Here’s an easy way to get more out of any photo shoot

By | 2017-10-28T15:55:27+00:00 Oct 28th, 2017|

I imagine many of you will be able to relate to this: you plan a sunrise or sunset shoot, get to the location, and end up taking 5,000 of the same photo. You become so transfixed with whatever it is you’re photographing that you get tunnel vision. That was exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I drove out to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. One morning, I woke up to photograph the sunrise at Oxbow Bend. Like a good photographer, I got there about 90 minutes before sunrise and found a prime spot to set my tripods at.

And as you could expect, I began the process of taking the same series of photos over and over and over again. But that’s somewhat understandable, right? After all, the quality and availability of light changes so quickly with each passing minute and you don’t want to miss out on ideal conditions. The good news is that, because I was prepared with multiple cameras at varying focal lengths, I was able to capture several different compositions, as you can see above.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with getting multiple photos of the same subject to increase your chances of getting a great shot. The problem lies with only shooting the same subject. I admit that I’d be quite disappointed with myself if I got home from this shoot only to realize that I basically have the same shot over and over. Why not do something to ensure that you walk away with a diverse collection of photos? It’s really easy to do! You just need to tell yourself that it’s time to move on. When I saw the entire tree line and mountain range light up from the sun (the first of the three images above), I knew it was time to move on.

Sure, I could have kept getting the same basic photos but there was still so much in the immediate vicinity that I wanted to capture. I just needed to remind myself of that first. Rather than composing wide, sweeping shots, I looked for smaller, more overlooked details. Because it was still early, a lot of the bushes and shrubs still had frost accumulated. I had a blast creating compositions with those subjects.

Also, the sun hadn’t risen high enough to cast harsh light so there was still this beautiful, mellow tone with my surroundings. I seized the opportunity to hunt for visuals that would benefit from the flat light. I knew that I could exploit it during the post processing phase and specifically looked for scenes with no hard light or shadow.

Finally, I made it a point to play around and interact with my surroundings. I found this one leaf that had a small hole torn into it. It was in the perfect place to position the sun through. Doing so with a small aperture allowed me to capture this brilliant sunburst right through it. The ironic thing is that I enjoy this shot way more than the grander vista photos at the top of this post, but not because it’s necessarily stronger. It’s because of the memory and experience I had hunting it down. It wasn’t about plopping my tripod down and framing things up. Finding this photo took a lot of effort and, at the end of the day, yielded the greater reward.

So next time you’re on a shoot, keep a running tab of how many frames you’ve rifled off of the same subject. When that becomes apparent, remind yourself that it may be time to look for other things to shoot. It may end up yielding your favorite results!

7 Comments

  1. riches5 October 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    My thought is that after the “grand landscape” most of the other images you included could have been captured in your back yard and you didn’t have to travel all the way from Nebraska to Wyoming. This isn’t a criticism! I face the same issue: how do I divide my resources and emotional capital between travel for grand landscapes vs the beauty that I can find locally? Cannot those for whom the Grand Tetons ARE their backyard do a much better job at giving meaning and emotion to the landscape than I could as a brief visitor? On the other hand, the joy of seeing such glorious natural beauty makes the trip worthwhile, regardless of the images I bring back.

  2. Bill Caskey October 29, 2017 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Brian,
    I generally agree with your primise here. However, having been to this location many times, I’m not sure that the last images of the Tetons are in the “general vacinity” of Oxbow Bend. They look to me{perhaps I’m mistaken} to be near Swabachers [sp] Landing rather than Oxbow Bend. Granted, both locations lie within Grand Teton NP and perhaps this is the “gereral vacinity” that you are referring to. Regardless, I enjoy your tips as well as your videos and images.
    Bill

  3. klaus.wuelfing@t-online.de November 1, 2017 at 8:18 am - Reply

    Hi Brian,
    I love your tips and agree with you that too often we overlook the “small details”. By scrolling through your article I accidentally “cut” your last Image (on the screen) to a square format. Your picture is great in combining the light silverwhite above the leaf and the darkblue below. If one cuts the image to a square (by deleting the upper part) you get a different Picture with a different mood. (Please don’t take this as a criticism of your version – it’s just a thought)
    Klaus

  4. Janie Hughs November 1, 2017 at 9:38 am - Reply

    The mountain scenes are stunning! I have been to Tetons multiple times and enjoy so much. Took a beautiful picture at the old barn down the highway. I want to go back after seeing your fabulous work!!!

  5. Linda November 1, 2017 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    I appreciate what you are saying here. I too have found that the images I have searched for or returned for the season I wanted and the conditions I wanted in order to capture something in particular have yielded greater personal satisfaction for me. Then each time I have returned to the same location I am also prepared to by surprised by something I overlooked or nature has changed in the meantime while I was away.

    Some day I hope to go to this area you have shown here to experience it’s beauty also. Thank you for your continued dedication to inspiring us to get out there and experience these places with new eyes.

  6. Kim Braley November 1, 2017 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I don’t live in an area with beautiful vistas such as can be found in the Tetons, so I’m forced to look for things more like your leaf – because of that, I really love those types of subjects. Like you, I find a great deal of pleasure when I capture something unique and beautiful that required me to pay close attention to my surroundings.

  7. Greg Scott November 2, 2017 at 2:34 am - Reply

    I too think the leaf picture is great. It is a message I will be thinking about when I am out shooting.

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