Knowing How to Wait Is an Essential Quality for a Photographer
In the previous article, I described the first step in preparing to take a landscape photograph. Once I have written all the necessary data in my log, I begin the second stage of my process: waiting.
It may take a day or a week for all the weather conditions to be exactly right. Every day, I check local weather sites that have very accurate data. I only use the most accurate forecasts because I need to know exactly what the weather will be doing every hour. Finally, the day arrives. I get to the site about 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time to put up my equipment. I install my tripods, and I each choose a different lens so that I will get different perspectives on the scene. I set up the remote trigger.
I have several different options to use in taking pictures. I can use HDR, panoramic, or just regular picture mode. Which one I choose depends on the scene, and especially the lighting. Taking photographs of landscapes requires a lot of technical skill, since the lighting changes very quickly. I have to be able to choose the right tool in a couple of seconds: for example to be able to go from a panoramic photograph to an HDR one without asking any questions. It is during these very exciting moments that I realize how important basic skills, like being able to navigate the camera quickly, are.
Once I start the photo session, I have between 15 and 45 minutes to get the pictures I need. How much time I have depends on the season. In the spring and summer, the sun rises and sets very quickly and I do not have much time. During the fall and the winter, it moves more slowly and I have more time. I vary the parameters of the camera, such as shutter speed and aperture size, to produce exactly the effect I want. I may also change the framing and composition of my shots. But I are still in the few square yards that I chose when I reconnoitered the site. I cannot change my location now. I need to take all the pictures I need now. I will not come back unless there is a technical problem. Time is of the essence right now. I have to get everything right the first time.
When the light has changed to the point where the features of the landscape no longer stand out in relief against the background, I stop. It is time to open a thermos of tea and start enjoying the beauty of the landscape. In general, during the shoot, my eyes are glued to the viewfinders. I am not focused on enjoying the beauty around me, because I am busy trying to capture it. I am completely absorbed in the work. Once I have packed my gear to leave the place, I start to enjoy the view.
The third and last step in my process takes place in the office in front of my computer. I sort, select and process the pictures that I am going to use for my project. I always use a calibrated screen, because it most faithfully portrays the exposure, lighting, and coloring of the images. The laptop that I use when I travel only serves to organize my photos. I do not correct and retouch them during a trip. This step, like the others, is crucial. I will crop the pictures if necessary, adjust the exposure, and bring out some of the colors. I adjust the details, because they are what makes the photo. I keep the mood of the original photograph but I highlight the elements that fit with my vision to always seek beautiful lights and colors.
Once the processing is complete, I have one or more pictures that are ready to be used in a book, an article, an exhibition, or simply sold online. This third step concludes the technical part of my profession. Next I have to market my pictures. But that is another topic that is beyond the scope of this article.
I have described the steps I follow to make a great landscape photo. Are they the same as the ones I use for wildlife and underwater photography? This is what I will see in the next article.