Mr. Tortoise and Ms. Hare: A Fantabulous Fotographer Fable

This is the story of Tortoise and Hare, both of them avid photographers (bet you didn’t know that). Naturally, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

As the story opens, each photographer is preparing for a nature photo adventure that will, of course, cause their paths to cross (otherwise there would be no story… duh!). Thomas Tortoise very deliberately packs his gear, weighing the practical value of each piece. Henrietta Hare hurriedly hauls her hefty Hasselblad haversack to her hip (man I had to work on that one!) and is out the door, eager to shoot.

Next day, after shooting sunrise at a lookout, both photographers nod at each other and then hike in opposite directions to catch the glorious morning light. As we hover over the scene, watching these quite capable advanced amateurs at work, we note distinct differences in their approach to their subjects.

Mr. Tortoise takes takes precious time to scout the angle he wants, then sets up and balances his tripod and begins to photograph. He checks his histogram after his first shot, makes adjustments and shoots again. He uses a loupe to better see details on his camera screen. Another focus adjustment, and another one for aperture, and after a half-dozen shots he is satisfied and is about to leave, when he spots a branch a few yards away that he had not noticed before. He moves and reframes the shot, using the branch as a compositional element. Click, adjust, repeat. In two hours he has covered perhaps fifty yards and captured maybe fifty images.

Ms. Hare, on the other hand, has been off and running since leaving the lookout. In her mind she recounts how much she has scrimped and saved for this photo safari. With no time to waste, her goal is to cover as many places as possible.

With her camera set to bracket, she fires off a series of images. Zooming in and out she follows with other bursts. She’d like to take the time to set up her tripod, but that would only slow her down. Instead, she hand holds, jacking up the shutter speed to compensate for any hand movement. Click, whir, click, whir, whir. A quick glance at her camera screen reassures her that she is capturing what she wants.

Now it is on to the next scene, just a short drive away. While there, and for the rest of the morning at the four other locations she will hit, she follows the same procedure.

That evening, at the only lodge in the area, Tortoise and Hare are sitting in front of the huge stone fireplace. Each has a laptop, reviewing the day’s shoot. Tortoise is thoughtfully examining his fifty images, while Hare is zipping through her 1200 images. Each photographer is deciding which ones are worthy of the somewhat painful process of post-processing.

“Nice shots,” Hare says as she passes Tortoise’s images on her way to get coffee.

“Thanks. I noticed yours were spectacular, too,” Tortoise replies. “Really creative angles. I’d never have thought to do that.”

“Yeah, without my tripod I can scrunch down however I like. But your foreground elements are incredible! And the images are tack sharp front to back. I have to throw away fifty percent of what I shoot.”

“I guess I’m a bit anal about focus.”

“Oh, my god. Are those all your shots from today? What, like only a hundred or so?”

“Actually, only fifty.”

“Fifty? No way! I shot over 1200.”

“Where? How?”

“Well, I did get to the glacier, and the big waterfall, and that alpine meadow with all the lupine in bloom.”

“Oh, dear,” Tortoise sighs. “I never got further than the side of the lookout where I saw you at sunrise.”

That night, despite their need for sleep in order to be ready for sunrise, both photographers reviewed in their minds their conversation with their colleague. Mr. Tortoise resolved to do one thing differently the next day. He would uncouple himself from his tripod and seek some creative ways to reveal the natural world and express his creativity. He would have liked to also have a more ambitious shooting schedule, but he knew that a journey always begins with a first step.

Ms. Hare, on the other hand, was bothered by the fact that nearly every one of Tortoise’s images was nearly perfect. He made his post-processing choices easily and by night’s end he had three gorgeous images ready for printing. She had spent the night culling her missteps and hadn’t even finished that. She resolved to slow down next day just a tad and focus on working her creative vision in-camera. So what if she saw fewer places? Perhaps she would be able to capture more keepers and appreciate the Zen of photography. With that realization she got a few hours sleep and so, next morning, Henrietta Hare hurriedly hauled her hefty Hasselblad haversack to her hip in hopes of handily honing her….

The End (or is it the beginning?)

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