What Gets in the Way
When things don't go right, it's a natural reaction to look for the reason why you didn't get the shot. Sometimes you may be trying to learn from the experience. Sometimes you just want something to blame. It's only natural.
Sometimes it's obvious it's the weather. Yeah, that's it. The weather. I could have gotten that shot if the sun had come out from behind those clouds. Sure wish it hadn't been so cloudy. Or perhaps it was just too cold to stay out much past sunset. Even though the colors in the sky were so gorgeous. I mean, they said on the weather forecast that it was going to be colder than usual, but not that cold. Wow. See, the weather just wasn't very cooperative.
There's a seemingly obvious reasonableness to this line of thinking, and it would be tempting to end our analysis here, but there are things to be learned from this sort of thing. Not just things to blame. See, this "bad weather" conclusion is rather stating the obvious, and frankly it's not that useful when trying to learn from the experience. I mean, rare is the photographer who can control the weather. Am I right?
It seems somewhat pointless to say the forces of bad weather got in your way. Blaming your problems on the weather is to leave your fate in the hands of mother nature, helpless to do anything about it. Now, I'm not saying that this isn't true in some sense, it's just that it doesn't do much good to dwell on it. If your photography plans are so dependent on a force you can't control, perhaps you should have more flexible plans. Especially this time of year, when weather can be fickle indeed, it's good to have backup plans. Or even if you don't have any, it's up to you how you react when it starts to sink in that the incoming cold front is going to win, and that sunset shot just isn't going to happen as you planned. You can get disappointed, or you can start seeking other opportunities. They are there. You just have to look for them.
Then there are the times when your camera gear acts up. Perhaps the focus doesn't want to lock. Or maybe it's your tripod head that doesn't want to lock? As much as we hope they don't, any number of things could go wrong. Gone are the days when a camera wasn't much more than a light-tight box with a hole in it. Now, they're ultra-sophisticated, computer-controlled light-tight boxes with a hole in them. All that progress can help us create better images, but it also leaves us just as much at the mercy of technology as we are on the weather. Few of us can control either one when it comes right down to it. And with the move towards mirrorless cameras, we're entering the era of fly-by-wire light-tight boxes. The march of progress moves on.
Some photographers carry two camera bodies with them to guard against having a single point of failure. This level of backup plan may be beyond your budget or perhaps beyond the weight limit your back is able to bear when hiking down the trail. And these camera things really are more reliable than perhaps I'm implying they are here. Personally, my "backup camera" is simply my old camera, the one I upgraded from most recently. And depending on the circumstances, I may not even bring that backup with me. It depends. It's useful to spend some time thinking about your own situation and whether you can make yourself a little more flexible — a little less dependent on any one piece of equipment. It's up to you.
See, when it comes right down to it, the only thing that gets in your way is you. Or me, in my way. We're all really the same. There's just no getting around it. For it to really be our photography, we have to take responsibility for it. No one to blame but ourselves. We have to learn our own lessons.
And we get in our own way, all the time. Laying the blame at the feet of the weather gods or the evil spirits that live in complex digital cameras (when we all know that sometimes things happen) doesn't make us better photographers. Those aren't the problem. The problem is how we react to this sort of things. And this is only the tip of the iceberg that is us getting in our own way. There's a whole world of roadblocks lying beneath the surface.
After putting some work into going somewhere, intent on photographing something in particular, it can be hard to see anything but that. It's natural to be focused on what you came for since that's what you came for. Duh. When you go to Yellowstone, you photograph the geysers. Everyone recognizes the landmarks of Yosemite Valley, and so on. But in and around all of those is the rest of the world. Sometimes small things, sometimes big ones, are there waiting to be found. And photographed, if you can see them.
Our own habits and expectations can form one of the biggest roadblocks to creativity. Each of us has the same 24 hours in a day. Each of us has the same 360-degree field of view, up and down, right and left. Do you see the forest, or the trees? Or both? Or do choose to see neither and look at things as something else entirely — menacing demons in the land of Hobbits, or regimental soldiers standing in formation. Hey, the choice is yours. Go with it. What if you look at it simply as a pleasing arrangement of shapes and colors? Or do you turn around and explore that tiny ant hill you were about to step on, or what lies beyond that? The choice is yours. But only if you let yourself make that choice.
The camera sees only what we point it at. It's up to us to put it to best use. When that camera works of course. And the weather cooperates.