Occasionally, I get into the field with big plans and nothing goes as planned. Then the frustration sets in and when I am photographing, frustration is my worst enemy. When I get frustrated, everything goes downhill—fast.
Yesterday was one of those days for me, but I forced myself through the frustration and walked with a nice series of White-breasted Nuthatch images. I thought I’d share the three things that I did to get through the frustration: Improvisation, Changed Course, and Refreshed and Remembered.
My problems started when I arrived at the Finger Lakes National Forest to do some tree climbing. My plan was to climb a few trees I scouted over the weekend and create some panoramic images of the fall foliage in the canopy. I spent an hour prior to leaving getting all of my climbing gear together, digging out all of my specialized contraptions I use when photographing in trees, and getting out the panorama gear. I drove about 45 minutes out to the forest and was packing up my kit to head into the woods when I noticed something was wrong. In order to attach the camera to the panorama tripod head, I have to remove a plate that I use for the rest of my tripods. Unfortunately this requires a specific Allen wrench and that tool was sitting on my coffee table. It normally lives in my backpack but I had removed it a couple weeks ago when I flew to Florida, and it hadn’t made it back in yet.
So, there I was, nearly an hour from home in the middle of a forest and one tiny screw was keeping me from creating the images I had envisioned. I improvised. In my climbing kit, I keep a Leatherman, so I dug it out and tried every tool on it to unscrew the plate. After about 20 minutes, it was looking hopeless. I tried a few different things, searched the car, and did a wee bit of yelling at myself. Sometimes when things go wrong or you forget gear, you can improvise. I’ve done it many times, but unfortunately it wasn’t going to cut it today.
When it is clear you can’t improvise your way back to the original plan, change course and find a new plan. As I stood by my car and realized I wasn’t going to be creating any panoramas today, I thought through my options. One, I could go climb and create some more traditional images without using the panorama head. Two, I could go climb just for fun. Three, I could just wander the forest and see what else I could find to photograph. Four, I could get back in the car and drive home.
Each option had its merits. I was excited about climbing, but it’s a lot of effort. I am still determined to create the canopy panoramas, so I know I will be back soon. I had photographed in the forest a week ago and nothing really jumped at me so just wandering didn’t seem to be the best option. I didn’t exactly want to go home, not quite yet.
Fortunately, my decision was easily made for me when I got out of my own head and listened to what was going on around me. I was in the middle of a large feeding flock of Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and White-breasted Nuthatches. I quickly grabbed my bird setup and spent the next half hour photographing a nuthatch feeding low on nearby trunk. The day wasn’t a waste after all!
Refresh and Remember
When things are going really bad for me and I just can’t get past my frustration for whatever reason, I try to remember why I am out there in the first place. After photographing the nuthatch and the flock moved on, I put the camera away, took a drive through the forest, and took a short hike down a trail I hadn’t been on before. I didn’t take a camera and was just out to remember why I was in the woods.
I spent a half hour or so walking down the trail through a spectacular forest. The cool, crisp afternoon and the spectacular yellow foliage turned my thoughts towards fall. It has been several years since I have really experienced a true fall. It just isn’t the same in Florida or Texas. Every once in a while, I need a reminder and it is walks like this that help to reinforce how fortunate I am to spend my life out exploring and photographing. As my frustration disappeared and was replaced by calm, I knew it was far from a wasted afternoon.