How do you do it? How do you approach an outdoor photography shoot.?
Lately I’ve seen a few articles on photo shoot workflow and it made me think…not much seems to be discussed on workflow except after the fact and in the digital darkroom.
There are two ways to make photographs in the outdoors. One is to have a serendipitous approach which quite honestly works great sometimes or a serious pre-planning approach which if “Mother Nature” allows…well, works sometimes too. Although I like and will use both, the second option usually works better in the end. Caveat – NEVER turn down OPPORTUNITY!!!!
The first option – relying on serendipity is easy just go out with your camera and keep your eyes open. The second takes some planning. If you’re serious about your photography, a LOT of planning. Even for a day shoot.
Example: Day trip to Bowling Ball Beach
- Weather – includes consideration for time of year (season)
- Local conditions – any reported hazards or impediments (access closures, other problems)
- Sunrise/Sunset times and compass heading info (The Photographer’s Ephemeris)
- Tides – never turn your back on the ocean.
- Gear – I generally bring it all but consider carrying only what I need when at the location
- Gear prep – make sure everythings is clean and ready for use. Charge batteries!
Recently I did a shoot at “Bowling Ball Beach” along the Mendocino coast in northern California. I’ve known about this place for many years and finally checked it off my bucket list (I will have to go back – I always do…) This is what I would term a rather simple shoot.
Knowing this is a beach type shot with unusual stones showing in the surfline I surmised the tide should be taken into consideration. Some web research told me a low tide, not a minus tide, would be advantageous. Why? I wanted to do a long exposure of the water swirling around the rocks. I like ethereal images and this would be a good subject. So checking the tide is noteworthy. Next I was thinking at sunset would be good. Sunset times then became important. Could the Sun’s angle (latitude) be important? Yep…note to self. Any access restrictions or info? I’m an old guy, it’s important to me. I found the stairs are washed out – in this case wing it….but not always. Weather forecast? What to bring gear wise? These are just some of the things that go into your planning. These vary according to your shoot location. There’s always something more to and you learn to cover those as time goes on and your experience grows. And of course there’s always Mother Nature who just loves to mess things up – I can see her smiling now…
So when the stars, sun & moon all line up properly and your coffee doesn’t get too cold too soon, you might get what you came for.
We’ll get into “On-Site” workflow next time…
So yesterday I was driving my wife to work and noticed an Osprey carrying about a 5 pound Bass to a nest atop a telephone pole near where I live. Of course no camera and no time to stop…
So later in the afternoon when we got home I ran back out to the same location. Both Osprey’s were at the nest but the male took off headed toward the water, I assume looking for dinner. So I hung out for a while watching the female who was tending the nest. She soon flew around a bit before going back to the nest. It was at that time I got this shot. It’s obvious my shiny bald head attracted her…
Technically for me this was a VERY lucky image. I was using my 100-400 telephoto lens with two tele-converters (1.4 & 2.0) handheld manual focus of an in-flight bird coming towards me. I’m keeping this one.
File under “lucky shot”
Answer: A Smart Phone or Tablet !
The “before image” above…
Not long ago I was with a client on a workshop out at one of my favorite locations, Point Reyes National Seashore. One of the first places I take folks is to this old boat, aptly named the “Point Reyes”.
I have been photographing this old boat for almost 20 years now and in the last year it has been disintegrating rapidly. I fear it won’t be long before it is no longer photogenic nor a good teaching tool. I will sincerely miss this “The Old Girl” when the time comes.
The reason I take folks to this location is to discuss various techniques such as composition and looking for textures, shapes, and tonalities. All integral parts of making an image.
As I was talking about this my client was having a somewhat difficult time “seeing” what I was talking about. Which is to say exactly why we were here!
Recently I discovered the usefulness of my iPhone as a learning tool in the field. In fact now I WIFI my client’s images to either my phone of iPad to instantly critique images in the field real time….
In an attempt to “show” what I was talking about, I made an image using my iPhone 6. I did a quick edit in the phones app and showed it to him and “Boom!” he saw what I was talking about. Literally within seconds the concept was delivered.
The rest of the day was fantastic! I watched him make incredible images and gained a faithful client whom I happily consider more a “Friend”
You can use your Smartphone or Tablet as a great in the field tool to not only help you envision a scene but capture a damn fine image too!
Here’s what he was shown…. Note all the objects of the lesson: Shapes, textures and tonality…
Well in fact yes we are….
Last week I hosted a group at the San Francisco Zoo on behalf of the North American Nature Photography Association and their Meetup program. I also offer this as a free “meet and greet” as part of my own field workshop program.
As I have written in past articles, the Zoo is a wonderful place to practice your photography skills for wildlife as well as observing animal behavior. Mind you, I realize these are not the same behaviors you’d find in the “wild” but its a great place to start.
Additionally it offers the opportunity to explore many other photographic skills. When I first meet with a group I explain that we all know what a Giraffe, Hippo or Lion looks like. You can find one in any magazine or text book, or gee, even the internet!
So why not steer yourself into another direction? Have you ever taken the time to really look closely at an animal’s fur? Or a bird’s plumage? It can be amazing in its intricacies! The photo ops for this are unlimited, particularly if you’re into abstracts…
Take this (above) Marabou Stork for example…only a face a “mother could love”…
But what if you look at little closer. “Dial in” with a longer lens…see the picture within the picture.
Look at the intricate detail! The layering, patterns, textures, tonality. I called this one “Nature’s piano keys” because that’s what I saw in my “creative mind” when looking at this wonderful creature.
Here are some other examples.
