Being in the Zone

by | Jul 28, 2009 | Musings | 1 comment

In Episode 131 of the Audio2u Shutter’s Inc. Podcast, Richard Annable posed the questions “Why do you photograph things? Why are you a photographer?”.

Some of the group’s answers were quite profound, and I do suggest that you put yourself through the ordeal of listening to this mammoth episode yourself to find out what they said. I’ve listened to the whole 3 hours and 10 minutes of it, and although very long, it was pretty enjoyable with a number of “aha” moments. Go listen for yourself after reading this. 🙂

Anyway, in my opinion, Richard Annable’s answer to this question was the most profound. Richard said “Because as soon as the camera comes up to my eyes, the noise stops”.

This immediately clicked with me and really got me thinking more about how I feel when I’m actually in the act of photography.

When I look through the camera, to a degree, yes, the noise stops. I am of course aware of what is going on around me, but it becomes totally secondary, and to a large degree, unimportant. It’s like having a radio playing in a different room. You can hear it, but it’s just there, kind of distant. If you listen hard, you can hear what is going on around you or what people are saying, but you can just as easily totally tune-out.

In addition to the awareness or lack of awareness of my surroundings for me though, is the unavoidable fact that time grinds to a halt. While I’m shooting, time becomes are very loose concept. This is one of the major reasons why I annoy the hell out of my wife when she accompanies me on my photography trips. It can be just a trip to a local park, or a few days in the heart of nature, but generally, my wife is always stressed out by the pace at which we can make it through places.

Bless ‘er little cotton socks for putting up with me as much as she does. It would drive me totally insane if it was the other way around. Granted, she stays at home more often than not these days, and I’ve start to prize the camera out of my hand and venture out without it on occasion, just so that we can actually just enjoy a nice walk.

Anyway, back to my point. When I start to photograph, time literally almost stops. When I find something that I feel worthy enough to immortalize in pixels, I get so deep into the moment, so deep “into the zone”, that the moment just goes on and on for as long as it needs. In that state, I also most definitely feel a calm and a Richard Annable quiet, that I feel at no other time.

While in Oirase a few weeks ago, shooting the images that we looked at in episode 200 of my Podcast, at one point I left my wife in the car, as she wanted to write her diary. I walked maybe 100 paces down the road, and then dropped down the bank to photograph the mountain stream (below). I had my tripod bridged awkwardly across three different rocks, basically standing right above the fast flowing water, and I shot the scene with two or three lenses, for what I thought was at most 20 minutes. I was rushing!

Oirase Mountain Stream

Oirase Mountain Stream

We’d argued pretty badly the previous day over my photography taking too long. We’d made up and had a good morning though, and my wife was enjoying the scenery and tranquility. I knew that she’d be waiting though, so I was totally conscious of the fact that I had to get my shots, and get back to the car as soon as I possibly could. I did not want to invoke another argument. 🙂

Feeling quite proud that I’d probably only kept her waiting for about 20 minutes max, I walked briskly back to the car and climbed in smiling, like a kid waiting for his Mum to give him a pat on the back for doing something good. She was not angry, luckily, but she looked at me slightly scornfully. I said, no, I asked “I was pretty quick, right?”. She half smiled and alerted me to the fact that I’d been gone well over an hour!

I thought I’d been down to the river to make a handful of photographs. Apparently, I’d been to “the zone” and back.

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1 Comment

  1. Thysje

    The comment was made near the end of the podcast that took me 3 days to listen to. With much mirth, I might add. However, I understand perfectly what is meant by being in “the zone”. I guess I’m not that unusual after all! 🙂


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