This is a question I am asked often at shows – “How long did you have to wait?”, or “How long did it take to make that image?”. The difficulty in answering such a question is that the process of making a photograph doesn’t begin in the field and it also suggests something about my process that doesn’t apply.

I am a strong believer in the somewhat cliche notion that every image I make is the result of a life’s experiences. Therefore, every image has taken me as long as I have lived to that moment to make. I don’t go to a location to photograph without my life experiences “in my bag”. I am influenced by them in the way I look at a subject, the way I feel about the image I want to make, and by the knowledge that I have accrued about the photographic process.

The other difficulty with the question is that it implies that a good image must have been one that I spent hours or days “waiting” for in the field. I could tell the story that I hunkered down in tall grasses from sunrise to sunset waiting for a buck or bear to enter a certain patch, but it just wouldn’t be true. I rarely sit still for more than an hour and even then, only if I have good reason to believe that a certain pre-visualized image is possible. I have on occassion waited hours to try to make an image that I thought I could achieve, or a whole day working in one location or with one subject. But in both cases, I am not sitting or standing around doing nothing else. I will always be staying keenly observant of what is going on around me and reacting to other image-making ideas as I think of them

 For certain landscape images, I have gotten up at 4:30am driven to the location, set up my tripod, camera, lens, and waited for sunrise. Usually, I have a specific image, or type of image in mind. I create that image(s) and pack up. The window of light that I want to work in is sometimes around for a half hour or less. But this is a preplanned, pre-visulaized image that may have required multiple trips to achieve.

How long it took to make a specific image shouldn’t even factor into the response to a piece. Whether I walked up to a landscape or Great Blue Heron, or spent hours in one spot before making an image, in my mind, makes no difference to the success of the piece.

Catch of the Day - (c) Paul Grecian



3 thoughts on “How long does it take?

  1. Great catch 😉 Awesome photo…

    Love birds — and the Great Blue Heron is one of many that I particularly admire. I was reading about them not long ago, and learned that you do not want to underestimate them, especially stay clear of that beak. The book about them that I was reading spoke of a scientist who apparently wasn’t aware of the danger — the heron pierced his skull with its beak. He didn’t live to tell about it.
    Sorry, kinda off topic, but hoping it might keep others out of danger.

    Anyway, I love nature, nature photos, and this one is a jewel. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I think it is a common misconception that most wildlife shots are the fruits of days upon days of stalking and waiting. Some certainly are, but I don’t think the majority. Should one hold more weight than the other – perhaps only to the photographer who spent the time.

    I often find myself a little conflicted between knowing when to pack it in and move on, or to hold out because that special moment is about to happen.

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