Stopping power

This may not be the best thing to admit, but I have competing voices in my head.

I’ll be driving down a wonderful back road and encounter a nature scene. Suddenly those voices are locked in another debate. It happened again the other week when I was in Prince Albert National Park … I catch a glimpse of a large beaver hut in the distance. Then my view is blocked.

The beauty voice practically screams, “Are you kidding me? That’s amazing light so stop and take the photo now!” Meanwhile the practical voice is already mumbling about the light being low which means the hassle of digging out the tripod and taking even more time. Besides, there might be some wildlife over the next hill. Was the beaver hut really that nice?

The points are all valid so the debate rages right past the best place to pull over. How do I end up representing both sides of the argument while also being the judge and the jury?

I think every beautiful scene has stopping power. That’s my term for the ability of a scene to make a person stop hiking or driving in order to pull out a camera and make images. Did you ever wonder what makes you stop? Do you ever hear the music?

_MG_0033, black bear, Banff, walk

In my world, a bear like this at the side of the road has a lot of stopping power!

The extremes are easy. If I see a bear while driving, the passengers better hang on to their coffee cups! Lots of other wildlife will also trip my brake lights but each person is different. In Grand Teton National Park I was shocked to hear one of the grizzled bear watchers say he wouldn’t stop for a moose. Clearly moose have a whole lot more stopping power for me!

In my current photography phase, nature scenes are getting trumped by wildlife, or even the hope of wildlife. I’m sure someone could set up a complicated algorithm to calculate the stopping power of each scene compared to wildlife potential. Since math isn’t my strong suit, I keep driving. Then I remind myself about no regret photography – I promised that I would make a conscious effort to stop more often. Yikes, how many people were in that conversation?

I slam on the brakes and back up endlessly until I spot the beaver hut. It really is quite nice. Good thing I stopped. Nevertheless, I’m still in a hurry so I cheat and try the shot without the tripod. I take three quick landscape shots with 700 mm of zoom and the ISO set at 1600. Not exactly classic settings for a landscape! I jump back into the truck with some regret. I really should have taken more time to do the shot right since it was an exceptional scene.

In the mythical next time, I will do better. Of course later that evening I go on to see pelicans, gulls, goslings and beavers. What a nite! The memory of what I might have missed had I stayed too long at the beaver hut is sure to set off the voices again when I feel the stopping power of the next nature scene. Now how am I going to make these voices stop?

_T6C0660 (1)

This beaver hut had just enough stopping power to make me back up to take the shot.

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Latest Comments

  1. gaiainaction says:

    Great write-up, enjoyed, and I think that I know exactly what you are saying, I thought it was me and that I needed to be less obsessed every time I want to stop, which is often 🙂 Love your photos.

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  2. Kodiak My Little Grizzly says:

    It was well worth it!!!!

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  3. artsifrtsy says:

    I can totally relate. I find that great light has tremendous stopping power. Sadly not everyone feels that way – I have been a passenger wanting to stop while the driver presses on and imagine the great shots I’m missing.

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  4. derekevens says:

    Love the words “Stopping Power”, every time I have reacted to the “stop” I have gone on to have a much better day.

    Like

  5. Mike Powell says:

    Give in to the voices–resistance is futile! You will know that you are in serious trouble when you cease hearing the voices, when you are no longer moved by the beauty around you, when you buy into the notion that speed and “success” are the ultimate goals. (In the USA, we are so addicted to speed that we celebrate some of our famous presidents with massive sculptures on a mountain aptly named “Rushmore.” I am convinced that we need to rush less.) Like so many others, I really like your idea of “stopping power,” and I know (and I think that you are aware from my photos) that my threshold is set pretty low–it does not take much for me to stop to take a photo, though rarely does that happen when I am driving–that could be deadly in urban traffic.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      There is a lot of rushing around in our world. Too much rushing can definitely drown out the voices of beauty around us. It’s nice to be able to have the time to slow down and enjoy the opportunities that present themselves. You have a wonderful way of enjoying the opportunities that come your way.

      Whenever I think of photography, I don’t think about urban environments so my braking comments are a tad more applicable to national parks than cities.

