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Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances. As a bird photographer, it’s a required skill and the single most valuable thing in my kit. Why? Because I have no choice. Unlike the lovely brides that I used to photograph when I was a wedding photographer, birds don’t take direction – (well come to think of it brides don’t take direction either but that’s another post.)

With all wild animals and especially birds you can’t direct them. You can’t tell them what to do. You can’t tell them when and where to show up. You just have to do your best to be in the right place and wait.

This gets easier as you get older. Or to quote Elizabeth Taylor from the 1932 movie “A Wreath of Roses” – “It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

The more patient I am, the better my photography becomes. I’ve probably spent more hours in the field waiting than most of you – but even I was tested when photographing hummingbirds. Sometimes I’d sit in the hot Arizona sun waiting for one or two birds an hour – and then, they’d only appear for a second or two. It was hard – but I loved it.

The shot you see above comes just before I was about to give up. We placed a native plant over the tip of the feeder we were using to bait the hummingbirds and for some reason, the birds were on to us from the start. They took hours to finally come in and test the feeder.

I found myself wishing for more – but at the same time understanding that this was what I signed up for, I took it as a sign that the birds would eventually come in – the light would eventually be right – and my aim would eventually be true. By waiting, I was rewarded with a keeper – a rarity on this trip. Had I given up, I’d have missed this gem and protecting this memory for all time.

This is one of the unpublished shots from my recent hummingbird trip. And it’s one of my favorites. It’s essentially right out of the camera – just cropped a bit and some levels and curves. I processed it in Lightroom in less than 20 seconds.

While the moment the shutter clicked was instant and spontaneous – the time spent waiting required patience.

If you find yourself rushing – slow down and think about waiting for a hummingbird. That should help put things in perspective and just maybe help you find the patience you need to get your next great shot.

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