Planning or Reacting to the Scene?

I listen to a podcast fairly regularly called Lenswork by Brooks Jensen and earlier this week, an episode really made me think more deeply about reacting to a scene versus over planning or overthinking the scene.

As a landscape photographer and bit of a perfectionist, I have more than several times, gotten to a scene and scurried around trying to find the “perfect” composition. Or the composition that would make the trip worth it. My problem isn’t over planning as much as rushing, urged on by high idealism.

A benefit to this has been grabbing several interesting compositions and exploring many areas of the landscape. However, I believe this approaches reduces and minimizes the experience and can even be stressful.

In 2019, I want to practice more reacting to landscapes that I visit. This means slowing down and not worrying about taking the camera out. It means walking the edge of a coastline for an hour. It means sitting on a rock or bench listening to sounds and watching wildlife. It means slowing my pace and my breathing and letting creative wonder come to me, instead of forcing my own twist into the composition.

There is nothing wrong with scouting, planning, and thinking through a scene to produce a quality and professional photo. I will continue to do this. But personally, I want to slow down more and allow creativity to come to me through a slower and deliberate approach.

I really appreciate what they’re doing over at Slow Photography Movement and recommend their site. It’s much of the same vein as this post.

I’ll leave an example to close today’s thought. Last autumn along the North Shore, I was scurrying around trying to capture this island off the coat. I wasn’t very satisfied with my initial images so I stopped and just looked. I didn’t try to see a composition. I scanned the entire coast, taking in my location. It was at that point where I discovered an obvious beauty: lush red fall leaves in bunches just as the rocks met the trees. And when I went over to them, I discovered my composition.

the rock


4 thoughts on “Planning or Reacting to the Scene?

  1. Glad to hear your thoughts Josh. I agree completely. IG, FB and the like have their place. But I just have no desire to “keep up with the Joneses” so to speak. I post when I post. I shoot when I shoot. Yes, I do sometimes rush to try to take a shot when it is fleeting. But mostly I hike, I see, I think, I absorb, all the things you mentioned. And when an image comes to me to shoot it, I do. Do I miss images? Yeah, of course I do with that approach. But to be able to do this and enjoy it without the stress of trying to get that “perfect” image is so much more worth it. I’m glad to have found the the slow photography movement as well.

    Great image above. I remember when you posted it and it is no less gorgeous.


    1. Thanks for thoughtful reply Steve. I do struggle with “missing” shots but I think I’ll find that not only will I perhaps have even better shots with the focus from slowing down but also I will enjoy the moment and be more grateful. Glad to read you think the slow photography movement has value. And thank you! I really enjoy both of these images and both were a result of slowing down.

      Liked by 1 person

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