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  6. vanbraman says:

    Both of these would have stopping power for me. I am always looking for something interesting to take a picture of. I remember reviewing pictures of a day trip with friends where they didn’t see hardly any of the things I took pictures of. They asked me where I took the pictures. They were too busy looking ahead and didn’t see what was around them.

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  7. Sheldon says:

    From what i can see well worth the stop Lyle..Once again your photos and stories never disappoint as i have personally seen animals, birds,sunsets and landscapes that had me using “stopping power”.

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  8. Mind Margins says:

    I hear those voices as well every time I go to any national park. They even taunt me in my sleep. “You should have stopped for that sandhill crane.” “What were you thinking, spending so much time trying to get a shot of the trout jumping the falls?” Sigh. Love your photo of the beaver lodge. We hiked once in Yellowstone to a pond with a lodge and spent an hour watching one of the beavers swim around in the water. It was actually really cool.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. You do have bad case of it if the voices even show up in your sleep! I think it’s all the long stretches of not finding wildlife that start messing with me when the truth is I’ll never have the facts to make an informed decision. But I wonder what’s around the next corner …

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  9. Phil Lanoue says:

    Oh wow I hear those same voices and I would sure stop for a moose and most definitely for that beaver hut!

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  10. Gunta says:

    Know this feeling all too well. Also liked your phrase of not seeing “nature the same way.” It’s so hard for me to imagine not being enthralled by it all.

    Like

  11. mflahertyphoto says:

    Wow you got close in to that bear! Nice one! Bears have huge stopping power for me too. If the road is lonely I am much more likely to stop, because let’s face it it’s easier to reverse than look for a turnaround. But the voices I dread most are those recriminating me for not getting a shot when the opportunity presented itself. Those voices come well after the fact, and I dread them so much I stop almost always now.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. So you have voice issues too! I agree the lonely roads are easier. Many times I have been happy I stopped since the photo turned out so well. Other times I wondered what might have been and regretted not stopping. Maybe I’m getting better at stopping.

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  12. caleephotography says:

    What a fantastic beaver hut, of course it has full stopping power!! I love that phrase, and I totally know the feeling.. I don’t have the luxury of stopping for beaver huts or bears or other exotic things you have over there, but for me dragonflies, flowers or ordinary things like autumn leaves have stopping power. 🙂

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you like it. Normally beaver huts are nice addition to a scene but not nice enough to be the main attraction – this one was definitely different. Exotic is obviously a relative term since I am surprised you would put a beaver hut in that category. Then again a leaf in autumn could be truly extraordinary and I would vouch for its stopping power. Whatever stops your world is probably quite beautiful.

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  13. Seenorway says:

    I’ll stop for anything provided I carry my camera with me, and – that I may be pretty certain that I don’t get the car behind me into my back seat! The roads may be narrow and there could be a sheer cliff on one side and a 1000 ft drop into the fjord on the other side. It’s wise to think before one hits the brake!

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  14. Björn Törngren says:

    I know that feeling!
    Or when you are on your way too some kind of familything, the whole family is in the car and something amazing show up, maybe not a bear or a moose! Maybe just that right kind og light over a lake and your whole body is screaming too you: STOP!
    And you just keep driving for the familypeace… SAD! Just sad…

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  15. foresterartist says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Wildlife photography is fleeting, while the wildlife is fleeing. It is like a crime of opportunity. If you don’t take the shot when you can, you will regret it later because you won’t get a second chance for that moment in time.

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  16. Sue says:

    But…what if you stayed longer at the beaver lodge and suddenly saw a family of them emerge, swim over close to you, and proceed to forage right in front of you? On the off chance that sighting or something similar might happen, scenes like this definitely stop me, even if I might miss what is down the road.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      You are exactly right and that would be great! And on a good day I stop at a scene like this and all the best scenarios unfold. On an unlucky day, the delay means I show up just when three grizzlies are leaving the area (true story that still makes me cringe). That is the dilemma. But I am trying to stop more and throttle my naturally impatient nature. You probably have a better approach.

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  17. Victor Rakmil says:

    Stopping power. Nice turn of Phrase! Great article!

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  18. hannele says:

    .. your photo of that beaver hut is wonderful. I guess I just love nature and reflections, and this has both. I recognize the dilemmas, too.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. For those of us who love nature, there are different dilemmas than for others. Our stopping power settings are different than those who don’t see nature the same way.

      Like

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