I’ve been a full-time travel photographer for years, and throughout my career, I’ve heard this mantra from countless other photogs: Carry a camera at all times. Their rationale is that the “shot of a lifetime” might occur at any moment. You don’t want to miss it, right?
Like a hawk, the thinking goes, a photographer should constantly be on the lookout for “prey.”
One of these photographers is Thorsten Overgaard, a very good and successful photographer who espouses “wearing” a camera at all times and being at the ready for any and all photo opportunities. Another photographer who follows this approach is my good friend and former GEP instructor extraordinaire, Rich Wagner. Rich once confided in me that he loved hearing the click of the shutter.
I completely understand this approach to photography, but it is not for me.
I always like to analogize photography with exercise. I enjoy working out, but I can’t be working out all the time. Every now and then, I need to take a break to recharge, and when I get back to the gym, I find that I’m excited and full of energy.
The same with photography—I need to have a rest so that I come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Although I enjoy photography tremendously, I can’t pursue it constantly. And because I’m refreshed and eager every time I’m out photographing, I believe my images are better for it. (I encourage you to give it a try and see if helps improve your photos.)
Now, I know that this means I don’t take as many pictures as others do. But I can live with that. Besides, I still capture my share of unexpected moments using my approach. (The anachronistic picture here depicts a Civil War reenactor taking pictures with a digital camera in Santa Fe, N.M.)
Many years ago, I traveled to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile to witness a total eclipse of the sun. I was part of a group that included a number of serious photographers. I was just starting to develop an interest in photography, so I didn’t have the proper equipment to capture the eclipse. I asked for advice from one of the photographers, who suggested I find a pillow on which to rest my head while enjoying the eclipse and not to stress about being unable to photograph the event. I followed his advice and have no regrets.
To this day, I believe that sometimes it’s better to enjoy the moment instead of being frustrated and stressed about trying to capture everything. Sometimes you just have to put your camera down.