Well when it rains it pours and lately it sure has been pouring. This past weekend was the AOPA’s first flyin for the season in Missoula, MT and it was a great turn out. Despite the rain on Saturday there was a good crowd and a lot of great planes showed up. However, it was photographically a challenge and it brings up the question that we must always ask ourselves, “when do we pull the camera out?”
When you start thinking about the time and money investment you put into some of your trips, even a small one like this, you go expecting to come back with some results. The reality is you don’t always come back with a worthy photograph. Even if you work a scene like this through all the rain, what’s the story going to be? Where’s the drama? What makes this appealing to an audience? Is it worth the hardrive space? These are really important questions to think about before going click and frankly in this case it was better to use the iPhone and talk with the pilots then go searching for that photo. It was still a good weekend.
Time in the field is a necessity in order to get better with your camera. The more you spend the better you will get. That is the nature of being human and the truth with all things you can get better at. However, does every photo shoot you go on need to take a lot of time? Is simply going out for say an hour, enough to make you better or just keep your skills on par with where they have always been?
I think about this often in Spring because we get great thunderstorms in the afternoons and it’s often fun to go out just for sunset to capture their beauty. Not long in the field but still time. While that simple afternoon shot often provides enough for a blog post it doesn’t do much else besides that. It is something but it doesn’t seem like much. So that’s the dilemma. How much time in the field is enough even when you come back with a result?
There is no one way to make it in photography. If you’ve ever heard the saying there’s more then one way to skin a cat, well that’s how photography kind of is. There are many avenues that can bring you money and the more of it you have the more time you’ll be able to spend behind the camera. In theory of course. But what about big projects? How important is it to have a photo project that lasts longer then a week, a month, a year?
I’ve been fortunate to have had a couple of these over the short time I’ve been a photographer and I can say that while the results have always varied, the stories that come from these big projects are the ones I tell the most often. From working with African Artisans, to traveling the country with a flying museum, those big projects have made a bigger impact on my life then many of the day shoots I’ve been on.
From a business stand point do they pay off and are they worth investing in? When you have a big project you have to spend a lot more time prepping for it. That’s the big difference I’ve noticed. The benefit is all that prep work can help your photography in all the other little projects you have going on. Whether it’s learning more on the computer, getting better with flash, learning new camera techniques, or working more with people. Whatever it is, odds are it will be beneficial later on.
So yes I am a believer in big projects but like all aspects of life you need a balance between the big and the small. The satisfaction of completing even the simplest of tasks helps make everyday life better. In photography you really really need that feeling of completion to help stay on track because it’s easy to loose sight of why you’re doing all of this.
It’s quite common to get so wrapped up in current shoots that you only finish the images needed for whatever purposes you have and then leave the rest for another time. I’m guilty of this myself. In past years I would finish images for blog posts and articles and then leave the rest for later. Problem is the more you shoot the more images tend to stack up so you never really find that time to finish the images. The other downside is it is easy to forget not only what you photographed but the conditions in which you took the image to begin with. This makes it harder to finish the images at a later point. So what do you do?
The images have to get finished one way or another but if the argument is if there is value to finishing them later after you’re out of the moment of capture, then is it worth the time, time being money after all or hardrive space? Well personally I hate leaving images unfinished. Even if they are old there was value in them to start with or you wouldn’t have taken the image to begin with. Leaving them to be forgotten is not only a waste but isn’t a good business practice. Part of the answer comes back to proper time management. Taking less images but still good quality images means less computer work which is a better business practice. There’s another potential answer to the question.
So yes there can be value in old images but it comes from recognizing that value and applying it to your business.
Spring time means kid time as my Dad so elegantly pointed out recently. One of the cutest kids around in the Rocky Mountains is the Mountain Goat. These little white balls of fur are pretty irresistible especially when you see them bouncing around the rocks and cliffs. They learn quickly from their parents how to navigate these escarpments. Their lives depend on it. As you can see they have the same suction cup like inner pads and the claw like toes that spread to help give them traction on the uneven rocky surfaces that they live on. Just like the parents they live off of the minerals in the rocks and can be frequently found on the salt licks. If you happen to find one near an overpass be sure to look down as they enjoy the salt that comes from deicing the roads in winter.
Never be afraid to take a landscape image when there are no clouds. Yes it can be a little less dramatic but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I know I got the habit from my Dad to look for clouds but sometimes having just that color is all it takes. Rolling hills on a beautiful summer evening is pretty hard to pass up.
We all need to keep practicing our skills otherwise we get dull. When it comes to birding it doesn’t take much to get sloppy. Two species that are quite common in the US and make for good practice are the Yellow Headed and Red Winged Blackbird. They may not be that sought after but that means you can work them with no one else around. Black subjects are also harder to work with because they really challenge your skill when it comes to lighting. You have to really watch the perches the birds keep landing on and where the best light is to bring out that detail. Interestingly enough some of the best days to work with a dark subject, like above, is on an overcast day where you won’t get those harsh shadows. I say interesting because we tend to avoid those days. So head to your local waterways to find these guys.
Yes this is a different post then Wednesday’s. We all have our list of shots in our heads or written down of the shots that we desperately want in our files. Whether its ones that other people have taken and we liked so much that we need them too or are something completely new that nobody has seen. Either way, we all have that list or want those shots. You could say they are “perfect” images but that’s not necessarily true. I think perfection is something else. No these are just the ones that serve a purpose and the library feels incomplete without them.
My question is, once you have one of those shots checked off of your list, what do you do then? Do you move on to the next shot on the list or do you improve upon what you already have? Do you even look at the image again or just say it’s done? I think about this often because there are places I go to shoot that I know I have gotten great results so I don’t necessarily want to go back because it might just be a waste of time since I already have that one shot. So it’s try somewhere new or don’t go out at all. I know I can’t be the only one that thinks this way. So what is the answer?
Memorial Day was this past Monday and traditionally the photograph to post is one with a flag and a gravestone. I never had one that I liked so I never posted it, until this past Monday when I finally got one. One image that I feel conveys the message I wanted to convey. But it’s only one image. That’s not enough. You can’t put out one image all the time, that’s boring. So while I am thrilled to have put a check by that image on my list, it’s not crossed off. There is always room for more.
Oh for the record, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve photographed this ranch since I got this shot.
It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed in photography when it comes to the need of having lots of photos. The more time you spend in the business the more you realize that you need images for so many little things and it sucks when you just don’t have them. So what do you do? You go out in the field and take a chance to see if you can find that image to fill those gaps in your files and often time you come up short. That’s the reality of this game. But that’s when you have to tell yourself, “I only need one good image.” One image that makes you smile.
I was at the eighth annual memorial day parade here in Bozeman and went there with no expectations, just a camera in hand. I’ve photographed it in the past with some results but nothing wow and again I didn’t get a wow shot. But I found one that made me smile. This little kid was waving at everyone that went by and everyone kept waving at him. It was just kinda cute and kinda fun.
That’s what you gotta do though. Keep going out, keep looking for that one shot and come back with one that makes you think it was all worthwhile.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
We never forget those that have given everything so the rest of us can have freedom.
Memorial Day 2018