What is the one thing that will scare any photographer back into the dark ages? In a word, uncertainty. Any of you who have been “volunteered” or otherwise roped into shooting a wedding or a portrait whether it was for a friend or profit, know exactly what I mean. The feeling is nothing short of a lighting bolt going through your body and creating some kind of stress that one has never experienced before. What happens if the client isn’t happy? What if my camera decides not to work during the kiss at the wedding? Is the check going to clear? All of these are valid concerns. What does one do to prepare for such events so the photographer doesn’t break out in stress sweat? Practice like it’s the big event. Check out a place that you have never been to before and give yourself a time limit and see how many “keepers” you can create. No cheating, such as putting your camera into burst mode and ripping off 100 frames in two minutes and saying, “That was easy.” doesn’t count. You know who you are. Something that I would recommend is to take a photo buddy. The photo buddy isn’t there for moral support. They are there to sabotage you. Yes, you read that right. Instruct them during the shoot to purposely at some time to come up to you and take something such as your lens…for the rest of you who are still reading this, congratulations. What on earth am I talking about? See Murphy will step in what it’s most inconvenient. If your sabotaging photo buddy takes your lens, this means that you had a lens failure. What does one do to fix this? Ugh, well, how about putting another lens on? Have your buddy also act like a person that can’t ever be made happy. This is called, “some clients”. These things may seem silly, but when it really happens, you’ll be prepared.
I try and get out and shoot freestyle when I get a chance. This means no plan and limited equipment. I find this makes one hone what they do have; no matter if they have tons of equipment or just a starter kit. Also, I find that it makes one think about how to solve a problem that arises on location. If you haven’t figured this out yet, photography is all about solving problems, whether it’s equipment, light or a cranky customer or family member (get a P.O. Box so they don’t know how to find you….I’m just sayin’).
As some of you know I teach all over Southwest Florida. There are times that I get to visit a place either during class or after that I have never been. This is a great chance to see what you can do. I was teaching a class in Venice, Florida a few weeks ago and we decided that we would wonder around the city and see what we could come up with. We started at the historic train depot. I had been there before, but it’s been awhile. My go to lens to get started with in a new place is my Nikon 18-200 lens. This has quite the versatility, but not the sharpest that I own. However, it has served me well and it gets the job done. As the students were arriving at the train depot, I noticed an Osprey flew over with something in its talons.
As you can see this fish is having a bad day. We were able to sneak up on him, hiding behind a building and getting somewhat close. Granted the longest focal length that I had was 200mm, so how did I get so close? The building help as mentioned, but I also cropped in the computer and let my Nik filters do their magic. Sometimes you have to massage things in post. A shot is better than no shot.
The building that was hiding us to get the Ospery shots, I found quite attractive. I love old buildings; they are hard to come by. This must have been some kind of storage facility for supplies for the train or a least that is my best guess. It was old and some of the windows were boarded up and others were open. As I walked around the outside I noticed that there was an ivy growing up the building. It just goes to show you that if given the chance, nature will reclaim what was hers in the first place.
As we were walking along we came upon the start of the Legacy Trail. There is a wooden bridge that has some character to it. As some of you know, I’m not right. I’m interested to see what is under the bridge. Old hardware, planks and fasteners get my attention. Must be because when I was a kid and an only child my parents gave me and Erector set to make bridges and what ever else I and nuts and bolts for. I decided to make this black and white, as the color photo really didn’t do anything for me.
I felt, as I must have been on the right track when I crawled back up on top of the bridge and it presented me with an “A”. I can honestly say, this wasn’t planted or arranged. It kind of looks like bird feathers to me, but not sure. One task that you could give yourself is to photograph the alphabet in nature. Granted this could take you years to complete, but would be fun.
A few steps from the previous photo, I noticed where some of the wood had fallen into disrepair. This screamed texture to me. I usually don’t center my subjects, however I think the ripped wood adds to the scene. The nut looks like it has been there for quite some time (sounds like me). Again, I shoot in color but convert the photos in the computer using the Nik software.
After we had spent awhile at the train depot area, we decided to go into town and see what we could come up with. One of the subjects that we came across was this woodpecker. He flew down from the tree and was savaging around the tree roots to find something to eat. I know some of you out there who read these posts are birding people. You should be proud; I now have a woodpecker in my collection. It was an overcast day so this made the light very soft and even. This was shot with the same lens that I started with. Did I plan to photograph a bird in the middle of downtown Venice? I think not, but I was still able to get something with what I had with me.
Between the stores there was a little ally way. Now I mean little, as in a five year old might be able to fit. The SUV body that I have would have no chance going through there. There was a little gate that someone had taken the time to weld the word VENICE across the top. This looked aged and I thought it had some character.
As we made our way back to the parking lot, we passed a restaurant that was getting ready to open. I’m always on the look out for patterns or texture. In this case, there were chairs all lined up on the sidewalk ready for the hungry customer. I crouched down on my knees to get a line going with the chairs. I got some strange looks from folks walking by. But hey, I’m a strange type of guy, what can I say. The chairs are silver with red seats. Once I converted this into black and white, I felt that the viewer was going to concentrate on the pattern of the photo and not so much on the color. This is another thing to think about. What and how do you want your viewer to see your photograph?
It was a great day and I came home with some shots. Did I come home with three cards full of photos? No. However, what I did come home with were photos that I knew were going to have a shot at being something. One thing that this forces one to do when they are out and about like this is to slow down. I’m guilty of getting wrapped up in the moment and shooting whatever is in front of the lens. When I slow down and ask, “Why am I taking this?” I find that I end up with more solid keepers versus hoping that in 3,000 photos that I got one. Take your photo buddy with you and practice shooting in areas that you aren’t familiar with. Sabotage each other and this will refine your skills and build a fix it databank in your head when such a situation arises later. Oh by the way, if any of you talk to Murphy, send him my way….I have a message for him.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean