Notice that the stiffest tree is more easily cracked,

Where the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.

—Bruce Lee

If you consider everything you are in control of in life, my guess is that the list would be quite short. You can make your own list, but mine in this post focuses on photography. You can extend the metaphors to your own life in and out of photography You will understand the reason for being the willow when you are through reading here.

I didn’t even know that this was a maple leaf until I used my macro lens.


You’ll notice I didn’t say what we’re in “control” of. That’s another story. As photographers, we get to decide when and where we go to photograph. We get to decide what we want, hope and expect to photograph. We get to decide what equipment we are able to purchase and how much or little of it we are able to pack for our adventures by car (much more) or by plane (much less), and what we are able to carry on our backs or pull behind us (when conditions allow) in a cart or wagon. We are able to decide what our favorite subjects and places are and how often we spend time with them. We’re able to choose who we invite on our adventures or who we don’t when we need some “solo time.”

As an instructor and workshop leader, I am able to visit and explore new places with the possibility of sharing with groups. I’m able to decide which locations are conducive for most photographers, which are safe, photogenic and oftentimes which have unique features that not everyone would have discovered on their own. I get to create new experiences for myself and share them with others.

And, last, though not least, I am in charge of my attitude and perspective, especially when conditions don’t always work out in my favor – when my expectations are not met precisely as I would strongly hope for them to work out. And, that’s the rub. That’s where the willow comes in.

And this scene begged for motion.


When I was growing up, there were weeping willows in my neighborhood. Their branches and limbs were intricate, beautiful and blowing gracefully in the winds. The metaphor that still holds true in my mind is how the willow symbolizes flexibility. When the winds blow, the branches are not broken, they bend without snapping. While I am drawn to and admire the mighty oaks, strong and stable, it’s the willow that so very often whispers in my mind when making plans, of any kind. In a strong enough wind, the oaks will break while the willows will bend. A blend of these two trees and their associated qualities would be most advantageous in managing anticipated and unexpected circumstances. I must admit that there is a lot of “oak” in me, and the willow is in constant training. It is getting better.

In researching the willow, I learned that “Willow” is a feminine name of Old English origin meaning “willow tree,” and derived from the word welig, which is Old English for “willow.” The trees are graceful and known for resilience. Folklore also attaches sadness and mourning to this tree. How does sadness and mourning come into the picture? Well, it can slip in with the rain, with gray skies, with closed gates, with subjects that are no longer because they have been moved or have fallen into grave disrepair.  However, if we embrace the more useful quality of flexibility as we meander through this journey, we will be better served.

Not the Willow, but a Mighty Oak that Broke


After a season of chasing fall colors and favorable conditions in several states over the past three months, I can attest to one definitive aspect of photography that we will NEVER be in charge of, and that’s THE WEATHER. If I could make the sun shine, the rains fall, the temperatures ebb and flow according to my wishes, I would. If I could make the flowers grow and bloom and withstand the heat and hard freezes to offer colorful subjects to photograph for myself and my clients, I most certainly would. OR WOULD I?

Actually, as much as it would be nice on occasion to have some control over the weather conditions, NOT being in charge of it provides me and you with opportunities to practice being the willow. It gives us opportunities to look for other things. It gives us opportunities to look at subjects differently and with new eyes that are necessary in order to adjust to the conditions before us. If not for the ever-changing and not “made-to-order” weather, we would have but one perspective and expectation as we made our way out the door to photograph whatever was on our list. How do I know? Keep reading, and I’ll share a few scenarios.

The playtime started with a box of blocks on wheels and the Lensbaby Double Glass II.


Back in September, I planned a Lensbaby-focused workshop that included a field session in Sarah P. Duke Gardens (one of my favorites). As the day got closer, the weather forecast kept getting worse – rain, rain and more rain. Not deterred … I had a few suggestions for other options. A few days before “the day,” I explored the options, including the Farmer’s Market in Raleigh and a huge antique and collectibles mall in Burlington, which was awesome. While at Granddaddy’s Antique Mall, I noticed a rack card with other antique stores. I asked which one they would recommend I visit first, and I followed their advice. The visit was productive and another good option if we finished with the first location early.

In this case, I had a Plan A and a Plan B, but didn’t expect to make use of the Plan C (Gibsonville Antiques).

As it turned out, when we got to Granddaddy’s, they had lost a leg of their power and could not open and had no idea when the power would be back on. That’s when Plan C came into play, and it was perfect. It was indoors, out of the wind and rain; it had super cool old stuff to photograph (and buy), and we were welcomed by the owners (permission granted on my scouting trip). Not only that, but the owner of the store called and thanked me for bringing the group and welcomed us back anytime.

With everyone in the group having a willow perspective, we all overcome the weather and power challenges that we were not in charge of. We also came out with amazing images to show for it. Had we been able to go to the gardens, it would have been beautiful; but being able to shift perspectives served us well. (If you’re interested in Lensbaby, you can save 10% with my code, WDAVIDSON)

What rhymes with “Box”?

What rhymes with “Lox”?