Archive for November 2011
There is a lot of information out there on how to improve your landscape photography but the majority of the information actually talks about subjects like focal points, foregrounds, backgrounds, the sky etc which is fantastic and extremely helpful but there doesn’t seem to be to many of them actually talking about some of the things that will make your life that little but easier before you head out for your own landscape shoot, such as what footwear that you should be wearing. So while I was out on the weekend taking some landscape shots, I went through a mental check list that I have which has come from learning as I go but some of these lessons have been learnt the hard way and hopefully by you reading this you won’t make the same mistakes that I have made over the years.
1. Check out the location (Conducting a Recon).
I call this conducting a recon which means that I always check the location out at least the day prior during daylight hours because it will more than likely be dark when I arrive or leave. I am not there to take photos but rather look at things like where can I park, how long did it take to get here, which track do I take to get where I want to go, are there any gates that restrict access after hours (early morning, late afternoon) and if so what time does that area open or close, where will the tide be at low/high tide, which way will the sun rise or set. Are there any obstacles that I will need to navigate like fences or gates. Is the spot I want to use on private land and if so, who and where are the owners so can I ask permission to use it.
2. Take a torch/ flash light.
This one might seem like its fairly obvious and you are probably sitting there going “of course” but I seem to keep forgetting mine. There have been countless times where I am fiddling around with something in the dark well before first light only to ask myself Where’s my torch? which I usually answer with ‘right next to the urn of coffee on the kitchen bench!’ followed by a few expletives. Having a torch will enable you to find that something in the bottom of your camera bag like that mysterious cable release or where you put that lens cap, which I always seem to loose, and just as important to find your way in or out of the area safely. The torch also needs to be rugged and be able to float in case you drop it. The other advantage if the torch can float is that they are more than likely to be water proof to some extent and won’t be useless after the first use.
3. Check the tide and sunrise/ sunset time.
Checking the tide times always helps if you are doing seascape and landscape photography. You may want to photograph water washing over a rocky outcrop and at high tide those rocks are covered but at low tide they are exposed with the waves washing over them, taking a gamble and just turning up is more than likely not going to provide you with the results that you wanted and the reason for you going to that location. You also need to know the tides because you don’t want to be marooned on a rocky outcrop with the water rapidly rising around your feet with the only option of swimming back to the beach. Also the tide times are a decision point as well, if the ties don’t marry up with the sunrise or sunset times, I won’t go to that site unless there is something else there that I want to photograph until the tide times and the sunrise/ sunset times are close to each other.
4. Appropriate footwear and clothing.
I don’t know how many times I have decided to go and do an early morning shoot and throw the old flip flops on my feet, a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt and head on out, only to get there to find that my chosen footwear or clothing is completely inappropriate and inadequate. Flip flops don’t allow you to walk over sharp rocks or get a decent grip on slippery surfaces which could result in you sliding towards an unintended swim. I highly recommend that wearing an old pair of runners and clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy. The shoes will protect your feet, provide you with some much needed grip on slippery surfaces and the clothing will help protect you from the elements such as high winds, sudden drops in temperatures or even a little bit of rain.
5. Know the weather forecast.
This one goes hand in hand with footwear and clothing. The last thing you need is a sudden change in the weather and be out in a sudden temperature change which could result in you suffering from Hypothermia or have that landscape shot covered in fog. A good fisherman checks the weather forecast before they head out, just because you are a photographer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing the same.
6. Take a Cell phone
Fortunately nowadays we have many ways of communicating with people including text messages and social media however having a phone that you can make and receive phone calls from is pretty important. Having a cell phone can provide you with the ability to call for help if needed (and you may not be the one in trouble) or let your loved ones know that you are finished and on your way home. Be aware though that in some remote places you may not get any cell phone reception at all. This is something that you can check when you are conducting a recon of your chosen location. If you are unable to get any reception at all, I recommend going with a friend or a group or even setting some timings with loved ones so they know when you will be back in range of the cell phone towers.
