To Bee: A Photographer Learns the Power of Waiting
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  • Post published:13/05/2021
  • Post last modified:13/05/2021

I  took a master class a while ago with Sam Abell, a photographer with National Geographic for more than 30 years. His books include Seeing Gardens, The Life of a Photograph, and The Photographic Life, all three of which are said to be “must haves” for anyone who sees the world through a lens.

He started the class with a reminder that the next several hours would be about ‘seeing’ and not about photography per se. He went on to outline his lesson plan: “Compose your frame. Wait.”

In other words, see the world in that moment, set up a shot that has foreground, mid-ground, background and gradations of all of these. Then wait for the action to come to the picture.

I also heard him to say compose yourself, be patient, be ready, accept the scene as it is and wait for something to happen that takes prosaic photography and makes it special.

The iris in this picture is in my garden at the front of my house. I am no gardener, have never had a successful garden and most certainly have never had the patience for one. I planted the irises two summers ago, watched while they seemed to get fuller and more substantial last year but did not bloom. This spring, last week in fact, they showed up in both profuse number and glorious color.

I thought to make a record of this moment, less for the art and more to document my progress. I sat on the rise in front of the garden, focused, breathed in and out, took some photos for documentary purposes.

After several moments of this, I noticed a movement off-lens and, heeding the master’s advice, I composed the next shot, took a breath and waited. Eventually there was a flower and a bee and a timeless interaction.

Compose. Wait. Act. Repeat. A lesson taught months before became a moment recorded. Something of value in the doing, in the waiting, as much or more so than in the artifact produced.

Photo Credit

“To Bee” © 2010 Michael Lebowitz

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  • Tarmac Meditations #203: Images From the Road
  • Tarmac Meditations #202: Images From the Road
  • Tarmac Meditations: Haiku # 42

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