Patience in the Camera Bag

Lots of people write about the contents of their camera bag. Lots of people write about their favorite lens. Even more write about photography basics. Yet very few of these people address the most important item that you can have in the camera bag.


Yes, patience. 

Too many photographers leave home everyday with a camera bag stuffed full of the latest goodies from Canon and Nikon but leave their patience at home. They expect that just having the right lens will deliver that prize winning shot. While the lens is important, having the patience to wait for the shot is more important.

Last weekend I travelled to Virginia Beach and visited the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. These are some of the prettiest gardens I've visited and I explored less than 1/3 of the grounds in my half day trip. I saw a few other photographers, but since it was a Friday, the crowds were pretty light.

After spending the morning in the butterfly house I moved to the asian inspired gardens next to the lunch cafe. Another photographer was in the cafe taking a break from the heat. He was flipping through his photos from the morning and I couldn't help but admire the collection of expensive camera gear before him. As I often do when I see other serious photographers, I wondered what his images looked like and what sort of great scenes he had captured in the morning.  I returned back to the asian garden while he was finishing his lunch. 

Immediately upon arriving at the asian garden I noticed a pond with a dragonfly perched perfectly on an adjacent plant. It was a great shot. I wasn't setup for the shot yet, so I knelt down to get my equipment ready. Dragonflies, like many photographers, aren't known for their patience, and he flew away just as I knelt down. I readied my camera and sat waiting for my subject to return to his perch. A moment later I heard someone behind me say "what are you waiting for?" 

I turned around to see the photographer from the cafe holding his camera and giving me an incredulous look. I shrugged at him - confused what he meant. Clearly he could see I was waiting for my shot? He stared back at me and after a moment said "hope you are feeling patient" and walked away. 

I was rather stunned. It's not like I was photographing a meteor shower that happens once every 20 years. This is a dragonfly. They return to their perches every few minutes. He had lots of expensive camera gear - he must have taken a few photos in his lifetime that required a few minutes of patience?

Orange eyes on a butterfly in the house. This shot required waiting for the butterfly to circle back to this twig and then look at me.

It occurred to me as I waited for the subject to return to his perch that too many photographers just didn't get how important a little patience is to their photography. Getting the shot usually requires more than the right lens or camera, it requires patience and a little luck. Photographers often refer to waiting for the golden moment when the sunrise is just right, but clearly too many photographers lack the patience for that photograph.

I saw the same photographer roaming the gardens later in the day. I wasn't surprised as I watched him take a few photos without first spending a moment composing the perfect shot in his head. 

Patient photographers are usually rewarded with a good shot. It might not be the best prize-winner, but you won't get any prize-winners without a little luck...... and patience!