Finding the Image You Wish You Had
Sometimes it feels like the luck of the draw. One time you'll come back with a killer image. The next outing nothing seems to go your way. It's time to use what you know and take matters more into your own hands.
The usual routine is to reach for your camera when you see something interesting. You point your camera at that interesting thing, and you fire away to record the results. But how do you know there isn't an even more interesting vantage point? How do you know you've optimized what you've done with your camera and choice of lens? There are far too many variables to assume your first sight of that interesting subject is truly the best possible view.
And what about the disappointment of realizing what you thought could be an interesting image turns out to suffer from some issue you didn't notice at first? Even worse, what happens when you shoot a few images and move on, only to find out once you get home that you didn't notice that problem at all until it was too late?
Many photographers end up feeling at the whims of chance because they allow their shooting to be dictated by chance. At the same time, they may wonder how other photographers manage to find better images than they themselves generally do. Sometimes, the answer really is pure luck, but often the difference comes from how well they apply themselves.
Think about it for a moment. If you've been working at this photography thing for any length of time, you've no doubt learned a thing or two from both your successes and your mistakes. If you stop and think about it a bit more, you've likely learned more than you initially thought. From basic concepts to clever tricks, you likely know more than you thought you did. And you should be looking for ways to put what you know into practice.
Obviously not every concept and strategy will be applicable to any one circumstance, but if you make a habit of really paying attention to potential opportunities, you'll find that these and more will help guide you to better images and a more rewarding time while shooting:
- If I wait for that cloud to pass over the sun the shadows will be less harsh.
- If I wait for the clouds to clear there will be more light in the valley. In fact, with the patchy clouds I've got to work with, I'll bet I can time it so that just the center of the frame will be lit, with an almost magical beam of light from on high.
- I like the foreground here and I like the background, but there's too much of a gap between the two. But if I shoot from a lower vantage point I can visually close up that gap to create a stronger image.
- Changing my shooting position will allow me to hide that nasty roadside marker sign behind that tree. No one will ever know it's there when they look at the image.
- The foreground and background are perfect, but I can't seem to focus on both at the same time from where I'm standing. If I move further back and use a longer lens though, the depth of field should just cover it.
- There's too much glare from the sun, but if I hide it behind the subject I get rid of a problem completely and create a great rim light around what I'm shooting.
- As I take a step to the left, my subject appears to move to the right relative to the background. I bet I can use the optical trick to better line up elements and make better use of the space in the frame.
- If I get closer to my subject, I can cut through the morning fog to show more detail.
- Or as an alternative, overexposing by a stop or so will accentuate the dreamlike atmosphere created by this morning's fog. I've always liked that kind of image.
- If I wait for those people to leave, I just might be able to time my shot to afford an unobstructed view before more people come down the trail.
- Since I can't do anything about those people standing there, I should compose an image so as to make them a part of it and add context to my original idea.
- The entire field of flowers will never cooperate given the breeze, but if I change to shooting just a few I'll have better luck. It may still take a bit of patience, but the image I have in mind will be worth it.
- I'm having a hard time fighting the breeze. Perhaps it might be interesting to simply let the flowers blur slightly to create a more dynamic image. So long as they're still recognizable it might just work.
- I'll bet there's an even better shot of the waterfall from further down the trail. If I don't find a better viewpoint though, I should do my best here as insurance.
- But given the weather I might want to look for a better vantage now and come back here later if I need to and the rain permits. I've got a lot of things to juggle here in my quest for good shots.
- Since I'm shooting digital, I can afford to try a number of permutations and variations of this shot. Its potential is too great not to get everything I can while I'm here and it is too. Cooking dinner can wait a bit so long as I don't lose track of time completely.
- Conditions aren't all too good today, but I should explore the area in detail anyway so I'm more prepared for my next trip to the area. Doing so should be time well spent, and even if I don't find anything it can be an enjoyable way to get in some exercise this afternoon.
These are just some thoughts to illustrate the kind of things that run through my mind when I'm out shooting. Hopefully at least something here will give you some new ideas for your next outing.