Tip #8: Keep shooting and keep moving
This tip is an extension of yesterday’s rambling discussion of composition. I realized that I was focused on the static elements of composing a particular shot. I think a big part of what makes for interesting compositions is the effort to examine a subject thoroughly and repeatedly. It’s also a matter of keeping moving and considering all sorts of possibilities when you shoot.
I’ll give you a couple of brief examples. At one time, I was shooting flowers around my house and in the neighborhoods nearby. We had a particularly striking Hibiscus in our front yard that bloomed in late summer. I spent at least three or four evenings shooting that one bush. I spent an hour or more on each photo shoot and I looked carefully at the results of each shoot to consider what I had done wrong or what I might have missed in that day’s shoot. I also spent several days shooting a similar hibiscus in a neighbor’s yard.
All told, I spent probably a week or more of daily shoots on this one subject. Maybe not a big deal, but still a lot more than walking by and casually snapping a picture or two. I shot at different times of day, in different light, and with different lenses. I shot when the dew was on the flowers in the morning and after a rain when raindrops added another dimension to the flowers. The mood of the images changed over time and the compositions got more complex and interesting as I went along. The pictures went from pretty straightforward flower shots to studying the unopened buds and the tangle of branches they grew on.
You get the picture. There is far more to your subject than you are probably considering. Those beautiful photographs that I got, were the result of days of thought and work. I took hundreds of pictures and I would say no more than a half dozen were really wonderful. But I did have a half dozen wonderful images and that’s not an easy thing to do.
My other example is from a popular beach destination in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s callled Whitefish Point, and it’s overrun with people all summer long. Not the best situation for really nice landscape photography. I probably went to Whitefish Point somewhere between six and ten times over several years.
I drove up there in early spring, before the tourist season began and photographed the beaches when they were absolutely pristine. There were no footprints in the sand. The rocks on the beach were piled up in a ridge a hundred yards long. The perfection of the pile and the stones themselves was remarkable. I stayed out until almost dark, even though the evening was cloudy and cold, walking and walking along the beach, considering different angles and compositions. I got a lot of wonderful photographs from that shoot.
There was one in particular that I like a lot and I think is one that few photographers would have considered. It was a simple shot perpendicular to the shore with a pool of water and the pile of stones in front of the lake and the distant shore. It was a series of horizontal bands; not an exciting composition, but one I thought communicated something of the peacefulness of that place and time. I stayed almost until dark and got a nice shot of the lighthouse there against the deepening gloom of the night. Another favorite.
I camped in a deserted campground a few miles from the beach and returned the next morning to shoot again. This time it was raining lightly. I walked the beach again, this time in the other direction and found some very distinctive arrangements of rocks and sand that I really liked and still do. Each stone had a little ring of darkness around it, the result of moisture left over from the morning rain. These are also favorite images of mine.
I returned to the beach that fall, after the peak of the tourist season, hoping to find pristine beaches again. What I saw really surprised me. That gorgeous pile of stones was gone. It had been flattened by thousands of people walking on it. Waves and weather probably had something to do with it, but the endless footprints told the story.
This scene could have been a real disappointment, but I got up before dawn the next morning and went down to the beach. I watched the sun slowly rise over the beach. I shot a long series of exposures for compositing into HDR images. That’s High Dynamic Range. I needed multiple exposure to capture the brightening sky and the relatively dark beach together. These pictures turned out to have absolutely stunning color and light on the beach. I had another set of gorgeous pictures.
I also spent a lot of time shooting the driftwood on the beach. I’m not in love with those pictures, though there are some nice ones. It goes to show that not everything I try works out. I spent several days up in the Upper Peninsula in the rain over a long weekend and got nothing for my effort. But there is no substitute for trying, for effort.
Shoot the beach morning and evening, spring and fall, fair weather and foul. Walk out the beach as far as you can in both directions. Shoot the sand, the water, the driftwood, the rocks. Shoot everything in every way you can imagine. That’s how you will get interesting and perhaps even wonderful photographs.
Good luck to you in your photographic adventures!