The Art and Culture of Photography – Watching the Clouds Roll By

Samantha watching the clouds go by

Samantha watching the clouds go by.

This week is the eighth anniversary of my first date with Samantha. Our first date was a comedy of errors, all of my best laid plans went south fast – think of me as a male version of Bridget Jones, only more hairy. Looking back all I can do is shake my head and laugh. Frankly I am surprised Sam agreed to a second date!

So what does all this have to do with photography? A lot… trust me it will all come full circle.

When Samantha and I went out to do photography together I noticed something kind of weird. Sam spent a lot of time not shooting. She seemed to be just standing around. I would ask, “How’s it going?” “Perfect,” she would reply. I would continue madly scurrying about shooting this and that and Sam would still be in the same spot looking around. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Oh, I’m just watching the clouds roll by.” I thought to myself that she just was not into photography that much. But back home, I would see her photos and they were amazing. She found stuff I never even noticed (were we in the same spot?) and she made images that were so uniquely hers. No one could ever copycat a Sam image. There was something about her images that showed a deeper connection between her and the scene. Something at times I’ve felt missing in my photos. What’s going on?

Over the years I’ve learned that Sam standing around does not mean she isn’t doing photography. On the contrary, it means she is actually looking around, connecting with the scene first and only then capturing that connection with her camera afterwards. Most photographers I know, myself included, rush headlong into the world with their face buried behind the camera. The camera comes out first, questions are asked later. Sam approaches a scene the opposite way. The questions are asked first. “Why I am attracted to this spot? How does this subject make me feel? Why is that animal doing that? What is it like to be grass in this windy field?” Sam asks a lot of whys and only after really looking and pondering a subject will she pull her camera out.

What I have learned from Sam is that the act of photography is not really important; actual seeing and understanding the subject is the key. Immerse yourself into the subject and not into the mechanism of making a photo. Too often photographers are so worried about the gear, the technique, and the results they hope to get that they forget about asking themselves about the subject and about how they feel about the subject. To make meaningful images there has to be a connection between you and the subject you are photographing. Too often that connection is not made and superficial meaningless images are the result. Once I started to actually look at and think about my subjects and stopped just rushing in to make photos, my photography improved significantly. The slow, thoughtful approach really works. I started watching the clouds roll by too.

So back to our first date… although almost everything was a disaster (from the meal to the movie) Sam just sat back and watched (and laughed). But she took the time to watch the clouds go by. She liked the potential in the scene and so she revisited the location many more times and finally decided that she could make a meaningful photo there. 🙂


To learn more about learning to see check out our eBook on the subject.

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.


  1. Randy Centner
    March 10, 2014


  2. Maurice (Moe) Hebert
    March 10, 2014

    You guys are so cute. Thanks for sharing so much more than photo techniques. There is an honesty felt in your all your excellent work.
    From one of your fans in the States.

  3. Jeff Cruz
    March 10, 2014

    Great story! Congrats on your eight years together!

  4. Anne Jutras
    March 10, 2014

    Hello guys! Thank you for sharing your first moment with us, love the story behind the clouds. Great philosophy, Sam, I remember having read in one of your e-book, how to take the time to observe and look around before pressing the shutter. I try it, it a great exercise!

    I hope you’ll have many many more happy shooting together! 😉

  5. Mary Alston
    March 10, 2014

    Great story! Reminded my of my first date with my husband. Maybe it is a good omen – we will celebrate our 40th this year!

  6. Lawrence
    March 11, 2014

    Happy Anniversary Darwin and Sam!!
    Nice story……

  7. Jeff
    March 11, 2014

    Happy Anniversary!

  8. dirk swillens
    March 15, 2014

    what a wonderful story, and amazing way to get your point through – thank you 🙂

  9. Sue
    March 19, 2014

    What a beautiful story as well as a lesson in photography.

  10. george d photography
    March 20, 2014

    I have read out this blog “The Art and Culture of Photography” what a wonderful story and lesson in photography. If you are looking for photographer in surrey, you can visit here.

  11. Comment pratiquer la photographie zen,
    April 1, 2014

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