"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find...

You get what you need."

- The Rolling Stones

Expectations don't always pan out. I went into a situation yesterday looking for one thing and found another. Instead of being disappointed that I didn't get what I wanted, I realized I found exactly what I needed.

On a whim, I had signed up for a group photography walk in nearby Newport, Rhode Island. The walk was organized by a major online photography community, of which I am a thus far barely-participatory member. One of the group leaders was a photographer I'd connected with online, and I looked forward to meeting her in person.


I also hoped to befriend some new people who share my interest in photography. My "photography friends" are, for the most part, people I've met online, and I looked forward to the opportunity to connect with photographers who feel a little less like imaginary friends.

I arrived late and frazzled. A carpool snafu meant I'd had to make a last minute one-hour round-trip drive in the opposite direction before packing up and driving an hour to Newport. A GPS fail meant I'd missed a turn. As I approached the park where we planned to meet--fifteen minutes late--I saw a group of people with cameras around their necks and knew I was in the right place.


We introduced ourselves and started off on our photo walk, each pausing or wandering off as a potential image struck her. Everyone I met was very nice, and the friend I'd made online was just as charming in person.

The awkward thing was that I was the only person who had come alone. Many of the participants' families were stationed at nearby Fort Adams. They already knew each other and spoke largely of issues related to their community. At least three other pairs of photographers arrived from elsewhere, but they stuck together with the buddy they'd brought.


No one was rude. In fact, everyone was lovely. Yet I spent much of the time feeling like the only person at a party who doesn't know the other guests, sidling up to random groups and trying to glom on to conversations in progress. I hate those kinds of parties.

In spite of this, I had a fabulous time. It wasn't the people I needed after all, but the photography.


Taking photos in an unfamiliar environment was invigorating, and it was fun to focus on something other than portraiture. I've been concentrating upon portrait photography lately, as that is where I plan to take this business. But I've always loved quiet time spent alone photographing things. Newport was a whole town of new things.


I had planned on joining the other photographers for dinner afterward, but the group had splintered during the walk, and none of the people I ended with were planning to go to dinner. I was having a great time with my camera and wasn't hungry, so I decided to take one lap around the park before joining the rest of the group at the restaurant.

I never made it. I was having too much fun by myself.


After the two hours I'd spent walking around Newport with the other photographers, I spent an additional hour alone at the water's edge as the sun was setting. With no time constraints and no agenda, I took the time to notice my surroundings, to see how the light was shining through the clouds, and to set up the shots I wanted.


I finished my third hour of photography relaxed and refreshed, excited to download the images to my computer and get to work. After culling and editing, I'm as excited as I was when I turned off the camera last night. I'm pleased with the results.

I may not have made a photography buddy, but I realized I don't need what I thought I wanted. I prefer to shoot alone, without the distractions of conversation or someone else's agenda. It energizes me.


I still seek the camaraderie of photographers, but only when the shooting and editing is complete. My other friends can only feign so much interest; I want to talk photography with people who are as excited by it as I am. I want to share my work, get critiques on it, and learn new techniques. Fortunately for me, I can do so when I otherwise would be sitting alone and not talking to anyone--online, from my kitchen, at nearly any hour of the day.

I got what I needed yesterday--creative time with my camera. What I wanted, I already had.