7. Tell Someone
This may not seem to important but please let me reassure you differently. If things do go horribly wrong whilst you are out in the wilderness and you get hurt and no one knows where you are, you may well be in for rough few nights in freezing temps or seriously injured and in desperate need of medical assistance. Telling someone where you will be and when you are expected to return is smart. If you don’t return they can can call you on your cell phone and if you don’t answer after say 20 or 30 minutes they could then come and look for you to see if you are ok, and if you are hurt they can then contact the local Police department or the paramedics. Things do go wrong from time to time and there is nothing you can do about it but you can put some for of a safety net in place to prevent things from becoming worse.
8. Turn around
The above photo was taken early on Saturday morning, I actually went to shoot a seascape which I find I struggle with on occasions but I turned around and Mother Nature presented with the silhouette of a tree up on the banks of the beach, I squatted down and the rocks that I was originally trying to photograph provided some shape to the overall photo hopefully drawing the eye in. It find this technique works and I tend to use it quite a lot.
Turn around and see what is behind you. I have been on many shoots where the landscape did turn out to be rather uninspiring due to foregrounds, the sky, weather etc but by turning around I am now looking at another perspective to it, I then adjust my height by squatting, keeling or laying down, or even climbing up on a large rock to see what is different about the landscape and on many occasions I have been pleasantly surprised.
9. Local Knowledge
If you don’t live there or live in the surrounding area and you want to know where to go, ask the people who live and work in that area such as Police, Hotel Reception staff, the guy at the petrol station, the pharmacy, taxi drivers. Most of these people have lived there for all of their lives and have an intimate knowledge of the area and they can tell you things about places that you wouldn’t have thought about especially the spots tourist don’t go to because the locals will not always divulge that special place that the locals frequent. I am always asking about Marina’s, the old parts of town with dingy alley ways where tourists don’t go and abandoned buildings. I still haven’t found any abandoned building but I have Marina’s, rocky outcrops and creepy, scary alleys where I didn’t even think to look. Most of these places will more than likely be an undesirable location to many tourists but they can be great photographic gems. Don’t be afraid to ask.
10. Use a tripod
I know that you have heard this piece of advice before but a tripod a is must, but here’s the other bit of advice that you never get told. Your tripod can get wet and by wet I mean by using it in water, I constantly use my tripod in the water and I have been up to knee deep on many occasions. I didn’t buy my tripod to use in a studio, I bought the tripod to lump around the country with me and for it to provide a steady platform for the camera. So don’t be scared to get it wet, dirty or even muddy. It all comes off at the end of the day.
11. Insect Repellant
I laugh every time I say this, take insect repellant with you, and a good one, there is nothing worse while you are out enjoying the sunrise or sunset and being bitten non-stop by bugs, but you will never guess where mine normally is, its with my torch next to the urn of coffee on the kitchen bench. A good insect repellant will keep those bugs at bay and let you concentrate on what you are there to do. Capture Mother Nature at her finest.
12. Drink Responsibly
You might like to have a few drinks of a night, out with friends or at a Barbeque but be careful on how many drinks you consume as you could very well still be over the legal limit in the wee hours of the morning while driving to your chosen location. The chances of being subjected to a Random Breath Testing (RBT) is pretty high here in Australia even on weekdays so add some caution when drinking the night before if you intend on driving to your chosen location the following morning, even if you still feel under the weather, simply cut it away for that day and go back to bed. So the message here is really, if you wish to drink, drink, but drink responsibly.
These are my tips and this list is by no means an exhaustive list. I would love to hear from you if you have any or if you have tried something and it worked or it didn’t work, let us know and hopefully it will life that little bit easier when out photographing this beautiful place that we call home.
The way I approach every job is different for example, Late last week I was asked to photograph a pre-formal gathering which was planned for Friday afternoon. The plan was for all to gather in the once spot with their parents before they went to their Year 12 school formal (much like a prom) in a limousine, a very large limousine at that. I was also asked if I could shoot it all in an hour or less, so this was going to be a pretty quick shoot with no real time to be artistic to a high degree. I must admit that I had some concerns on how I would achieve the desired results and this is what was going through my brain which was racing at a million miles an hour considering it was late Wednesday already.
