Lessons In Time Travel

How taking an extra minute or two can help you connect more deeply and also take better photographs.

Lessons In Time Travel

Val and I are hiking in Watkins Glenn, a beautiful gorge filled with fern-lined waterfalls and tranquil pools of cool water. It’s mid-morning and sunny. It’s not too crowded for a Friday but there are still quite a few other visitors too. For those of you like me who enjoy photographing your adventures, this can present a problem. The problem of all those darned people getting in the way of your photographs. But fear not, I’ve found a solution and it only takes a few minutes to try. And it also doesn’t just apply to photography.

A beautiful spot along the gorge trail in Watkins Glen State Park with some of my fellow visitors enjoying the scenery.

If you know me, you know that I enjoy photographing my adventures. It’s a way for me to be more present in what I’m doing, noticing what’s going on and more details along the way. I also appreciate having photographs to remember my adventures. Looking at a photo in a month, year, or decade is like a bookmark that helps me to recall the memory of that place and time. But a common conundrum is what to do about all those people that get in the way of those pristine photographs. I’ve taken a few different approaches to this conundrum over the years.

One strategy is to target times when there are less likely to be a lot of people. Early mornings, late evenings, or perhaps a Tuesday in April after a rain shower.

A photo of Val along the gorge trail in Watkins Glen State Park above a waterfall.

Another strategy is to embrace the people, including them in your photographs. I think of this as "journalistic photography" as it’s about documenting things as they are, people included. But that’s not to say that the people can’t be incorporated into your photographs in interesting ways. Those people can be part of the story you’re telling. But I’ve also recently found another strategy that’s been particularly helpful. It’s a simple strategy but one that requires a bit of patience.

The same photo as above but after waiting about a minute for my fellow visitors to move further down the trail. 

The third strategy is to just wait a few minutes. And waiting a few minutes has a surprising amount of effectiveness. Is there too much sun for a well balanced photograph? Wait a few minutes. Is it wind blowing fiercely? Wait a few minutes. Is there an unwanted person in your photograph? Wait a few minutes. It’s surprising how quickly the environment around us changes  if we just give it a few minutes. During our hike at Watkins Glenn, I frequently employed this strategy. If there were a few people in a photo, I just waited. In most cases, I only had to wait a few seconds or minutes. Most people are in a hurry and move on quite quickly. I also appreciate this waiting as a way to pause and be present with where I am and what’s going on around me. I also took many photos with people included to tell the story of our actual visit to Watkins Glenn. We chatted with a few of those people during our hike. They’re part of the story too.

You may be dubious of my suggestion to just try waiting a few minutes. But I challenge you to give it a try for yourself. You can use it almost anywhere anytime. For example, I’m currently at Aurora Brewery writing this post. In the 45 minutes that I’ve been here, most of the tables have turned over going from crowded to almost empty. There have been long lines at the bar and then no lines at the bar. The sun has come out, disappeared, and come out again. It’s been windy and calm. When we arrived it was cloudy and windy but now we’re sitting outside at a lovely table in the sun and light breeze. I think it might have even rained a few minutes ago. You may be surprised what you find if you’re willing to slow it down a bit and give it some time. Perhaps you’ll find a new mindset for your adventures too.

See you out there,

-Adam