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Posted 30/12/15

I have just watched  a short film made about a photographer I greatly admire, Chris Tancock.  His dedication, patience and commitment to his art are humbling to say the very least. For all the time he sits patiently waiting to capture the image he seeks, his work looks fresh, spontaneous and resolutely uncontrived.

Michael Jackson - another  photographer whose work I find inspiring -  spends his time walking Poppit Sands and the vast majority of his wonderfully creative and beautifully observed images are taken on this one stretch of beach.  Again, it is easy to feel inadequate when faced with such single-mindedness and restraint.

My initial reaction - along with many others on the Twitter community -  on watching the afore-mentioned film, was one of despondency and a conviction that I am unequal to the task. I know that such dedication and commitment is beyond me. Then I recalled - as I often do at such moments -  a story that was told to me by Jay Maisel when I attended one of his workshops many years ago.

"A friend of mine brought a cardboard box to one of my presentations. I asked him, why the box? He said there will be two groups of people in the audience today. Half will leave before the presentation is over because they will have to go outside and take pictures. The other half will want to leave their cameras in this box"

I don't want to be the person who leaves my camera in the box. Unlike Chris Tancock I can't spend hours (days, even) on end in a bivouac. I suspect there are few who can. Ultimately, we all have to approach our photography in a way that suits our personality and fits into our increasingly busy lives.

I have just returned from a whistle-stop tour around Yellowstone National Park and surrounding states. In a perfect world I would have spent hours -  or preferably days - driving around, looking, absorbing, thinking about what I wanted to say. In reality, I was travelling with my mother and my husband, and - patient though they are - such an investment of time at the expense of their holiday is not really viable or indeed fair.

The dying of the light takes its inspiration from the Dylan Thomas poem - it seemed an appropriate title for the many hundreds of bleached and skeletal trees we saw, so beautifully backlit by the sun on the golden leaves of the fading aspens behind. Although I didn't spend as long in the field as I would have wished, I had plenty of time behind the wheel, driving from state to state, with the opportunity to think things through and decide how best to present what I had witnessed. Little editing was required - in-camera multiple exposure had muted the detail and enhanced the delicate spidery branches.

So we have to make the best of what we have.  Frustrating though it is to see the endeavour required by Chris Tancock et al to produce such seemingly effortless work, it ultimately pushes us forward and helps us advance our own creative exploration.