Making a truly outstanding photograph takes time. Seldom is anything of value achieved when the process is rushed; I have taught myself to slow my process; working deliberately gives me time to consider different perspectives, both literally and figuratively. Moreover, patience is extremely important when light is rapidly changing because one slip up can cost me the photograph. By slowing the process, I afford my mind the time to do the work instead of giving my camera the decision-making power. In other words, I do not shoot and look, I look and then expose; looking requires time.
When I see a waterfall, my initial reaction is to appreciate the beauty and move on. Waterfalls as subject matter are grossly overdone; it is quite challenging to create a truly unique or engaging waterfall photograph. While working in the Northwest Territories in Canada I came upon several enormous waterfalls and after much thought and consideration, I decided to photograph a narrow perspective instead of including every ounce of falling water and surrounding landscape in the frame.
While using film I had to get things right the first time because I could not see the result (i.e. in an LCD) while in the landscape. I had to think through the photograph, step by step, because the conditions and location were often not repeatable or too far away.
The above photograph took over an hour to realize. I sat on the shore and considered different perspectives. Straight on, the waterfall looked like any other; mundane! However, from the extreme edge I was able to include the wavy lines of the water flowing over the rock wall on the right side and I was also able to include three the waterfalls.
With the below photograph from Rhode Island, I noticed the shadows from the trees and, after much consideration, decided they were enough of a reason to make a photograph. I felt they might help lead the viewer's eyes towards the rocks and water and wanted to include them in the photograph. (As an afterthought, not only do they achieve that goal, but they also help keep the viewer's eyes within the photograph.) I packed two lenses because of uncertainty and slowly climbed down to the base of the falls. I used a 6-stop ND filter plus a 0.9 Grad ND to manage the brightness of the light and to slow down the exposure to 6 seconds at f5.6.
I am extremely fortunate, working with film trained me; slowing down and taking my time helped me create better photographs. After switching from film to digital, I continued to think before making an exposure. Even though the LCD makes life easier, it also makes it more convenient to give up control to the camera. I always remind myself, I am the artist.