Chapter 1, Task 1
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Task 49 – Adjust your patience

Task 49

Adjust your patience

The Camera Cure - task 49
I learned the value of going back to the same place at a seminar with the American photographer Mary Ellen Mark. She suggested that the pictures would improve every day and that our subconscious works during the night and makes us better. She thought I was too impatient because I wanted to seek out new places continuously. I learned from her advice at the airport on the island of Saint Martin when a jumbo jet nearly scraped the beach. A plane landed at the airport once a day going nearly 200 miles an hour. I had to capture the photo with 1/5000 of a second accuracy. It took me half a day to get there by taking the dinghy in from the sailboat and then a bus to the airport, and then return. I succeeded on the fourth day and that resulted in the magazine Vagabond buying my article. The most amusing thing about it was when the plane was supposed to take off. The exhaust hurricane blew so hard the beach bums tumbled while beach balls, towels and hats fluttered towards the sea chaotically. Saint Martin, 2013. Photo: Torkil Færø


Random patience

My kayaking career was ruined by my lack of patience. I had trained every day for nearly five years and one spring day I performed better than ever. It was the time of the Olympic trials. It was my first year on the senior level and I was up there with the best of them. Encouraged by my progress, I did an extra training session in the weight room after paddling. I went all out exercising my forearms, and I paid for it. I got chronic muscle inflammation. And as impatient as I was, I wasn’t able to stop training. I never recovered fully from it. Today I can say I was fortunate, because I would have never quit.

My life has become more varied after I gave up kayaking. One door closed and others opened. Even though I was never as good at it as I had wanted to be, I took with me the lessons about mastering something from the world of elite athletics further in my life.

Many of us lose opportunities because we dysregulate patience. Either we are too impa- tient, and expect immediate results, or we are so patient that opportunities slip through our fingers.

The advertising industry tells us that we deserve to be satisfied quickly. And when our efforts don’t produce visible results fast enough, the impatient ones give up easily. However, the reward often comes only after we have refused to give up. This is how some people fail time and time again. And eventually they give up trying.

I was a very impatient person before photography taught me that patience is the key to making efforts pay off. If we are too impatient, it shows immediately in the pictures. Disco- vering this can take longer time in everyday life, where the results often come long after the action.

It is possible to be too patient as well, to wait too long, to hope that things will work out on their own. At my doctor’s office I meet many people who endure through untenable situati- ons and depressing jobs all too long. There may be several reasons for this. Maybe they prefer what is safe and yet unsatisfying instead of something that is better for them but also involves risk. They might have difficulties making decision. Or they are simply too patient and suffer for it.

Are you too patient, or impatient? And in that case, is it dependent on the situation?

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Flexible patience

Photography is a bit like soccer. For 90 minutes you have to patiently pass the ball, dribble, work to get into position, lose the ball, miss the goal and try again. And during the course of a match you might get only one big scoring opportunity. When that happens, it is then important to be impatient and kick the ball quickly.

At photography workshops I experience that both patience and impatience can get in the way of good pictures. Often, we move too quickly from one subject to the next one. Some people maybe take only five pictures of an interesting scene and then move on before they have gotten the most out of the opportunity. Others are too patient and never get going.

The best pictures of a subject are often the first ones. They have been taken on intuition, impatiently and quickly. But just as often the best pictures come at the end of a session. The subject has been examined with patience and we have tried to compose the picture in many different ways. In the end, the effort is rewarded.

In photography, patience is a flexible tool. Sometimes you have to be patient, stroll through the streets while being observant and wait for the right moment to pop up. Other times you see out of the corner of your eye that something is about to happen and then you have to act quickly to get the picture you have been looking for. Perhaps you have to inter- vene to instruct the people in the photo or move disruptive elements.

Find the degree of patience that suits you and your pace. Some like landscape photo- graphy best where patience is an advantage – it can take time to wait for the right wave or animal to show up. However, working with a group of skaters at a skateboard ramp offers a more fruitful situation for impatient people.

Challenge your personality: If you are the patient type, you can practice being impatient, and vice versa. If you can’t sit still as soon as nothing seems to be happening, it may be worth- while to wait and observe. This flexibility increases your chances of success.


If you are impatient by nature, choose a subject or surroundings where you can train being patient. If on the other hand you are naturally patient, choose something that gives your practice in impatient photography.

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BOOK SUGGESTION: The Power of Patience by M. J. Ryan

No obstacle is going to stand in my way. I am Leonardo, experience’s disciple. And I have patience. When the louts lash out at me I just become more patient.

Leonardo da Vinci

Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender: It’s holy ground. There is no greater investment.

Stephen Covey

A warrior of light needs patience and speed at the same time. The two biggest strategic mistakes are acting before the time is right or not seizing the opportunity as it appears.

Paulo Coelh