Perseverance and Patience Will Payoff

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When I look at my collection of photographs, my favourites are always the ones I really had to work for.

75% of the time I photograph what is in front of me, what is there when I get there, and I make the best of whatever weather conditions and light are present. But the other 25% I chock up to sheer stubbornness, or in other words, perseverance and patience.

Fire Wave, Valley of Fire

Recently I was in Nevada in the Valley of Fire State Park where I stayed at an RV park that was an hour away from the park entrance. I spent hours doing research about the park and learned about a specific location I wanted to photograph called “Fire Wave” which was not on the park maps.

It took about 1.5 hours to drive to the trail head and another half an hour or so to hike there (it sure seemed longer in the heat). When I got there, the light was just terrible. It was a grey sky day. I was hoping at the last minute the light would break through and give me the drama I wanted but it didn’t happen.

What was worse was a group of rude photographers who had also discovered the location. Usually I find other photographers are helpful to each other, staying out of each other’s way, and taking turns making images. But not these people. They were purposefully leaving bags and tripods in the way of specific points of view while they were photographing a different point of view, preventing other photographers from getting the shot. They were all together and I believe they drove out from Las Vegas for the day, so I guess they felt they owned the shot.

It just wasn’t to be. But I persevered.

A couple of days later I tried again. Another 3 hour drive round trip, another $10 park entrance fee, another hike in even greater heat to a place I had already seen, but this time it was different. There were a few other photographers there, but they were nice people. There was some lovely light, some puffy clouds, and I got the shot.

Fire Wave at the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, by Anne McKinnell

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

When I visited Florida, I really wanted to make some images of wading birds with reflections. It was one of the dream images I always wanted to make — the image I had in my mind before I ever went to Florida. In hopes of getting the shot, I rented a lens specifically for the occasion.

First I did a trip out to the park one afternoon to scout the location and figure out where I might be able to make such a shot. I found a section of water that was somewhat protected from the wind where a few birds were hanging out and I figured it was a good candidate.

The next day I got up long before the sun rose and drove to the park to be there as soon as it opened in the morning. I drove along the park drive to the location I picked, got my gear out, positioned myself on the shore, and waited. I waited and waited and nothing happened. Eventually the light got bright and the wind came up and there was no longer a possibility of getting the shot I wanted. I went on to make other images, but I didn’t get the one I really wanted.

So I went back the next morning and did the same thing. Drove to the location, got my gear out, sat and waited and waited. This time some birds came, but so did the wind and while I got some nice images, I still didn’t get the one I dreamed of.

So I persevered and went yet again. I think the man who opens the park gate in the morning was wondering why I was the first person there three days in a row. But on the third day, my fourth visit, it was as calm as calm can be. The light was perfect. I sat motionless waiting and waiting and then payoff!! I got three birds with perfect reflections: a spoonbill (this is the image I always dreamed of), a wood stork and an egret.

Roseate Spoonbill at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Florida, by Anne McKinnell

Never have I had a bigger payoff for my stubbornness.

Bandon Beach

At Bandon Beach in Oregon, I wanted to make an image of the sun setting behind the rocks. There was lovely colour in the sky, but just as the sun starting making its descent towards the horizon the wind came up. It got windier and colder and I got pelted with sand and soaked with sea spray until finally I was the only photographer left on the beach. I was shivering cold, but determined to make the image I wanted.

I used a UV filter on my lens to protect it from the ocean spray that soaked everything and the blowing sand that felt like a sand blaster. I was getting the odd image, but they were always clouded with water, salt and sand. I turned my lens away from the wind as best I could, blocking it with my body, cleaned it and quickly put the lens cap on.

Then I got everything set up exactly the way I wanted it, quickly removed the lens cap, and took the shot. Then I repeated that whole process with cleaning the filter and quickly taking the lens cap off to make the image. Rinse and repeat — literally!

Finally, after about twenty attempts, I got a clean shot that was just what I wanted, made only moments before it would have been too late.

Sunset at Bandon Beach, Oregon, by Anne McKinnell

Occasionally getting a great image is pure luck. Usually we can make pretty good images at any time by using the light to our advantage. But more often than not I find the images that hit it out of the park are the ones I really worked for — when I planned everything out, persevered by going back to a location again and again, and tested my patience by waiting for the right light and enduring sea spray, blowing sand, freezing cold, or bug bites.

Those are the occasions that had the biggest payoff. Now, when I look at my collection, those are the images I am most proud of.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • that bird (don’t know the name) photo is simply superb! thanks for sharing.

    regards

  • Great article on perseverance. Prior to visiting Sedona, AZ I saw an image of Cathedral Rock that i decided I wanted. With less than two days there I couldn’t find the site, although I was able to photograph other viewpoints of Cathedral Rock. The following day I discovered you had to go to a specific park, Crescent Moon Ranch to get it. While nothing near your experience, i was very happy i didn’t decide to pass on it. Wonderful images you shared here, especially of the Roseate Spoonbill.

