We live in a noisy world. So noisy that it’s almost impossible to find a place where it IS quiet. But part of that problem is our own fault. We carry pagers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and anything else we can find out into the field when we’re shooting.
Add to that all the gear we carry wether we need it or not: The accessories, tripods, gadgets, et. al. that fill our bag all yell for our attention. We even go so far as to allow ourselves to be distracted by other photographers we meet in the photographic arena. Wether that distraction happens online or while shooting, it has the same effect – it detracts from the final photograph being all it can be.
What’s the answer? Well I can only answer that question for myself. Here’s what I’ve started doing to eliminate distractions while photographing.
1. I bring less gear on every trip I take. If I can’t justify using it for the current job it stays in the studio. NOTHING gets into my bag unless I’m convinced I will need it. The less gear I carry, the less I’ll have to deal with. That gives me more time to spend on things that matter like searching for great light, finding compelling subjects, using craft and vision to build a photograph from the ground up and telling stories with my camera.
2. I put my cellphone in Airplane mode and leave it locked in the glove box of my car. I won’t take calls, check text messages or look at email when I’m shooting. I see photographers looking at their phone during a shoot all the time. Heck I saw a guy doing it at the Grand Canyon. Hello – you’re at the freaking Grand Canyon – that text telling you that you have a new appointment in your calendar can wait. Really. If you’re THAT GUY then you miss the shots I get. I also think it breaks the mood so I won’t do it.
3. I keep other photographers at arm’s length when I am working. If I go to Reflection Lake at Mt. Rainier National Park on any summer morning to shoot the sunrise, I’ll be surrounded by 100 photographers. Too often the temptation to look at each other’s gear or talk process gets in the way of noticing that the color is peaking over the 14,410′ tall mountain. I socialize after the shoot. During the shoot, I try to keep to myself as much as possible.
Simple concentration and inner focus goes a long way toward getting a great photograph, but these are skills lost on many in this world of multi-tasking and distraction. Make a decision and decide what’s important to you. If it’s photography, leave the distractions at home.