A version of this essay originally appeared in Landscape Photography Magazine.
For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake. ~Walter Pater
Among the reasons I prefer to work alone in the landscape is that I like to work very slowly. Few people have the patience to wait as I examine every angle and possibility, work my camera’s controls manually, consider and reconsider my compositions, and sometimes just sit and observe the scene in silence for prolonged periods before, during and after making an image, if I even make one at all. Rather than rush, I want to deliberately prolong the experience, to appreciate not only photographic opportunities but also the mood and beauty of the place, independent of what images I may bring back with me. I wish to make my time as meaningful and joyous as possible, and to stretch it out for as long as is feasible. At times, when I discover a place that is particularly inspiring, I may even hike back to my vehicle to fetch an overnight pack so I can return to spend a night or two, to see the place in all hours of the day and to not have to settle for a lesser image, or worse—a lesser experience.
Time management is a concept often touted in the business world as a strategy for increasing productivity: using time in the most effective way toward maximizing the quantity and/or quality of products and services. In this age when most people in developed countries are raised not to become creative individuals but as trained resources for various industries, many struggle with the simple concept of managing time toward goals that have nothing to do with any product, but rather with the goal of getting the most out of a rewarding experience. And yet, in art and in life, the proper management of time can sometimes mean the exact opposite of what it means in a business context.
Given that none of us is given infinite time, it seems important that we manage it wisely and in our own best interest. To manage time wisely, in my mind, means not only spending it on the right things, but also in the right proportions: as little as possible on necessities and trivial things, and as much as possible on joyous and noble things. This means rushing and taking shortcuts only in the pursuit of tedious obligations, and expanding as much as possible those times that elevate the living experience.
Photographers often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to investing time. Too many are obsessed with short-lived decisive moments, neglecting to acknowledge that these moments are far more meaningful when considered as the momentary pinnacles of a greater experience, and lose much of their potential reward when disconnected from such experiences. In addition, those who profit from the promotion of photographic equipment and services do their best to convince us that we are better off when things are easier, faster, more automated and requiring less cognitive and creative investment; and too many are gullible enough to accept it as truth, and to forfeit without even realizing the greater satisfaction that can be found in contemplative work, in slowing down and being mindful, and in returning home not just with an image, but also with a memory of an experience worthy of recalling with pride and yearning in years to come.