  • Thank you Arun! It’s a Roseate Spoonbill.

  • Mei Teng

    Love the striking colours of the bird. Beautiful photo.

  • Amazing shots Anne! I am in awe of what you did and went through to get these shots. I think we all need to understand it’s not the first shot or even the first attempt that makes the magic happen.

  • The only thing that I might add is to be prepared to act quickly when such perseverance finally pays off especially when dealing with animals. The sun rising or setting can also be a split second timing for perfect lighting. Weather and other astronomical and meteorological events don’t tend to last long and certainly don’t repeat themselves the next day. You can pretty much guarantee that animals will not cooperate at all even when the fickle weather does. Burst mode can help solve problems there and so can stitching together photos. I congratulate you Anne on your combination of patience, perseverance, and good fortune. Those images are well worth the effort.

  • Bob Perry

    Great article Anne…you never disappoint me with your writting and skills as a photographer…

  • I’ve been photographing my kids (aged 5,4, & 1) for about 5 years now. My patience & perseverance will eventually pay off as I take photos of them at least every couple of weeks. They are very impatient subjects so my time with them is always short. Someday though…. and now that I have the Canon 7D, I have a much better chance to capture that perfect shot and not have their eyes closed or the like.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Scottc

    Patience and perseverance can pay off photographically in many ways. Many times I’ve tried something different and found it took a lot more effort than I initially thought to get a quality result.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/8376193855/

  • Definitely agree. Studying the timing of the waves in this case (and carefully marking where and when I wouldn’t get wet) to make sure I got the perfect moment. More wonderful advice, Anne!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8083427308/in/photostream

  • Planning, prospecting and researching go in that same bucket. What that does is increase our chance of good luck which is always a good thing. Nice work Anne!
    Boy, I bet you could tell us some good stories of your travels!

  • I agree with Cramer. You better be ready to act. The Sun waits for no man. Time spacing shots of the same sunset or the help from the sun keeps you from missing the moment.

  • I also return in a place to take pictures.

    Some of mine:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.com

  • Paul Plak

    I started reading this page without looking for the author’s name. After a few lines I said to myself, this must be Anne’ writing. And so it appeared to be. You’re right, some photographs require some hard work, and Cramer is right to, be prepared and ready so when the right moment comes up, you’re there to press the button.

  • I’m glad to read your experience with bird pictures. I was down in Los Cabos at the San Jose Del Cabo estuary, where I went several mornings to catch the sunrise and the great egrets that hang out there, along with several other water birds, including blue heron, ibis, snowy egrets, and others. I took tons of pictures of the egrets, and I have some of the up at my web site (wwwphotographybyjohnwoods.com. I hope you will take a look. There is one I am especially happy with, an egret just taking off in perfect focus. Let me know what you think.

  • Dang. This makes me ashamed of how quickly I call it quits. And how little planning I do. Thanks for a great post and inspiration. Great stuff!!!

  • Srini S

    Inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  • Brian Stirling

    I’ll be honest, often I find some of these articles to be pretty thin on value. However, this one I really liked! I loved the stories of how you got the shot and to see the “prize” you captured as a result is sweet icing on the cake. Well done, and thank you!

  • Thank you all very much for your kind comments!

    @johnwoods You have a very colourful gallery! I really enjoyed seeing your egret images, especially the one with the reflection. Thanks for sharing!

  • Seesan

    Anne,
    I am enjoying your images that you created and published here. My question is: on your images, there is an icon or picture next your annemckinnell.com name. How did you add that icon/picture to it? Any special program to create that?

  • @seesan The icon you are seeing is my logo. What I do is create an image in photoshop that contains my logo and my name and then I use that as a watermark. I use Lightroom to export my images with a watermark. There is a setting for that right in the Lightroom export dialog box. I’m glad you like it!

  • Yes, it is of course a darling piece of land ,especially for the nature-photographers; greets to you, Anne Mckinnell ! You have that perseverance and patience to shoot out the land!!

  • josef

    thanks so much for the detailed hints… & your super pictures.

  • With the explosion of folks with DSLRs, the number of rude “photogs” has also increased dramatically. In my recent trip to DC, I can’t say how many times someone blocked my view or set up so close as to the point of making me uncomfortable, so that they could get a shot and I didn’t. It didn’t matter if I got there earlier or was waiting for hours…they just didn’t care. That’s why I prefer remote wilderness and early morning hours when these people are still in their beds.

  • Judy Hartman Alexander

    Thanks for the encouragement to persevere and of course your pics.

Some Older Comments

  • SreelalTViswanathan June 24, 2013 08:15 pm

    Yes, it is of course a darling piece of land ,especially for the nature-photographers; greets to you, Anne Mckinnell ! You have that perseverance and patience to shoot out the land!!

  • Anne McKinnell April 28, 2013 02:04 pm

    @seesan The icon you are seeing is my logo. What I do is create an image in photoshop that contains my logo and my name and then I use that as a watermark. I use Lightroom to export my images with a watermark. There is a setting for that right in the Lightroom export dialog box. I'm glad you like it!

