You’ve arrived at your destination and the setting is perfect. The clouds look fantastic and the light is going to be great. Before you unpack your camera, though, take a walk with your smartphone. Doing so before starting a session benefits your photography in a couple of important ways. While using it to find the best compositions, you’ll also give yourself the time to get focused on the task. Shoot with your smartphone first and you’ll be more satisfied when you download your data card at the end of the day.
Finding compositions first with your phone’s camera is a quick and easy way to explore an area. As you’re taking images, work the scene. Try portrait as well as landscape orientation and take panoramas too.
When you find a point of interest, vary your phone’s height and the angle to the subject. Use your feet to shoot closer (long lens) and further away (wide angle lens). When you’re done, break out a snack and review your images. Be critical (more about this later!). You’ll find good images, and having taken the time to walk around you’ll also know where to stand to make them better.
As you’re working the scene your mind isn’t on idle. You’re not taking snapshots here and there’s a lot to think about. Slow down and get into the groove. What common mistakes have you made regularly in the past? What compositional elements can you see and how can you incorporate them? How is the light effecting your subject? What story do you want to tell, and how does your post-processing skill set influence what images you need to tell that story? There’s more, but you get the idea. You’ll capture the images you need that match the final picture you have in mind.
The temptation is always there ... you park your car, look out the window and think, “This is beautiful!” and reach for your tripod and camera bag. Don’t do it. Take a walk with your smartphone and while doing so, put your “photographer hat” on. Instead of going home with 100+ shots that might look nice, you’ll have a smaller set of photos and a great story to tell.
Be well and stay safe. Gordon
About The Photo: Taken on the beach near Fort Funston south of the Golden Gate Bridge. The clouds were amazing! I returned to this point after reviewing the images from a half mile walk. I liked the layers of hills, the waves as leading lines and the atmospheric perspective on the mountains in the background. I set up and waited for something interesting to happen, and got lucky with this pair. Added bonus – the contrast created by the young girl in red!
If you'd like to view more of Gordon's work, click here.