If there’s one truth about photography, it’s that we can’t always get what we want. Among us photographers, that can lead to some serious conflict because frankly, we can be an exacting breed! How many of you have sat in a spot for what seemed like far too long, waiting for the wind to die down, for wildlife to emerge, or for the sunlight to shine just right? We want what we want—and we’re willing to go to extreme lengths to get it.
But again, life doesn’t always give us just what we want, no matter what lengths we’re willing to go to. We might want a rainy day, or we might want the rain to clear and give us sunshine, but the weather is going to do what it wants regardless of how we feel about it.
And that’s where objectives enter the picture. We often have very specific objectives for our outings on a given day. Perhaps today, you are saying to yourself, “Tonight, my objective is to take the perfect sunset photograph.” Well, that can be problematic. If it’s too cloudy—or if it’s not cloudy enough such that the sun is just a bright ball on the horizon with no puffy bits to give dimension—then you won’t meet your objective that day.
With those thoughts in mind, I think that perhaps one way for photographers to be better equipped to accept what we’re given is for us to redefine our objectives. And that means defining them in a certain way such that they align with whatever the world can throw at us.
It’s a lot about being flexible with our objectives so that they can move with the world around us. Perhaps, instead of setting goals like, “I want to take the perfect sunset photograph tonight,” our goals should look more like, “I want to find the art in this location.” Whether it ends up being a sunset photograph or whether you end up photographing rainwater running down a rock face, in this way, you’ll still be meeting those goals.
More importantly, when you set yourself such open-ended goals, you enter the scene with the open mind needed to deal with whatever you will find in that place and at that time. Basically, this is a mindset that equips you to deal with whatever the world is up to on a given day.
And that is an incredibly important mindset to have because ultimately, there is no such thing as a time, place or set of conditions where photography is impossible. The very idea of conditions making it impossible to create is a viewpoint that we impose upon ourselves—and we impose it upon ourselves when we go into a scene with a certain specific set of expectations that cannot be met for whatever reason. Sure, it may be that a particular photograph is impossible in certain conditions. You’re unlikely to photograph snow in the middle of a Midwestern summer, for instance. But if you redefine your objectives to be a bit more open, you’ll find you always have the room to change course and create something different.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.