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?
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?