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Ever wonder what’s involved in a smaller scale commercial lifestyle shoot? Have a read.
This past week I was fortunate to work with Loon Outdoors, a company committed to providing environmentally friendly fly fishing products to anglers. We had arranged for a one-day shoot up in Sun Valley, ID. In the days leading up to the shoot, I’d been checking the weather incessantly, hoping for something other than the obvious–rain and cold and general nastiness on the day of (and only the day of) the shoot. Murphy’s law was definitely proving itself on this one. After a bit of dicussion with company president Alan Peterson, we decided to go ahead with the scheduled shoot.
The truth of the matter is this: some weather is fantastic for photography, and fly fishing photography in particular. It provides for interesting shooting conditions and unique atmospheric opportunities. Too much weather, however, can be a literal game ender.
My alarm clock went off on the morning of the shoot and without even looking out the window I knew I would be encountering some unique weather-related challenges throughout the day. I could hear the rain drops on the windows. Not so good. I parted the curtains and was surprised to see 2″ of snow had fallen overnight. Wow. Cool! Snow would provide for something a bit different. Throughout the day on the Big Wood River, we had steady rain moving in and out, providing for alternately inspiring conditions and an utterly miserable, wet hell for a photographer. By late afternoon, the skies had dropped the majority of their bounty and we decided to head south to Silver Creek for what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous evening of dramatic skies and golden light. We returned to the cars under waning dusk light low on energy and high on life. I was spent, but the client was grinning and the mission was accomplished.
I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on this shoot with its associated expectations placed upon the photographer. There was a bit of extra pressure considering we were allotted just one day to capture a wide range of images. These are certainly challenging times for many photographers and business owners alike. There still remains, however, a noticeable gap between the true professional and eager amateur. A true professional will always deliver, regardless of conditions or obstacles placed in his path. He/She relies on past experience and draws from his technical skill and creative vision to create something out of nothing (when nothing is presented) and to capture the magic in a quick and proficient manner when Mother Nature decides to lend a hand.
So here’s a question for all you blog readers and photographers out there. When you sit down to chow at your favorite all-you-can-eat buffet, do you simply peck at the salad bar, or do you dive in head first and fill your plate to overflowing with delicacies beyond all earthly comprehension??? I’m guessing the answer is the latter. And if it’s not, you need to check yourself for a meeting with Maury Povich and his never fail lie detector test. Nobody goes to an all-you-can-eat buffet with any other intention than to take full, unadulterated advantage of the calorie-laden offerings on hand.
So what does this have to do with photography? For those of you that managed to stick with me, instead of sticking it to your local convenience store–it is this: It’s time to quit pecking at the proverbial salad bar of photo buffets. When you wake your tired bones up at the crack of dawn, or stay out past sunset, the least you can do is work your particular location until your visual and creative appetite has been satisfied. There is a fine line beween running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and properly working a scene. If you can find the balance, and prepare yourself accordingly, you will leave your photo shoots with so much more than just one or two keepers. Suer, they may not all be that life-altering contest winner, but they’ll showcase your versatility as a photographer, and commitment to carrying your imagery forward.
For the purpose of this blog post, I have posted a number of fall images shot within a 1/4 mile radius over a period of 24 hrs. The greater majority were actually shot within a period of a couple hours from the same tripod location. Read on for a couple of tips on taking full advantage of a every photo location you visit.
1. Know the area. Having a sure knowledge of the area you plan to shoot is unbeatable. It helps to have visited the location beforehand at different times of day and at different seasons. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, utilize the all-knowing interweb and drum up as much info as possible.
2. Keep your eye on the prize. I always like to have one potential 5-star image in mind when I go to a particular spot. This will help you not to leave empty handed. As that magical moment begins to take shape for the image you pre-visualized, pay attention to the surroundings, but resist the temptation to move locations unless you’re absolutely sure you have enough time to set yourself up once again for that fabled 5-star shot.
3. Forget what I just said. There are times when Mother Nature will be hitting us across the face with her giant frying pan and we’re just too stubborn to pay attention. Know when a better opportunity presents itself. It’s hard to describe exactly how and when this happens, but after enough practice, you will simply be able to see when you need to run like hell and capture an angle different than the one you had previously anticipated.
4. Just change your lens. Many times we are able to capture an entirely different take from the exact same tripod location simply by throwing on a longer or wider lens. Fine tune your ability to “see” as if you were looking through your different lenses. This is an unbelievably beneficial skill in learning how to capture fleeting moments that don’t allow you enough time to throw on every lens in your collection “just to have a peek”. Telephoto and wide angle zoom lenses can be particularly useful when practicing this, as they will account for a number of different focal lengths within their given range. Don’t forget to experiment with both vertical and horizontal compositions!
5. Anticipate. Just as an athlete anticipates his opponent’s next move, we can anticipate what may happen as Mother Nature makes the magic happen. Anticipate where the light will fall, and how it will affect the particular composition for which you are set up. Look for opportunities to capture skim light as the sun crests mountain peaks. If you’re not capturing this light within the first 30 seconds, you’re too late. Anticipate! (hey, that rhymes…)
6. Visit often. The better you know a location, the better you can take advantage of it in differing conditions. Study the location and know it well enough to ace the next test Mother Nature throws your way.