Frustrated with Wildlife Photography

moody pink and blue clouds over an elk herd in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole

5 Ways I Turned My Mindset Around

I’m home from a week in Grand Teton National Park, and I have to admit something. Mid-way through my trip I was a grouch. Wildlife and sleep were elusive, the solo driving was endless, and I left the park many days firing only a few shots. I felt like I was coming up empty-handed, and honestly, wasn’t fit to be around at the end of those few days. 

I realize this sounds selfish. I’m in one of the most beautiful places in the world, one of my favorite places on the planet . . . and I’m grouchy about it? 

I get it. 

So how did I turn myself around? I had to get my head (and heart) straight. 

With only a couple more days to go, one night as I tried to go to sleep, I realized a few things. First, I put too much pressure on myself. This is not a new thing; it’s been happening since first grade. Perfectionism and passion mix and create a black cloud. It’s not pretty. 

Also, I expected too much. Portfolio images don’t come in 5 days’ time. My vision for the images I want to create are going to take a lifetime, not one spring trip. 

Most importantly, I realized grace was important. I didn’t have to feel guilty about being frustrated. Instead, I needed to remember that two things can be true at once. I can be frustrated and still be grateful, the concept of both/and. 

Lying in the dark, I decided I couldn’t let the grouchiness get to me; I had to change things up. Here are 5 things I did to change my next 2.5 days:

Accepted frustration as part of the process. I know this is a pattern with my personality, so to evolve I have to ask – what do I do with the frustration? Do I let it cripple me or do I use it as fuel? And if it’s fuel, what does it ignite?

Changed what wasn’t  working and did something different. In this instance, I knew I had to flip my mood. What was I doing that wasn’t working? What could I change? I had about an hour drive to my destinations everyday, so I decided the next morning I would switch my way into the park and go to a part I had not been to yet. It ended up being the best decision with a moody pink sunrise and dozens of elk all to myself. 

Created a goal or theme for the day. Since the expectations on myself were way too punishing, I decided to simplify my mindset. I picked the goal of “See Beauty” for the day, and photographed whatever I found to be beautiful: the full moon, the white clouds wisping over the mountains, fog coming over the valley. . . my tunnel vision and intensity blocked my vision. I couldn’t see the beauty anymore. Taking a breath and changing the way I saw things created a much more peaceful, joyful morning, AND there was so much beauty!

Held gratitude as the top priority in my mind. The Tetons make me tear up every time I visit. I don’t want to forget that. So I decided every time a negative thought came into my mind, I would try to hold on tightly to gratitude, grip onto the simple things, and be thankful. Tiny birds bounding out of the sagebrush after the rain, bull elk framed in the fresh snow, a new fuzzy gosling for the goose family, friends on the backroads, and new friends met along the Snake River. . . these were the things to be thankful for. 

Looked small and wide. Finding the simple things to be thankful for also reminded me to keep the big picture in mind. The world is a glorious place with so many things to photograph. It takes time, and hopefully I have many more adventures to take. Keeping the big picture in mind helped tamp down the grouchiness and lightened the load I put on myself. . . thank goodness.

As I looped around the park one last time yesterday, I silently said goodbye, see ya soon to all my favorite places, and I shook my head at myself a little. The frustration had passed; it was not as big as I made it. Thankfully, I’m learning to ease up on myself, problem solve, and turn it around. Frustration became fuel to my creativity and a lesson I’ll hold onto for the next time around. . .



Jen Ritchie

I'm a nature photographer who loves capturing beautiful landscapes and wildlife from our yearly trips out West and parks here closer to home.

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