Now that I have a decent camera, I am excited to take better photographs rather than snapshots. But with limited free time, I’m having difficulty deciding what I want to do when I get the opportunity to go into the woods for more than an hour.
Do I want to go hiking and make some miles? Or slow down, stop take good photos, and wait for the right light to improve the photo composition?
This isn’t the first time I’ve had similar problems.
A few years ago the choices were hiking or trout fishing.
The choice was easier as soon as I picked up my puppy Caden. Fishing with Caden running up and down the stream would be hard! He loves streams and wading into the water. As soon as he hears running water he stops and looks for me to release him to run off and explore.
So hiking it was. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hiking, it is fun, and I like the idea of seeing new places, forests, streams, and waterfalls.
One of the best benefits of hiking is watching Caden enjoy himself as he runs free on the trails and exploring the woods and streams.
I also like the goal of hiking trail systems end-to-end. To me, it’s a sense of accomplishment to finish a long-distance trail. Instead of a single hike into the woodland, it becomes part of a larger journey.
But finishing a long trail end-to-end brings up another set of decisions or choices for me now that I want to take better photographs.
The Enigma of a Hiking Photographer
Let me start this section by saying I don’t think there is a wrong way to photograph nature.
There are so many ways a hiker can photograph nature.
You can hike and take photographs of so many interesting subjects as you come across them.
Or you can do a pre-hike search for a photogenic location, hike to that spot, and wait for the best light conditions.
You can photograph wide-open vistas with a wide lens, use a longer lens for more intimate photos, or even on a smaller scale by taking macro-photographs.
Of course, you can mix and match all of the above, and when you come across the scene that you want to photograph, take whatever time you need to capture the photo.
The problem I’m having is being patient and taking the time to search for a great composition. Then wait for the optimal light so I can take the best possible photograph of a subject with an interesting foreground and background.
This is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The former is about coming across a scene or subject, bringing up the camera, and snapping the photo.
The latter is about coming across the subject and finding the best angle to photograph the subject with the foreground, background, and light that will embellish the subject before taking the photo.
Taking a good photograph can happen quickly, but more often it takes time to be sure everything is right, there are no distracting objects in the frame and then having the patience to allow the light to move or change.
The Voices Inside My Little Head
I have two voices in my head. One voice says, slow down relax, wait the light will change. Keep taking photos so that I have a choice of photos to edit. Keep changing the settings to see if one is better than the others.
The other voice is yelling what are you doing? Why are you standing there? Push the little button and document the scene as you see it now. We have a lot of miles to hike. This trail system is hundreds of miles long, stop wasting time, do you want to finish it as an old man pushing a walker down the trail? Chop, chop, let’s go.
Even on my shorter hikes, I have a hard time chilling out and making sure the composition and camera settings are correct. I have this feeling that I need to be somewhere else.
I need to slow down and enjoy the location. Play with the dog. Take my time with the composition and double-check the focus, and histogram, and make sure the edges of the frame are free of distracting objects. Allow the light to change while taking frequent photos in case it gets no better.
My Camera EquipmentCamera Body
The Purpose of This Article
First Article of Many (Hopefully) on My Journey to Master Photograph
This is the first article I have written that will focus on my photography journey.
Maybe this sounds a little odd, but I want to share my experience of learning how to take top-notch photographs.
I know why I want to document it, but I don’t necessarily want to share the reason(s) right now.
My aim is to write what I learn, and how my thought processes change through the journey.
The related photo galleries are images I took at that particular point in the journey and will be used as monthly baselines to track my progress.
If you are inclined, I would appreciate it if you follow me more closely on my social media accounts linked below.
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