Wait a Minute

October 12, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Photography is so wonderfully simple! You show up somewhere, pull out the camera, point it at something, press a button, and create a winning image.

Except it generally doesn't work like that. Nature photography and instant gratification are not two peas in a pod.

Photographing the landscape - or wildlife - requires patience. Not just a virtue, in this case patience is a job requirement. Persistence, too.

We must often wait to make the picture: a few minutes, a few hours, a few months, a few years. We wait for the light to change; the wind to die down; the rain to pass; the sun to rise; the front to approach. We return to some locations over and over in search of suitable conditions.

Still, waiting does not guarantee success. 

This is one of the main reasons photography is frequently a solitary pursuit. Trying to combine it with a family vacation, for example, is a big ask. Hurry up and wait isn't everyone's idea of a good time.

Even shooting with other photographers can sometimes be a challenge. Objectives differ. One person is content to sit tight and see what happens as storm clouds build; the other would rather move on to another location and try for something else. If a single vehicle is involved, somebody's going to have to compromise.

The concept of waiting hours - let alone years - to make a photograph likely strikes non-photographers as rather bizarre, but it's par for the course. Patience and persistence are part of the job. Throw in a little bit of luck and you might end up with a good result.

I'll give you two examples.

The first photo involves fog. I love fog. You can create really interesting images with it. That said, fog is mercurial. It's hard to know what it's going to do, especially when it's dense. It ebbs and flows. If it's heavily opaque it makes finding a composition difficult. It might hang in for hours - yet when it begins to lift it can disappear quickly. 

One autumn morning in Acadia National Park, I went to Jordan Pond (think lake - it's sizeable) before the sun came up expecting fog: temperatures had dipped below freezing the night before, and it had rained throughout the previous day. It was foggy alright: thick as pea soup and rolling through in waves.

This was a little more than I'd bargained for.  

Walking the shoreline looking for a composition, I began to wonder if I'd be able to shoot at all. An hour went by. Then another. 

I spotted a couple of maples at peak color tucked among the conifers; the subtlety was compelling. Because water levels that year were quite low, a great deal of pink granite along the shoreline was exposed, echoing the warm colors in those two trees. I had my composition. Now I just had to wait and see how the fog would behave. 

Another hour passed. 

Finally, nearly four hours after arriving on location, things jelled: the fog lifted from the foreground for a moment while partially shrouding the more distant shore.

Jordan Pond Shoreline Acadia National ParkFEELING MISTYAs early morning fog rolls over Jordan Pond, the shoreline dances in and out of sight. Low water levels expose a great deal of pink granite.

Acadia National Park, Maine
The second image was a few years in the making. 

From the first time I saw this little tree growing out of one of the rugged pinnacles inside the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, I've wanted to capture it. The conditions have never been quite right: usually an issue with the light. Too flat, too harsh - it's always something. 

Due to its size and the number of visitors it attracts, Yellowstone isn't an easy place in which to work. Zipping back to this location multiple times during a single day or even over a period of days is not as straightforward as you might think - especially when trying to accomplish more than one objective while in the park. 

Last weekend, things finally came together. I was at the Canyon before sunrise. Early fog burned off rapidly; rich, warm light was able to reach the pinnacle and create excellent side lighting while the opposite side of the canyon remained completely shaded. 

After nearly four years, the resolute pine was finally ready to pose for me. 

RESOLUTERESOLUTEA young pine clings tenaciously to a multihued, rugged pinnacle at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Be patient! 

Good things do sometimes come to those who wait. 

In Local News

Grizzly 610 - one of 399's original triplets and the last surviving adult of those three - was hit by a car earlier this week. She was discovered lying on the side of the highway east of Moran Junction late in the day on Monday. Long skid marks on the road suggest the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver fled the scene, leaving 610 seriously injured and her three yearling cubs alone and vulnerable - they were hiding nearby in a grove of trees. Completely heartless.

610's situation appeared to be grave; she lay there for hours immobile with her head down. Many who saw her after she was hit believed she might have died.

Thankfully, she eventually got up sometime that night, moving her cubs across the roadway and toward the Snake River. 

When 610 was seen on Tuesday, she was moving around with no external signs of injury. Her offspring were with her. It's unknown whether she suffered any internal injuries and if so, to what extent. Obviously the hope is that she will recover fully.

This has been a terrible year for bears in Grand Teton National Park: seven bears struck by cars resulting in two known fatalities and one which was suspected. 610's fate as a result of this week's strike is uncertain. Bears aren't yet in hibernation so careless driving could do still more damage.

Only three times since 1991 have there been this many bear strikes in a single year.

If you're visiting the area, please respect wildlife and keep your speed down. Especially at dawn and dusk and particularly in the north end of the park, animals are active and often near the road. I know I sound like a broken record but people routinely speed throughout GTNP. It's reckless and unconscionable. 

The animals and the land on which they live are treasures. We must be good stewards of both.

In unrelated weather news, it began snowing last night down to 6,500 feet. Winter is waiting in the wings.


No comments posted.
January February March April May June July (1) August (3) September (1) October (4) November (2) December (2)
January (4) February (5) March (4) April (4) May (4) June July August September October November December