  • Seesan April 28, 2013 05:48 am

    Anne,
    I am enjoying your images that you created and published here. My question is: on your images, there is an icon or picture next your annemckinnell.com name. How did you add that icon/picture to it? Any special program to create that?

  • Anne McKinnell April 19, 2013 10:26 am

    Thank you all very much for your kind comments!

    @johnwoods You have a very colourful gallery! I really enjoyed seeing your egret images, especially the one with the reflection. Thanks for sharing!

  • Brian Stirling April 15, 2013 02:22 pm

    I'll be honest, often I find some of these articles to be pretty thin on value. However, this one I really liked! I loved the stories of how you got the shot and to see the "prize" you captured as a result is sweet icing on the cake. Well done, and thank you!

  • Srini S April 13, 2013 11:59 am

    Inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  • Rb Wilson April 13, 2013 10:16 am

    Dang. This makes me ashamed of how quickly I call it quits. And how little planning I do. Thanks for a great post and inspiration. Great stuff!!!

  • John Woods April 13, 2013 09:16 am

    I'm glad to read your experience with bird pictures. I was down in Los Cabos at the San Jose Del Cabo estuary, where I went several mornings to catch the sunrise and the great egrets that hang out there, along with several other water birds, including blue heron, ibis, snowy egrets, and others. I took tons of pictures of the egrets, and I have some of the up at my web site (wwwphotographybyjohnwoods.com. I hope you will take a look. There is one I am especially happy with, an egret just taking off in perfect focus. Let me know what you think.

  • Paul Plak April 13, 2013 06:53 am

    I started reading this page without looking for the author's name. After a few lines I said to myself, this must be Anne' writing. And so it appeared to be. You're right, some photographs require some hard work, and Cramer is right to, be prepared and ready so when the right moment comes up, you're there to press the button.

  • marius2die4 April 13, 2013 06:24 am

    I also return in a place to take pictures.

    Some of mine:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.com

  • Bobgood1 April 13, 2013 05:41 am

    I agree with Cramer. You better be ready to act. The Sun waits for no man. Time spacing shots of the same sunset or the help from the sun keeps you from missing the moment.

  • Jeffrey April 13, 2013 03:40 am

    Planning, prospecting and researching go in that same bucket. What that does is increase our chance of good luck which is always a good thing. Nice work Anne!
    Boy, I bet you could tell us some good stories of your travels!

  • Guigphotography April 13, 2013 02:19 am

    Definitely agree. Studying the timing of the waves in this case (and carefully marking where and when I wouldn't get wet) to make sure I got the perfect moment. More wonderful advice, Anne!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8083427308/in/photostream

  • Scottc April 12, 2013 09:06 am

    Patience and perseverance can pay off photographically in many ways. Many times I've tried something different and found it took a lot more effort than I initially thought to get a quality result.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/8376193855/

  • gnslngr45 April 12, 2013 05:27 am

    I've been photographing my kids (aged 5,4, & 1) for about 5 years now. My patience & perseverance will eventually pay off as I take photos of them at least every couple of weeks. They are very impatient subjects so my time with them is always short. Someday though.... and now that I have the Canon 7D, I have a much better chance to capture that perfect shot and not have their eyes closed or the like.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Bob Perry April 12, 2013 04:01 am

    Great article Anne...you never disappoint me with your writting and skills as a photographer...

  • Cramer Imaging April 11, 2013 01:38 pm

    The only thing that I might add is to be prepared to act quickly when such perseverance finally pays off especially when dealing with animals. The sun rising or setting can also be a split second timing for perfect lighting. Weather and other astronomical and meteorological events don't tend to last long and certainly don't repeat themselves the next day. You can pretty much guarantee that animals will not cooperate at all even when the fickle weather does. Burst mode can help solve problems there and so can stitching together photos. I congratulate you Anne on your combination of patience, perseverance, and good fortune. Those images are well worth the effort.

  • Sherri Stone April 11, 2013 12:04 pm

    Amazing shots Anne! I am in awe of what you did and went through to get these shots. I think we all need to understand it's not the first shot or even the first attempt that makes the magic happen.

  • Mei Teng April 11, 2013 10:23 am

    Love the striking colours of the bird. Beautiful photo.

  • Anne McKinnell April 11, 2013 09:00 am

    Thank you Arun! It's a Roseate Spoonbill.

  • Ken Maurer, Omaha, NE April 11, 2013 06:47 am

    Great article on perseverance. Prior to visiting Sedona, AZ I saw an image of Cathedral Rock that i decided I wanted. With less than two days there I couldn't find the site, although I was able to photograph other viewpoints of Cathedral Rock. The following day I discovered you had to go to a specific park, Crescent Moon Ranch to get it. While nothing near your experience, i was very happy i didn't decide to pass on it. Wonderful images you shared here, especially of the Roseate Spoonbill.

  • Arun April 11, 2013 05:38 am

    that bird (don't know the name) photo is simply superb! thanks for sharing.

    regards

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