The zoo offers many other benefits to a photographer, beginner or advanced. It can open your creative mind, particularly if you’re in a creative slump. Just dial in…put that long lens on and go for it.
If this appeals to you and you’re in the area, check out my dates at the Zoo and please join me. More info here
I just wrapped up a custom photography workshop with a great group of gentlemen down in Carmel on California’s central coast. Of course we’ve been back in drought conditions all of January (no rain at all), except during the workshop – the “Pineapple Express” decided to express itself! Go figure…well fortunately the guys were great and weren’t going to let “a little” rain stop them… In fact some of my best photographic experiences have been during inclement weather. Being there, just as clouds break for that special moment of light. For me that’s what its all about!
During these trips I don’t actively take my own photos while conducting the workshop. I do however have my iPhone which I use constantly as an instructional tool as well as my trusty old Canon. Between them I can give visual instruction to my clientele and it really works out well.
On the way home back to San Francisco, I decided to hit a couple of old haunts. First stop was Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Now this looks like a lighthouse! What better time to take a picture of a lighthouse than when its doing its job?
Another one of my favorites is Bean Hollow Beach. It was relatively low tide and this rock jetty was exposed. I have been loving my 10 stop ND filter and decided this was a good candidate.
So don’t let a little rain bother you…hang out, be patient and be ready for that momentary break of fantastic light!
Oh, and have fun…!
If you want to photograph beautiful San Francisco, or waterfalls on nearby Mt Tamalpais, or the rugged coastline and wildlife of Point Reyes then you need to join me on my one day excursions. They’re a lot of fun, there’s a lot to see and there’s a lot to learn. To see sample images from Point Reyes, click here
If you’re more adventurous and like to travel then I have a workshop in the majestic Giant Redwoods on northern California’s rugged coast. We also visit just over the border into southern Oregon for some fantastic scenery along the coastal areas. For sample images from this workshop, click here…
Later in the year I will be offering additional workshops in the northern Oregon and Washington areas – stay tuned for more info on these stunningly beautiful locales.
In the fall I offer a one week course in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. There you will be enthralled by the colorful changes to the Aspen and Cottonwood trees as Autumn works its magic. Additionally we will visit the Bristlecone Pines in the nearby White Mountains. At over 11,000 feet elevation the terrain is hostile yet the Bristlecones are over 5000 years old! We finish at the base of Mt Whitney in its majesty as the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.
So if you’re looking for a great experience with a seasoned photographer and guide, check out my offerings. With small groups of no more than 6 people you’ll enjoy a more intimate and flexible experience.
On Wednesdays I offer a Walk A Bout at the San Francisco Zoo. Not only is the Zoo ALWAYS a fun place but it gives me a chance to introduce myself to folks who may be interested in learning a bit about photographing animals as well as maybe taking future workshops with me.
But is far more than that…as much as I would rather have the animals be free in the wild, where else could you get such a closeup view of their magnificence?
Case in point, I suggest that after you get the image you “need” to get (usually the whole animal) put on a longer lens and really explore the beauty in front of you. I love the plumage on the many birds, some of whom casually walk around as you do in the park. Forget about the whole of the animal, zoom into the patterns, shapes, textures and colors. Even the skin texture of a Rhino or Hippo can be fascinating.
Take a look at some of my examples here which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Just remember, be conscientious and don’t cause undue stress on these magnificent creatures, they truly are gifts for us to behold.
Recently NANPA began expanding their Meetup.com group to Northern California. I threw my hat in the ring as it were and got lucky. So now we have the NANPA San Francisco Meetup Group!
We held our first “Meetup” at Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay on Nov 21st where we photographed the holiday lighting ceremony of the City’s buildings along the waterfront. There were so many rsvp’s I’m holding a second event on December 5th with even more attendees. Images taken by the group can be seen here
Future events will include instruction in wildlife photography and various other topics related to nature photography.
Join our Meetup Group you don’t have to be NANPA member, however you may want to join after you’ve come out to few events!
NANPA is a great organization which provides all kinds resources and information to their members (and non-members too). If your are a nature photographer and are interested in more information about NANPA check out their website here
BTW…if you’re reading this and are not in the San Francisco Bay Area there is likely A NANPA Meetup group in your area check out Meetup.com
The other day I took a client to the San Francisco Zoo to practice photographing animals. My client has an upcoming trip to Africa and will be taking a photo safari. Since it is a once in a life time event for him he was looking for tips on how to be the most effective he could be.
I covered the various concepts and techniques with him and we had a great time. To name just a few….
- Fill the frame
- Focus on the eyes
- Concentrate on particular attributes of the animal
- Use a fast shutter speed (high ISO if needed to increase shutter speed)
In addition to his practicing, I was able to squeak out a few of my own images that you see here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do every time I’m at the zoo.
If you’d like to join me for a few hours and pick up some tips visit my website under the “Workshops” tab. The tabs are on the right of this screen.
Join me! I go to the San Francisco Zoo most Wednesdays where I hold a Free Camera Walk!!!!!
Recently on my workshop at Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco, I had the opportunity to take a few images. Normally I don’t take my “own” photos while conducting a workshop as I’m there for my client(s), not my own portfolio. This day however I had the pleasure of having Desiree Burk as my client who didn’t mind. Desiree is a very talented “Family” photographer. We spent the day doing workshop imagery lessons and finished at McClures Beach where we had a beautiful sunset. Employing longer exposures using a 10 stop neutral density filter I captured the image seen here. I was pleased with the detail in the beach sand and the granite rock in the foreground yet with the softness and motion blur of the waves. A perfect ending to a day out at Point Reyes National Seashore.
For Family portraits taken in natural light visit Desiree’s website at – desireeburk.com