Continued from Mark Metternich – Photographing dramatic light – Part 1
#6 – Master post-processing
Whether it’s Lightroom, Camera Raw, or Photoshop, post-processing skills are a critical must to optimize great photos. The common weak link in photographic circles these days is building those skills. As I see it, this is the other side of the shooting coin which be embraced head-on, not avoided or dreaded. I’ve been blessed to have a propensity for enjoying all things post-processing. In fact, even before I had an adequate camera I was using Photoshop for purely creative purposes. From those days (about 14 years ago) until today, I’ve maintained a relentless thirst and drive for learning, improving and teaching those skills.
The great news is that it’s easier than ever before to get excellent post-processing training. Many of the best photographers offer their services to help others get up to speed. From video tutorials to private Skype lessons to workshops, the explosion of the information age of the Internet provides ample access to great training. But the inverse problem exists as well. Too much access to bad information. My main tip for people approaching this giant learning curve is the very thing I would do if I was facing it… seek out landscape photographers (whose work and style you admire) and invest in their services. By doing so, new photographers are up to speed with their skills at about 1/4 of the time it took people like myself in previous times.
#7 – Shoot more, spend less
To up our odds for capturing unique, rare, and wild atmospheric light, we must get out into the field to photograph more often. So, find a way to spend less money on photography gear and more money on travels. Years ago, I remember reading a forum post where one of my hero photographers was answering a question about what lens was the best. He basically said they are all good enough to capture great landscapes and that the real thing is not the gear (sorry gearheads!); it’s about getting out more to photograph! Sure, if you’re rich, buy all the gear you want. But the real bottom line here is that the more you shoot, the luckier you get. If it’s a decision between a new camera body and a $2,000-$3000 trip somewhere special for a few weeks, I’ll choose the trip ever time.
#8 – Love what you do
Passion is the wellspring of life and, if consistently tapped into, it has the potential of catapulting us forward in life. Once in a awhile I receive an email by a photography follower asking me how I motivate myself to be out in the wild for long periods of time all alone and facing the long drives, uncomfortable conditions, lack of sleep, lack of conveniences, dealing with bears, snow, rain, and such. I often think to say, “If you’re asking the question, then you may not have what it takes to do this.” I don’t mean this in an arrogant way. What I mean is that my passion supersedes my obstacles. In fact, I can’t not do it! So, if you don’t have a deep burning drive to do this work, I would say it may be your best option in life. It may be advisable to spend some quality time soul-searching to find your deepest desires. If you do, you’ll then begin to find the passion to accomplish them.
As a spiritual person, I deeply believe that God has given everyone something that they can do in this life (something that contributes to the world) that no one else can and that He has left NO ONE out. For me, photography (and the personal relationships it provides) and philanthropic work are my two main passions. More often than not, I spring out of bed with great anticipation to face each day.
#9 – Take chances and go with your gut
This has been a difficult one for me to really understand over the years. It can also be difficult to grasp because what resonates with one person may not resonate with another. But over the last 14 years of shooting landscapes (especially the last few years), I’ve finally come to a quiet confidence that when faced with many shooting options, trusting my gut feelings usually doesn’t lead me astray. There are so many uncertain times when photographing. Sometimes we are trying to make something work for one reason or another but our gut is saying something else. I’m talking about intuition here… where your “gut” is telling you something that your brain is sometimes overriding or drowning out. Like the following internal dialogue: “Mark, I know you want that great shot over there but I think the light is going to explode over THERE (in the other direction)!” These types of feelings are wisely not ignored. It takes years of making plenty of mistakes to find out if your individual intuitive gut reactions are right more than not. This is something I have learned and apply in all the decision-making in my life. More often than not, my gut level feeling is right.
#10 – Face your fears
Many years ago as I followed the work of one of my favorite landscape photographers. I noticed that a lot of his shots were out in the wild, among bears and many great unknowns. In the earliest days, just being by myself in the forest at night was scary. Another example of potential fear is my southwest shooting partner. He simply freaks out when he is by himself for more than a day. It makes sense since he was raised in New York and now lives in Las Vegas… basically a city kid. The list of potential fears for us all goes on and on. But to really get out and have awesome adventures chasing dramatic weather for dramatic landscapes, fear must be constantly faced! For me in the early days, it was sleeping in a tent by myself out in the wilderness. In fact, before that, it was just pulling an overnighter away from home! The key is to start small and face those fears one at a time. Only you know what they are. But you cannot let them rule you; you must rule over them.
I will never forget the first overnighter I pulled in a tent in grizzly territory. It scared the heck out of me. Eventually I got better at it. Of course I come prepared with bear mace/pepper spray and trust me, I’ve had many scary encounters out there! But the bottom line is that I had to face these things one at a time, head on to shoot a great deal of the landscapes in my portfolio. Side note: one of my favorite photographers messaged me once to tell me that a “good scotch helps” when trying to sleep in bear territory. That season I implemented the technique! 🙂
So, whether it’s going out by yourself for the first time, overnight camping by yourself, hiking in grizzly territory for the first time, or standing in the face of electrical storms, it takes courage to face our fears. But most importantly, it’s good to know that this courage can be developed!
So go out, enjoy nature, and maybe employ some of the tips here. I wish you great success in your own photographic endeavors.
To learn more about capturing and post processing dramatic light check out Mark Metternich’s website below.