Here’s something I’ve mentioned before, and I believe that I’ve spoken of it in terms of how organization and trip planning is a good thing. Because that is the truth—none of us wants to spend a lot of money and time on a trip only to come home with no photographs to show for it.
This time around, however, I want to argue the opposite. Conflicting opinions, I know, but as with everything, I believe that there is a balance to strike. Sometimes planning out your photographic excursions down to the last detail is a good thing.
And sometimes, it’s good to simply wander.
This is the truth, too, that wandering can be good for us. Just get outside, go on an adventure without much of a plan. If you come home with photographs? That’s a wonderful thing. And if you come home with nothing? Well, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
How can this be? I think that sometimes, there is value to be had simply in the journey or the adventure. Not every outing we make must result in new additions for our portfolio. If you come home without much worth processing, can it really be such a bad thing? I know that most of us are tempted to feel as though we’ve been unproductive, or perhaps we feel like a trip that didn’t result in new photographs is a shortcoming of our creativity or some other personal failing. Sometimes, we blame it on the location itself: It was a bad location, therefore, we didn’t create. Or the weather, the time of day, or other factors outside our control—all of these things are easy to point at as reasons why we didn’t make something interesting.
But I really don’t know that we can genuinely say that these unproductive trips are a bad thing. More to the point, I think it requires looking at the experience from a different perspective. Because that’s what it was: An experience, hopefully an amazing one, regardless of the photographs to come from it.
Perhaps when we’re simply wandering, that’s how we should look at it. Experience the world first, and make photography the secondary objective. Why? Because experiencing the world is enjoyable.
Take in the sights, the sounds, and the scents. Stop at an unusual food truck and try something you’ve never tasted before. Speak to people, and whatever the weather happens to be doing, just spend some time experiencing life for what it is.
This is the kind of thing that broadens our horizons. Even if it doesn’t produce a memory card full of potential, there is still—and always will be—value in the journey.
Besides which, I imagine that if we place the experience ahead of the photography and focus our energies on enjoying ourselves? Then we’ll find that enjoyment leads to inspiration and the inspiration to create. After all, we creatives are at our best when we’re thoroughly engrossed in the world around us. Those are the magic moments when ideas we’d not normally conceive of suddenly come to life.