1. How would I capture those expressions that you only seem to capture when people aren’t looking at the camera.
2. The amount of time that I had to do the shoot.
3. How would I develop a relationship quickly with the people that I was photographing.
4. How many people were going to be involved in this shoot, was it 6 or 16, I just didn’t know.
5. How much space was I going to have to work in.
These were all questions that I needed to answer and some of them wouldn’t be answered until I was actually there on location seeing what I had to work with. So after some serious thought whilst I was sitting in traffic, (we all do it and what better time to think) I decided that I would be able to relax everyone extremely quickly by introducing some party poppers, streamers, confetti and some of those whistles that are rolled up until you blow them and then they make that ridiculous noise plus this also helped with me getting the shots that I needed to create that party atmosphere with relaxed crowd.
I also figured that by using these “props” would also break the ice considering that I was really unable to develop a relationship with each and every person that was going to be photographed. I also had no idea how many people were going to be there, I did ask and was told probably 6 but with most things these days, have a back up plan and sure enough there was about 12 at one stage, twice as many as originally planned and I also didn’t plan on having the parents of all of this young people ask “Would I mind if I took a photo of them with…..”. Of course the response was No, Not at all, please jump in and have some fun and well get some shots.
This method turned out to be quite effective and really lightened the mood because when asked to stand in front of the camera and those ever imposing lights, the majority just brace up like they are getting the drivers license or their prison photo taken. Its not the case but I really didn’t have time to develop a relationship with each and every individual that had their photo taken, so getting them to relax quickly was a priority if I was going to achieve the look that I wanted. Smiling, acting naturally and having some fun at the same time.
The biggest question that I was asked was “When will I see the photos?”. I made a promise to all of them that I would upload at least 50 images by Sunday night and they could then download their favourite photos from my website which meant that I was going to have to work the majority of the weekend to meet the deadline. I ensured that I had them uploaded by Sunday afternoon and within 3 hours, over 60 photos had been downloaded and paid for.
So with a bit of thought about the short notice job on how I would approach it has paid off with the results that I and the client wanted to achieve.
I don’t always watermark my images, its probably because I either forget to do it or I get lazy with actually taking the time to actually watermark. But is there any real advantage to watermarking your images. Some would argue that there is none gained with programs such as TinEye etc out there to be able to hunt down the illegal use of your images but there is an upside to watermarking your images as well.
Watermarking your images that are either posted to your Blog or FB Page do have an advantage. They may get right clicked and downloaded but they may also be reposted on social networking sites which may unexpectedly drive traffic to to your website/ blog/ FB Page and hopefully customers, who purchase other products/images from you, It also gets your name out there which could be also a success.
But where do you place the Watermark ?. Do you place it in the middle of the image or do you place it where it could be cropped out. For me, I place them in corners because I like to be able to see the whole image. I don’t really like the watermark in the middle as it really distracts from the image and what you the photographer/ Artist has created.
I can hear you say but “What about my Copyright?”. Copyright varies from Country to Country and here in Australia it is pretty simple and straight forward. Copyright in Australia is automatic and Free but the copyright law changes from time to time and I recommend that you simply search keywords on the net such as “Australian Copyright” or “Copyright law in Norway”. I could delve into Copyright but I class myself as a “Bush Lawyer”. In other words I have no law degree and I am no expert in it but I do know this, if the person who wants to steal your image and you have watermarked it, they will find a way to remove it anyway or simply take a screen shot of it and then use it how they wish to, once tracked down, you can always take them to court and commence legal proceedings if the person who illegally obtained it failed to properly credit you or even pay to use the image. So watermarking is a bit of a double edged sword.
So once again I have started to watermark my images even though where I place those watermarks would be pretty easy to “crop put” but at the same time I am fully aware that they may also drive traffic to my website as well.
As an example of watermarking have a look below. The watermarks are non obtrusive and lets the viewer see the entire image. The Copyright bit is in the bottom right hand corner and my web address in the bottom left corner. Simple and easy to see but also easy to crop out which is the risk I am willing to take.
So do you believe that it is worthwhile to watermark your images?