|Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) - Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania|
The most valuable tool in my kit cannot be purchased in a typical shoppe; in fact, I’ve never seen one for sale. Sadly, this tool does not fit in my bag nor can it be passed on to another. It is a tool of the mind and must be acquired through deliberate practice.
Many years ago I traveled to Denali National Park with little more than a point and shoot camera and ten rolls of film. My little Pentax had a fixed 35mm lens, shot less than one frame per second and lacked the ability to adjust the focus or shutter. It was a “PhD” (push here dummy), a tool for the masses. I was a poor college student doing research in Alaska, and this camera was on loan from my family.
I learned a lot about photography during my eight weeks in Alaska, yet none of the lessons had anything to do with optics, exposure or digital noise. In 1986 modern photography was a magazine, and digital referred to the numbers on an HP calculator. Memory cards and LCD screens weren’t even science fiction, they were unimaginable. Yet, with little more than the ability to load the film into that crappy camera, I managed to find THE key tool.
|Sunset from Moro Rock - Sequoia National Park, California|
After spending six weeks on an island in the Bering Sea documenting seabird behaviors at five minute intervals, one learns to be patient. Long days in the sub-arctic, where the sun barely sets, offers the opportunity for focused and deliberate study. It was there, in a blind suspended over breaking waves, where I learned how to wait for the moment and see beyond the obvious.
There are many essential tools available to the modern photographer; some are fantastically expensive while others are more modest. However, the key tool for the Nature and Wildlife Pictorialist (see Gavin Seim) is endurance and patience. During a long hike through Denali with my PentaCrap point and shoot I stumbled upon a pond, I previsualized the way the sun might set, and I put down my pack and waited. That was the day I made my first image, it was the day I became a photographer.
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