The Solo Photographer
Recently, I've found myself in several online discussions with other photographers about the appeal of organized photo tours or impromptu shoots, versus individual photo trips. To my surprise, many of the others echoed my preference to do their photographic exploring (generally outdoor and landscape photography) on their own. Interestingly, like me they often described themselves as introverts. I have to admit, this was more than a little reassuring.
I am an assistant organizer for a photography group through Meetup.com, a service that provides a web presence for interest groups of all kinds (check them out). The other organizers and I arrange photography opportunities that range from a few hours at a local event to a weekend at a distant location, and which may attract as many as 40 photographers or as few as 4. A frequent complaint from new members is that once we meet on location and get oriented, we then disperse to get our shots. Some people buddy up or are part of a small group; many of us shoot alone. To me, shooting alone is normal. While I enjoy socializing before and after these events, I'm there to take photos and ultimately, that is a solitary activity, even if for just a moment. Being creative is generally a solo act, whether it's painting, writing, or composing a symphony.
This is not to say that I have to be isolated to enjoy photography or that I haven't enjoyed traveling and shooting with other photographers. It's just that when I travel alone, it's my pace, my preferences, my starting time (I'm an early bird), my shutdown time, and I can change plans whenever I want. That may seem selfish, but it is my trip and my time, and when I'm back home the images I captured will be mine. It's also an opportunity to reflect on my life and the year's events. I consider it a creative escape.
I'll admit that there have been many times when I've wished that there were others with me to share a particularly beautiful scene. And, there have been times when I've been shooting with others and I've gotten good images by following their lead; sometimes they've followed mine. On the whole, however, I prefer not to be part of the huddled masses. As an aside, I tend to talk to myself in the field, and nobody wants to hear that.
My wife, who is a wonderful partner and who shares my photographic interests, also has the patience to wait for hours until the light is just right. When we travel together we're a great team. The rest of the time, I continue my solo act and savor the experience.