If you’ve been around awhile, you’ve probably heard me talk about this before. It’s the idea that as we age, we slow down—and that causes some changes in the photography we do. For older photographers, it becomes harder, sometimes much harder if not impossible, to go on massive camping trips, epic hikes, or climb up high for the best possible vantage we can find. With creaky knees and maybe a side of arthritis, we move slower through our surroundings.
All of this must sound like a terrible fate, right? Well, it depends on your perspective. There are some things that are actually good about slowing down—and these are the lessons that young photographers can learn from us old fogies.
The biggest thing is simple: Photography becomes more deliberate. Rather than voyaging miles upon miles like we might have done in our younger years, we instead spend more time lingering in the spots that are closer to home or closer to our cars. That lingering gives us a lot of extra time to do that most critical thing of all for creatives, which is to think. To ponder, study our surroundings, make careful decisions about photographs as we’re creating them.
This comes with the added advantage that age bestows wisdom. As we age, we spend—or we should be spending—a large share of the time up to that point learning. Our skills develop, we learn how to manage our creativity, we experiment to discover what we love and what we’d like to refine. At the end of the day, that leads to a vast amount of wisdom that comes purely from experience. It signals a slowdown in things like silly mistakes because we didn’t realize something, and it also means we make fewer subpar photographs because we were too hasty to wait and watch for that exact right moment.
These are the things that new photographers can pick up from the older artists among us–before the youngsters get old enough to learn these lessons the hard way as so many who have gone before did! Wisdom and experience will come with time, but patience and the willingness to slow down and give things a considering eye are things that all of us can do, regardless of our experience.
Of course, none of this is to say that young photographers should be giving up their heavy gear bags or the massively long hikes that the older members of our community can no longer do. Being able to do these things is the beauty of youth. Someone needs to be able to venture into remote places with enough gear to photograph it thoroughly, after all!
What it does mean is that we youngsters can take a page or two from the books of the older photographers we know. There is a time to push forward quickly on the next leg of the hike. There is also a time to stop, sit down by the side of a creek, and simply observe. Learn when to slow down and be deliberate. Put those heavy gear bags we lug around to good use in making purposeful, well-considered photographs—while we’re still young enough to be lugging those heavy bags around. It’s the best of both worlds: the patience and consideration that comes with experience paired with the youthfulness to go the distance.
Now go . . . and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.