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…



Sandstone worn by ocean waves

The pathway to Gojira’s lair


Here’s lookin’ at you Baldy!

Here’s lookin’ at you Baldy!

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”

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















Oh Man! We back at the Zoo – AGAIN!

Oh Man! We back at the Zoo – AGAIN!

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 afternoon light on a tiger’s face… what is she thinking?














Or this feather pattern of a White Pelican…










And some of my favorite close-ups…a Flamingo preening it’s feathers  (This print is on my wall)


















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

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
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…!