Holding On To a Moment

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

No matter how you cut it photography is about moments and capturing these moments.

But there is more, way more, that makes the experience of wildlife and nature photography a special thing if you open yourself to it.

In ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ Sean O’Connel, an old school explorer-photographer played by Sean Penn, sees a snow leopard through his lens but instead of taking the picture just continues to stare at it.

When Walter, played by Ben Stiller, sees that he is not taking a picture of a subject he has been after for a long while their conversation goes like this:

Walter:           When are you gonna take it?
Sean:             Sometimes I don’t.  If I like a moment, I mean me personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the                                    camera.  I just wanna stay… in it.
Walter:           Stay in it?
Sean:             Yeah, right there.  Right here.

Do you think that we still stay in the moment like Sean or has the immediate gratification offered by digital technology created a world where we just move through these moments without recognising it’s true beauty?


With so much of today’s photography focused on sharing and getting feedback from our peers are we not missing a nonjudgmental awareness of the moments that we so desperately want others to see?

The problem is this.  From the very instant we create a picture our minds are already surging ahead and through this future-orientated mindset we sabotage the entire process of living in a moment.  Experiencing a moment.

Yes, photography is an art and for art to become art it needs to be shared but perhaps we would be better served trusting that, should we decide to create an image, our own passion and vision will do the moment justice.

Whether we are in the field creating pictures, processing our images or even just sitting having a cup of coffee we always tend to compare things to the past or the future.   Is this image I’m about to take going to be better than my previous ones?  If I process this RAW file differently will people like it more?  This cup of coffee is not as nice as the one I had last week.

Think of the most incredible wildlife sighting you have ever had the chance to photograph.

I’m sure you can see it in your mind and remember every little detail.  If I were to now send you back to that sighting without a camera would it make the sighting any less special?  Would you be disappointed for not being able to share the moment with other people or would you be happy to just live in that moment and experience something truly unique and special?

In life and in wildlife photography there is something about living in a moment that no technology can capture.  When you are kissing a beautiful girl time seems to stand still and you cannot help yourself be totally consumed by the moment.  You live in the moment.  Get lost in the moment.  Completely.

At the risk of over-stretching the analogy, imagine if you could live in wildlife moments with even just a small bit of that same passion, that same intensity without worrying about the distraction of a camera.

As wildlife photographers we are all out to get the shot, that one frame that will show people what we saw and make them admire our craft but don’t let this stand in the way of appreciating the moment.  Living in it.  Completely.

Yes, keep on chasing the shots and always try and improve yourself photographically but sometimes just being out in the wild places of the world can be enough to create an image, albeit a mental one, of once in a lifetime moments.

Sometimes we just need to hold on to these moments.


Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt 

* * *

Gerry’s Links:


Comments 0

  1. Morkel Erasmus

    Valuable post, Gerry. During the giraffe kill I witnessed in Etosha in November, I only took photos sporadically as I was too raptured in the moment to really just let it all get lost in the viewfinder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *