Take time to stroll

Weather is the grand landscape on the Plains.  It fills the sky with clouds and softens the light with rain.  It moves the leaves around in the forest, dappling any scene with highlights and shadows.  It clears the sky so the sun can glare off the sidewalks and darken the ground under the smallest bush.  Weather here creates mountains in the sky that move to your desired location.

Planning good images is important, having a sense of where what type of light will be and when with respect to your subject.  But there’s a lot to be said for serendipity as well, exercised by the well calculated random walk with a single camera.  Pick the right kind of weather and you’ll find compositions everywhere – just take your time and pay attention.

I’m wondering how to combine the best of street and landscape photography, learning to see Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment in the natural world around.  Wildlife photographers recommend images where the animal is doing something, either natural for its species and habitat, or unexpected for the type of animal.  Like humans, decisive moments for animals brings the story into clarity with a single glance.  But what about landscapes?

Weather provides the decisive moments.  The mountain, lake, river, forest, etc. isn’t going anywhere or doing anything so light, that which makes each moment unique, has to come to it.  And the photographer has to see that unfolding in front of them and be ready.

Being ready and extensively planning may or may not be the same thing.  Being ready can simply mean carrying a camera on your strolls and using it when your eye catches something interesting.  The choice of where to stroll, the time of day, the time of year – these are ways to enhance being ready but not essential when your eyes are open and engaged with your brain.  It’s probably more important to actually stroll than to plan for any event that might happen along the way.

Society makes a lot of creativity, usually with a yardstick to measure who has and uses it and who doesn’t.  Yet people who study it continue to note that being prepared to catch the moment is essential to creativity, and not limited to a few individuals.  Our society is not conducive to taking time to be ready – we have too many items on our lists, each driving out precious time necessary for awareness.  The start of creativity is a conscious decision to start paying attention and making some sense out of what we perceive.  That sense may result in a photograph, a drawing, a song or a dance; regardless, it will be a personal reflection on what came about once we were ready.

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