A few weeks ago, I was traveling back to Florida after five days in California. This trip’s purpose: Provide feature photos for a travel feature that was upcoming in The Washington Post. I was tag-teaming this one with a friend and colleague, Steve, who was gathering 360 video for the same piece.
We were staying in San Rafael, but most work was taking place on the other side of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin headlands, along Highway 1 between Muir and Stinson Beaches. Under normal circumstances, a shoot like this could’ve taken two or three days, but we budgeted in a couple of extras because the weather around some areas of the Pacific Coast — especially as it moves northward — is anything but normal (at least for those of us from the East Coast).
Those extra days came in handy. We actually had to extend the trip by a day because on the afternoon of our arrival, clouds and thick fog began funneling in right where we needed to be. This continued well into Saturday, our fourth day of work in the area.
I consider myself rather patient in terms of my photography. I have no problem waiting for hours to catch a few great minutes of light, but I’d like to think that four days of looking at nothing but fog would begin to wear anyone down — especially when you’re on deadline. It didn’t help that most of the images from the first several days were of seagulls and a coyote — neither of which were terribly relevant to the story we were there to illustrate.
Our Saturday afternoon wasn’t looking much more promising. Fog was still rolling over the hills around Stinson. Steve and I almost made the decision to drive back to the hotel, but we figured some more time wouldn’t hurt as we saw a sliver of sunlight make its way between the clouds and drove back to the beach in hopes of seeing something worth capturing.
“Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
It might not have been the best sunset, but we made the most of what we had while we could. I can’t speak for other photographers, but I’ve certainly been under the impression that we undergo periods of growth during the shoots and assignments that push us further than most.
I’ve stayed vigilant for those moments over the years, and this shoot in California has been added to a list of similar accomplishments.
Part of the learning that comes to anyone with a camera is figuring out how to see past what’s only in front of you. It’s seeing the final image you want to make and figuring out how to get it. Being able to move from composition to exposure — and waiting for the moment you want to preserve — to getting that frame into the workflow and finally clicking the button to export it, should all begin to happen in an instant.
Difficult scenarios bring that out of us, and that’s a part of the job we have to embrace. Being pushed to the edge forces us out of our comfort zones — and that might just be where we grow the most.
Perhaps it’s a job, school, or craft you’re pursuing — whatever it is, as we begin a new year, may I offer some encouragement to us all to be a little more patient. The sun will shine through.
The finished Washington Post piece can be found here.