Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Preparing for Killer Outdoor Photography Shots

Patience, Gear Knowledge & Experience are all important elements in a photographer's tool box

See more of Marcel's work here.

Getting dynamic photographs of nature or humans doing awesome things comes in basically two types of preparedness; 1) patience and planning, with a heaping extra portion of more patience on top of patience slathered with extra patience sprinkled with… etc., or 2), really, really lucky.

The really, really lucky method is, by definition, not something that can, or even need be planned for. So, I won’t offer any tips for that, here.

The How-To that goes into capturing those shots that illicit comments from your fans like, “How do you get those shots?”, and “I didn't even know owls could do that”, are a composite of several elements, and the recipe reads like a Navy Seal’s mission preparedness outline.

All though there are no guarantees,

if you execute one or all of these components, you greatly increase your chances of coming away with award winning and published accolades of successful photo outings. But most of all, you’ll find that you enjoy photography more and more as you learn what hard work really produces.

RESEARCH, GEAR and EXPERIENCE. Even if you already know your subject of current stalking, whether it's water, animal or human, you still do yourself a disservice by not observing for minutes, hours or days, your subject or event. The more you can anticipate, the better chance you have of capturing great shots of interesting things happening.

In this photo, my friend Marcel Pepin of MARCEL PEPIN PHOTOGRAPHY on the North American continent’s northwest coast captures beautiful splash action from waves coming over a sea wall. Several things are happening all at once and so the only way to get stunning shots like this is to research via observation and tide tables several things about the event. Not only when the wave is likely to splash is needed, but where is the best place to be when that 150 liters of cold, salty water leaps out of the ocean and invades your space, is very important info. You don’t want to be exactly where it is; you want to be several feet away for lots of reasons;
- Angle of available light
- Background composure
- Immediate traffic (other people, animals or things that might change their locations abruptly at splash time, either ruining your shot, you ruining their day, or something dangerous occurring)
- Next available wave (this could actually end your photography career if you or your camera, or both end up on the wrong side of the sea wall)

Your camera’s part in this is simply governed by what you have learned about how it operates based on what type of photo you had planned on taking. You want to already have those settings or range of settings ready to go in your camera. There’s no time for trying to figure anything out when the events occur. You must have already tried several settings and change procedures beforehand so that the best light and backgrounds are not wasted on experimenting with camera settings and lens choices.

Other than the event itself, the two most difficult elements to get just right are almost always the two things over which you have no control; the background and the available light. The background can be more forgiving, dependent upon your better choices of angles. But, if you are trying to get a pristine shot with no pedestrians, airplanes or police cars, you really should choose a time of day that increases the chance that you get to own that piece of real-estate for the short time it will take to capture your target event. For Marcel, early morning works really well for many of his projects.

But, available light is probably the dominant factor in the equation. Not enough light and too much light or the wrong angle of light or wrong color of light are all possibilities that all need observation beforehand, and serious thought given to your observations.

So, after you have lighting, background obstacles and camera settings all approximated, you can now focus your attention on The Event. If you are lucky enough to be working on an event like Pepin’s wave splash here, you then have a handful, at best, of expected events to shoot that will fit within your greatest enemy, Time Window. If there end up being fifty or twenty-five or only five good-enough waves that occur within your time window of lighting and background requirements, you’ll need to shoot them all. When in doubt, keep shooting. Repetitive events, like waves, are often something that results in the photographer not really knowing what he/she has until after downloading has occurred; which may not even happen for several hours or several days.

So, let’s assume you shot all fifty of those cool looking splashes. You have now completed one event. Bully for you. Take what you have learned and plan another outing just like the first, and you will then begin to learn the most important lessons in photography; and that is patience, and learning from your own personal experience.

Doing the same things over and over (correctly) and figuring out what to change in order to get both the shots you planned for, as well as pushing your envelope towards looking for the unexpected, is what makes a person with a camera, a professional photographer.

Being relentless begins as a chore and often ends as a labor of love, but the results are obtaining the true meaning of professionalism. Many people define professionalism as whether or not one has been paid for their work. I completely refute that theory and maintain that professionalism is an attitude of the relentless pursuit of doing things a certain way that results in desired affects admired by one's self as well as others.

Photography is, after all, the capturing of a moment in time to enjoy again and again. Paying attention to detail and exercising relentless patience for all your shots will begin to deliver the best possible results in your photography archive that will be enjoyed by you and others for decades and beyond. Just ask Ansel, or Marcel Pepin.

Thanks for stopping by MediaWebish

See more of Marcel's work here.

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