So – you’ve got the brand new Canon 5D MKIII or the Nikon D800, and you’ve stocked up on the most expensive lenses money can buy. And maybe now you think you are all set to conquer the world of landscape photography. Right? Well… we’re guessing you know it’s not that easy. Buying the gear is the easy part. Now it’s time to head out into the field.
Some photographers spend hours reading every single review of the latest cameras. They study the MTF curves for each lens in their collection, and indulge in countless debates about the best gear for pursuing their landscape photography passion. But sometime they forget to consider something more important – what to photograph, and how to get a good shot.
I’m not talking about improving your technical or processing skills. No. This is about your effectiveness as a photographer in the field. Ask yourself – can I consistently capture effective images when I am on location?
During interviews, we are often asked, “How much time do you spend on location?” To answer this question, let’s take a look at a typical year for us. We traveled to Florida, California, Utah, Oregon, Nicaragua, Denver, and Hawaii. For an example of a typical photography trip, consider our trip to Oregon. We spent 3 full days hiking, exploring, and shooting in the Columbia River Gorge and the surrounding area. To date, I have processed 14 unique images (photos with completely different compositions) that will make it to my portfolio. Sometimes we’ll shoot more, and sometimes less… but 14 shots is a nice average for a short photography trip.
So how can I produce a few good images per day on a consistent basis? It comes down to research and field techniques that allow us to shoot in a variety of different light conditions. Before we go out, we research weather patterns, tides, seasonal colors, phases of the moon, climate, flora, fauna, and locations. We often contact local photographers and pick their brains about the local landscapes. Based upon this research, we try to choose the locations that will allow us to maximize the probability of getting a good photograph at the time we plan to travel to the location. When we arrive at the location, our plans will always be fluid. They will change based upon weather patterns as necessary.
How much time do you devote to research and field techniques vs developing your technical and processing skills? Does the time spent researching locations help you make the most of your time on location?