe get a before the event photo.

This has changed. And a tough change it has been I might add. I am not a patient person, and couple that with a certain amount of impulsiveness it has been really difficult for me to get over this little hump in my photography life. And I will say that since working on that I really believe that the output of my photography, the final photos, really have elevated to another level. In other words I was able to take my photography from good to great just by exhibiting a little bit of patience. Now, this is not to say that I haven’t had any other help or changes along the way, but waiting and being patient has been the most significant difference in my photography. Fighting that urge to just go “meh, good enough” and leave is tough, but the result is so much better than I was hoping.

With a few examples to treat you to in this, I hope to show you where my patience has paid off. The first of which is from the Smoky Mountains trip recently and taking sunset photos at the Ben Morton Overlook on Route 441. I went up to the overlook a few hours early before sunset to do a few things. The first was to stake out a spot without being overrun by people, but the second was to be able to relax and enjoy the moment of the light and scenery changing as it led up to sunset. Also, admittedly, I just had a HUGE dinner down in town and I needed to relax from a bit of indigestion as well. 

As time passed and the light changed, people came and went while I took the occasional snap of the scene. Previously I would have given into my boredom and left after the first hour or so. The good news was that I would have come away with a really nice photo that I am happy with and proud of. But by waiting it all out, I was able to capture a photo that really captured the feeling and mood of sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains. The difference between the two was only about 45 minutes.

The second example is one of wildlife photography. I love bald eagles and am always on the lookout for them when I know they might be around. Doing so has led to a lot of good photos over the years, but generally speaking are the same photo. It is generally an eagle perched in a tree looking majestic. Which in of itself is an awesome photo, but can sometimes be a bit lacking in that wow factor. So luckily I was at a campground where eagles have been known to nest and fly around. Partially because of the fish hatchery down the road I suspect, but I digress. 

This particular day I had been watching the eagles fly around a little and noticed that they were nesting nearby. So I grabbed my camera and my telephoto lens and started tracking them. One landing in a pine tree nearby and hung out for a while. I took the majestic “perched in a tree” photo, but instead of “calling it a day” I hung out a little and watched. Within about 5 minutes that eagle left its perch and began to fly around again, so I went back to tracking. And just like that my new friend came swooping down, snatched a fish from the lake and took off. And I caught the whole sequence of events. Making the composite of 4 of the images from that sequence has been one of the highlights of my career as a photographer. I had finally gotten one of “those” photos that you see in magazines, and was super stoked and proud of what I captured. And all it took was 5 minutes to just chill out and wait and let the eagle tell the story. And what a story it told at that moment.

These are obviously just two very specific examples of what waiting a little bit, and having a little patience with your scene can do for your photography. Is this the ultimate solution? No, of course not. But like all the other tools on your belt, if you use this one wisely and to your advantage you can go from “wow, they got a really lucky shot” to creating your own luck in your photography to get the photo that everyone else raves over. It is said that the little things all put together will make the most difference, and I agree with that. Take this little thing and add it to your repertoire and I bet you will see immediate improvement in your finished photos.

Thank you as always for reading and following along on this journey. Let me know if you enjoyed this blog and video, and if there are any questions or suggestions for videos you want to see in the future.

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