There’s nothing more important to photography that patience. Whether you’re working with a nervous model or waiting for that perfect moment, you need to be patient. I’m going to talk about patients in regards to travel photography.
I can say for certain that 90% of my photographs are well planned out. Often they’re planned out days or months before I get to where I’m going. And yes, I’m even talking about travel destinations that I’ve never been to. Go online. Do a google image search for the place you’re going. Check stock agencies like Magnum, Corbis, Getty, and PhotoShelter to see what the place looks like. Try Flickr, TrekEarth, and National Geographic. If you do some research on the place you’re going, you’ll be more ready for it when you get there. You’ll know that sunrise is the time to be at Angkor Wat… sunset is a great time to be at India’s Golden Temple…
Learn more about patience after the jump…
Patient Situation #1 – Sunset:
The “patience” that I’m talking about comes into play when you get there. Sunset isn’t 1/250 sec long. Sit there. Watch it. Don’t let you mind wander to the ex you left at home. Look around you. Try different lenses… different exposures. What’s happening behind you? Can you silhouette something against that sunset? It’s getting dark… time to pack up and have a beer? No. You can take pictures until it’s nearly pitch black… Try a 30 second exposure… Try a 2 minute exposure… You’ve just sat for 2 hours to take a sunset picture! Your friends think that you’ve crazy, but you don’t have a single picture of a single sunset. You have 100 pictures of a sunset that was constantly changing. And I guarantee that one of them is better than the rest! (Now you can go and enjoy that beer even more!)
Lesson Learned: Take lots of pictures of beautiful things.
Patient Situation #2 – Natural Light Portraits:
Ok, it’s the next day and you’re walking around the market. The market is nice and all, but you’re just not getting any National Geographic covers. So what to to do? Find a window or doorway with nice light and take some portraits.
I waited by an open door way by a busy street for nearly an hour before I got this wonderful picture of a woman in Yushu, Tibet.
I just stood there. For an hour. Asking any interesting passerby if they’d let me take their picture. I remember this day I was particularly unlucky and there just weren’t many interesting people passing by. Then I saw this woman dressed in her finest jewelry and clothes. She was nervous and it took me a while to convince her to sit on the stairs and let me photographer her, but the hour-long wait was well worth it. (She wasn’t actually as nervous as she looks. She’s smiling that funny way because she wants you to see her gold teeth.)
So, the picture is good because she looks fantastic, right? Well partially, but would this be a good picture if I took it in broad daylight with a busy market in the background? Maybe not.
Lesson learned: Find nice light. Be patient.
Patient Situation #3 – Nice atmosphere:
This is probably the situation where I use patience the most. Find a nice looking street, field, hallway, whatever. Then wait for something cool to happen. Usually in this situation, I have an idea of what I want to happen. I want someone dressed in traditional clothes to walk by… or maybe two lovers to hold hands and give each other a kiss… Maybe a guy with a tricycle and a conical hat to give it that “Asia” feeling.
The problem What’s wonderful with this kind of patience and planning, is that it just doesn’t always go as planned.
This first picture, I noticed the swastika on the floor of this ancient monastery and naturally wanted to photograph it. I didn’t want a boring picture of just the swastika, so I waited, hoping for some traditionally dressed Tibetans to walk by it. I only had to wait for about 10 minutes before this child ran his finger over the swastika for good luck! (This time it was my good luck!)
This second picture is actually the result of DAYS of planning and patience. I had been trying to get a picture of people spinning prayer wheels from in-between for nearly a month. I tried big prayer wheels, small prayer wheels, in close, far away, and nothing ever worked. This attempt was seriously about the 5th try. I probably spent a total of 5 or 6 hours, all over Tibet, standing there, trying to get the picture in my mind (I probably shot about 800 frames to get this one). This was my last chance. I was leaving Tibet in two days. I found this set of prayer wheels at a monastery in Lhasa, saw the nice light and waited. I probably waited for about 3o minutes, getting many pictures of pilgrims spinning these wheels, but none of them got me very excited. Until this one! Look at those glasses!!! Hell yeah!
Lesson Learned: Have an idea of what you want, but be flexible. And don’t settle until you get that magical moment.
That’s it, thanks for reading. I expect to see you all standing around, looking suspicious in the near future.