Crouching Tog Hidden Reward

By Saturday, April 26, 2014 grafphoto
Spring aspen tree photo

Spring Aspens at Indian Springs Metropark, Michigan | Nikon D800, 80-400 VR

On a recent doctor visit, I was asked about activity level and exercise.   I let the doctor know I go on hikes in the woods quite a bit, walk our dog, and take pictures.   It doesn’t sound like much, probably isn’t from a cardio type workout.   I know I do get my heart rate up from all the up and down hills and such.  At the end of those hikes, I am so tired that a polar bear could probably cross in front of me without getting much reaction, let a lone a photographic response.  I know I find myself in body positions that would make a yoga master cringe.  Downward Facing Dog has nothing on Tripod Over Muddy Pond stance.  Given the pain I am in the next day, I know I worked something.

Pain doesn’t always result in gain, if gain may be defined as creative output.  I tend to walk, scout, let my curiosity wander a lot more than I photograph.   It is much to my own frustration at times.  Getting up a couple hours before sunrise, driving to location, wandering about, seeing what catches my eye seems pretty darn inefficient at times.   By the time I get home, I am exhausted and perhaps only have a few photographs to show for it.  I can hear the more enlightened of you already thinking it is the enjoyment and experience of being out in nature that I should be reflecting upon.

That person exists in me also, but so does the one seeking reward of a more tangible kind.  The creative process is a murky continuum, drifting back and forth between what is process, and what is creation.  Perhaps “reward” isn’t the proper term for it, because by now I have certainly learned to keep my expectations in check.   After all, Nature doesn’t owe me a darn thing, and it would be arrogant to expect it.  Perhaps it is more seeking evidence of being productive.   Am I spending my time wisely?    If I am going out to photograph, well, then, darn it – I had better return with photographs, not just a backache.

I think what can elude many, including myself when I let it, is that in this continuum, the results you obtain from a single hike hold as little significance as the benefit of exercise from a single workout.   My own photographic archive is a result of a broad range of successes, failures, and insignificance in itself.   I need to remind myself it wouldn’t exist if not for each and every one of those single events.


Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Mark says:

    Oh I completely understand Kyle. And yet despite all these years photographing, I still have those days. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.
    Mark recently posted…Space – another frontierMy Profile

  • Great post Mark! I think all of us photographers, no matter our experience level, still wrestle from time to time with the pressure of trying to create an image and not return home empty handed. I’ve found as I’ve matured I’ve become a lot better at enjoying the experience rather than then result, but there are certainly still times where I struggle with it. If somethings not working its better to enjoy the experience rather than try to force creativity.

  • I like the way you come across in explaining your struggles, rather than acting like you know everything and have the world by the tail, like some photographers these days. Some photographs do cause significant pain in the making. I too find myself getting into all sorts of strange contorted positions just to make images.
    David Leland Hyde (@PhilipHydePhoto) recently posted…Art, Earth And Ethics 1My Profile

  • Great comment, Earl, and one I need to hear. So, the subtlety included me.

    I feel the aches and pains of the aging process, the wear and tear, on my body. As I’ve mentioned somewhere before all my heavy equipment is gone, down sized to meet my aging needs. I also have a bad back which aches 24/7. I can never just sit still. Enough whining.

    I believe Bernie is right, there is a passion within us drawing us to spend time in nature, hiking with camera gear, crawling around on our knees without pads and getting stuck in the mud up to our knees. Nature calls and we listen. I think your right, it is because of the seeking.

    Have you tried a massage?
    Monte Stevens recently posted…Crooked FenceMy Profile

  • Earl says:

    The “price” of a good photo can be calculated in many ways, lost of sleep and physical discomfort may only be one part of it. At my stage of life the “occasional photographer exercise program” wasn’t sufficient to keep me fit enough where on the spur of the moment I could do a strenuous backwoods romp with any hope of success, enthusiasm or comfort. That’s why for the last year I’ve been walking between 20-30 miles a week — what a difference.

    I’m not saying you’re getting old or that you may need to do more exercise — nope, not saying that at all. 😉
    Earl recently posted…Canola fieldsMy Profile

  • I feel your pain Mark, I don’t know who gets their legs folded more, me or my tripod lol !!

    But the passion to create far outweighs any pain..for now at least lol !!
    Bernie Kasper recently posted…Dutchman’s Breeches | Clifty Falls State ParkMy Profile

  • I think it was Ansel Adams that said something to the effect “What will nature give me to photograph today.” I will be 76 and for the past 8 years have been walking the dogs through the back woods making photographs. Haven’t done much in the past year due to the sickness and death of my wife but as the sun grows higher and the days grow longer I’ll bet back to it. Sure do notice the aches and pains more this year! I thank the Lord each day for where I live and the joys of nature that surround me. Lucky to live in West Michigan!

    • Mark says:

      Indeed you do live in a great area of the state William. I wish I were closer to the western shore. No doubt nature gives us plenty of opportunities, and I only fault myself for being able to see them. Hope those woods continue the healing for a tough year for you.

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