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!