The old adage "patience is a virtue" is never out of date when it comes to photography. Particularly as I travel through Europe, capturing the scenes that elicit remarks about my eye for composition, do I recognize that more is needed. Often I may see or visualize a scene but know that I will not have a chance to return, or I know that this is the decisive moment. The challenge that frequently arises, however, is the people factor. European cities are pedestrian places and thus obtaining a photograph of a particular scene without people in it is one of the most challenging factors. Sometimes this can be overcome by photographing in the wee hours of the morning but that is not always the option. Often people think it is easy to photograph Europe because the subject matter is just laid out before you, but that is not the case.
Having been raised in the Midwestern United States I have been accustomed to, and taken for granted, a polite character in our culture that is lacking in densely populated, pedestrian dominant places. Whereas many people in the Midwest may notice a photographer with a tripod and stop with a polite nod or gesture before walking in front of the camera, in Europe it seems to go entirely unnoticed. It is not that Europeans are rude or impolite. rather the culture is different. People tend to be focused on where they are going and it is assumed everyone else is doing the same. No one moves to the side as you pass on the sidewalk and bicycles plow their way through the crowds. For me it is the game of "chicken" on foot. Perhaps locals have adapted because of the hoards of tourists or maybe it is just a pattern of behavior learned from infancy. Whatever the case, this cultural characteristic is what challenges me as a photographer. Once, when I mentioned to a landscape photographer who was frustrated with people who do not acknowledge photographers in the national parks here in the states, that this is a fact of life when photographing Europe, he remarked that he had never thought of that.
In view of the aforementioned challenge, I sometimes have a great attachment for some of my images. For example the image above "Red Ivy and Steps in Assisi" is one of those photographs for which I possess such an attachment. It is a popular image and I have sold a number of them. However, it was not an easy image to capture. The lighting on this stairway was right, but it was in the middle of the day. Assisi is crowded with people and these steps were not exempt. I set up a tripod to one side and waited. People came down the steps in an almost continuous flow. From time to time as the steps emptied, I thought - this is the moment... and then a breeze would begin blowing the ivy which would have just created a blur so I would wait some more. As people walked through the scene, no one paused or acknowledged that they would give me even a split second to make an exposure. At one point I overheard a man (in English) mention that I was a very patient man. In fact, my wife, who also exercises patience while waiting for me, decided to go browse in the shops. After a thirty to forty five minute wait, the light had changed a little but... voila! Yes indeed "patience is a virtue".