So do you have a photography “Pre-Shoot” workflow?

So do you have a photography “Pre-Shoot” workflow?

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…

Cheers!

 

Sandstone worn by ocean waves

The pathway to Gojira’s lair

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Using the tools you have handy…

Using the tools you have handy…

Answer: A Smart Phone or Tablet !

The “before image” above…

Not long ago I was with a client on a photography 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…

PT Reyes Wreck_bowBW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do when the weather goes bad…Well you take pictures of course!

What do you do when the weather goes bad…Well you take pictures of course!

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?

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Pescadero Taken with Canon 1Ds Mk II

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pescadero
Taken with Canon 1Ds Mk II

   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.

Bean Hollow Beach Taken with Canon 1Ds Mk II and 10 stop ND filter

Bean Hollow Beach
Taken with Canon 1Ds Mk II and 10 stop ND filter

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…!

The Zoo – a great place to practice!

The Zoo – a great place to practice!

Tiger eyes

The Tiger’s Eyes

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.

African Crane

African Crane Crown Plumage

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)
African Crane

African Crane Plumage

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!!!!!

Cheers!

 

When nature gives you lemons…make lemonade!

When nature gives you lemons…make lemonade!

McCluresBeachBW2

I made this image while conducting one of my photography workshops yesterday at Point Reyes National Seashore. Although I had planned a sunset shot sometimes fog on the horizon nixes what can be a great moment. However all is not lost. Instead you can change your concept during the image taking process and envision it as a dramatic black & white. This was a 30 second exposure using a 10 stop ND filter. I used a limited application of contrast adjustment using dodge & burn techniques. A final step was to add a little vignetting. Keeping detail in the rocks with a smooth silky water was my plan.

I’ll file this in the “When nature gives you lemons, then make lemonade!” category….

Be sure to check my workshop listings for updates on this and other opportunities to learn how to make great images.  Workshop listings…

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So How'd You Get That Shot?

So How'd You Get That Shot?

Before The Storm

Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park Wyoming

Often I am asked at shows and gatherings how I got a particular photo. Well the answer is a mix of things. I do quite a bit of planning before going to an area to photograph. Checking with various sources on the internet, I find the sunrise and sunset times for areas, check with other photographers for their experience and information as well as checking with locals whom I have befriended while visiting those locales. I will also check for weather conditions for that time of season, anything that may give me a “leg up” on my ability to at least be in the right place at hopefully the right time. Once on location I will be looking for the right composition but most importantly the right light. Light conditions can make or break a good photograph. Preparation is the key. Conditions, equipment and safety, all play a key role. I have to admit though, with everything listed above in place, serendipity plays a big part. You never really know when that opportunity will present the “finger print shot” as I call them. Thus generating the question, “how did you get that shot?” The photo shown here was taken at Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons National Park. I had done my preparation before the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area and had already gotten some really nice shots. In the afternoon a storm was coming in and I was heading back to Jackson Hole to my hotel when I decided to just stop and “take it all in”. I was the only one there. As I ate the last half of my sandwich and what was left of my coffee, I was listening to the ducks splashing in the water with that muted sound and overall silence as the snow was just moments away from falling. All of a sudden a small pinhole opened in the clouds to the west and a bright, almost flashlight like beam, began shinning on the aspen grove across the pond from me. I grabbed my camera and took ten hand held shots and then it was all over. As fast as it came, the light was gone. Literally 3 minutes worth. I drove back to the hotel in a rather hard snow storm content in just having been to there to see such a wonderful sample of Mother Natures beauty and kindness.

And that’s how I got the shot….

I will be posting more such photos and how they were shot in
future articles. Comments and questions are always welcomed.

…and please don’t forget to check out my workshops

Thanks for visiting!

John