Lessons from practice: there is always an image to create

Lessons from practice: there is always an image to create

The sound of my alarm clock wakes me from a restful sleep. Groaning, I turn it off and automatically try to find reasons to stay in bed. Do I really need to photograph sunrise today? Shouldn’t I just stay under this warm cozy comforter?

Finally, I guilted myself into getting out of bed and getting dressed for the chilly morning waiting for me outside.

The hourly forecast still looks promising as I make tea, grab my photo gear and head out the door. Visions of a vibrant sky dance in my mind as I drive toward the ocean. As I pull into the parking lot, my heart sinks as I see full cloud cover in the sky. Although it was predicted to be partly cloudy, the sky was a monotonous gray, empty in color or texture. There won’t be a bright sunrise today.

With no sun in sight, I opted for a long exposure on this dark, moody morning.

Reality check

If you’ve spent any time in landscape photography, you’ve probably experienced a similar situation. Most likely, many times. Light doesn’t turn off and you keep wishing you had stayed in bed. Or the sky is clear, but there is nothing to create a dynamic scene to capture.

In fact, for every bang of a sunrise I get to see, I’m probably going five more times in terms of light and color.

Challenge yourself

At first I would be disappointed if the light or the weather didn’t cooperate with me. But now I approach such situations with a different attitude. My rule of thumb is that my camera should always be out of my bag, no matter how uninspired I am. I challenge myself to always create an image, whatever the circumstances.

The results of consistently adhering to this self-imposed rule are positive. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m magically creating portfolio pieces while trying to make the best of a less than ideal situation. But I’ve certainly had some surprising results that have led to further exploration and growth in my photography.

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A dull sunrise prompted me to instead photograph this Great Blue Heron as it patiently awaits its breakfast.

Be creative

When I was determined to take a picture, I found myself exploring smaller details rather than sweeping landscapes. I’ve noticed things like soft morning light hitting dewdrops on grass. I’ve been practicing new techniques, like panning, which can turn an ordinary scene into something abstract and artistic. I’ve experimented with using atypical lens choices for different situations, like using my nifty fifty to play with shallow depth of field in scenes where I’d normally shoot f/8.

I’ve been playing with slow shutter speeds and practicing shooting all the wildlife that keeps me company. Heck, one day I even photographed some tall grass growing in the parking lot and it became one of my most popular shots that year!

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Thick bushfire smoke turned the sun into a glowing ball, but obscured all other shooting opportunities on this particular morning. Grass in the parking lot next to my car eventually became my subject, compressed against the smoky sun in the background.

Give it a try

The bottom line is that there is always something you can take a picture of. There is always an image waiting to be captured and light waiting to be captured. Planning ahead is great, but making an effort to adapt and get images anyway is also a surefire way to move forward with your photography.

So the next time you want to leave your camera in your bag, take it out and see what you can come up with. You may be surprised with the results!