Among the reasons I prefer to work alone in the landscape is because I prefer to work very slowly. Few people have the patience to wait as I examine every angle and possibility, work my camera’s controls manually, consider and reconsider my compositions, and sometimes just sit and observe the scene for prolonged periods before, during and after making an image, if I even make one at all. This is not because of lack of skill or experience, but since I want to deliberately prolong the creative process, to appreciate not only photographic opportunities but also the mood and beauty of the place, independent of what images I may bring back with me. I wish to make the experience as meaningful and joyous as possible, and to stretch it out for as long as is feasible. At times, when I discover a place that is particularly inspiring, I may even hike back to my vehicle to fetch an overnight pack so I can return to spend a night or two. This lets me see it in all hours of the day so I don’t have to settle for a lesser image, or a lesser experience.
Time management is a concept often touted in the business world as a means of increasing productivity – it concerns using time in the most effective way in order to maximize the quantity and/or quality of products and services. In this age, when most people in developed countries are raised not to become creative individuals, but as resources for various industries, many struggle with the simple concept of managing time toward goals that have nothing to do with any product, but rather with using time to get the most out of a rewarding experience. And yet, in art and in life, the proper management of time can sometimes mean the exact opposite of what it means to business.
Given that none of us will receive infinite time, it seems important that we manage it wisely, and in our own best interests. To manage time wisely, in my mind, means not only spending it on the right things, but also in the right proportions – as little of it as possible on necessities and trivial things, and as much of it on joyous and noble things. This means rushing and taking shortcuts only when meeting tedious obligations, and expanding as much as possible those things that elevate the living experience.
Photographers often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to the concept of investing time. Too many are obsessed with decisive moments, neglecting to acknowledge that these moments are far more meaningful when considered as the momentary pinnacles of a greater experience, and lose much of their power when disconnected from such experiences. In addition, those who profit from photographic equipment and services do their best to convince us that we are better off when things are easier, faster, more automated and require less cognitive and creative investment. Too many are gullible enough to accept this as inalienable truth, and forfeit without even knowing the greater satisfaction that can be found in contemplative work. There is merit in slowing down, being mindful and returning home not just with an image, but also with a memory worthy of recalling with pride and yearning in years to come.
Read this and many more articles in High Definition inside Issue 54 of Landscape Photography Magazine.