The thing is, there are stellar celestial events every month and wherever you live you’re sure to be able to make a great picture. I’ve just moved to Nampa, Idaho, and I’m invigorated by a new place and new things to photograph. However, I bet there are plenty of interesting things to see right where you live, too.
Most Importantly: Just Do It
I know how it is: you’re rushing to get your work done on Friday so you can go out and make a picture in the evening or head out on a trip with your family for the weekend, but no matter how focused you are something comes up and you just can’t get away in time. This happens to me, too. The thing is, you just need to go out anyway. You may not get the picture you were hoping for, but if you’ll just go out there you’re sure to make an experience that is worthwhile. (Here’s a related article)
That’s what happened for me when I drove into the Owyhee mountains to photograph the full moon rising over some cool rocks. I had tried to get things done, but I just couldn’t get out as early as I’d hoped. As a result, I was still driving when the moon came up. What’s more, there were patchy clouds so the sunset was bland and the moon was obscured. Still, I was determined to see what I could see.
Learn to Love Lemonade
With clouds and a late departure, I could complain and turn around and return home discouraged and angry that I couldn’t leave early. This is what they mean that life is giving you lemons–it’s a sour situation. But, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a great way to see things. And if you can learn to love lemonade, you’ll have a happy time making pictures no matter what happens.
When you’re already running late, the thought of carrying a bunch of stuff with you just makes the situation feel worse. I had my big backpack and tripod in the car, but I ended up taking only my smallest bag with a wide lens and a telephoto lens and a Platypod. I knew the spot I wanted to go to had lots of rocks where the Platypod would stand up high enough to make pictures over the grass, and from looking at Google Earth I was pretty sure I’d have a great overlook. So with a small pack and a bottle of water, I started walking.
Although the clouds had obscured the moonrise, I still had hope that the landscape might look good under the moonshine through the patchy clouds. I think you’ll find, as I did, that once you get moving on your own feet or driving through the place you aimed to photograph, you’ll feel the frustration slipping away and your shoulders will feel lighter (especially if you’re carrying too much stuff).
Another thing about going light with your equipment is that it will force you to be creative. You’ll have to make a good picture with the lens you have and that creative constraint will force your mind to see pictures for that lens and you’ll become a better photographer.
Low Light, High ISO
I finally made it to the edge of a big cliff overlooking a chasm with a river and a small peak beyond. I was fairly overcome with the scene and the experience. I had hiked only 30 minutes, but as I sat I could hear nothing but the sounds of the night in the desert. There were no car sounds, no trains, and not even any planes. It always seemed in Oregon that no matter how far I walked, I could always hear the buzz of a chainsaw or a truck driving by. After enjoying for several minutes, I set to work making pictures.
Once I had the Platypod Ultra in place on a rock, I set the camera to the highest ISO possible. By this time, it was fully dark and all I could see was the outline of the peaks against the sky. I couldn’t see anything of the landscape. In this situation, setting your camera to its highest ISO will allow you to make a picture quickly and make adjustments to the composition. Of course, this high ISO image was pretty noisy, but it allows for a fast shutter speed. When you’re ready to make the final exposure, you’ll use a much lower ISO for finer grain, but that will take as much as 30 seconds or a minute, which is tedious when you don’t even know what the composition will be yet. So, start with a high ISO, frame the shot, then adjust down to the final exposure.
As long as you’re sitting on a cliff in the dark on a Friday night, you might as well make as many mistakes as you can. This kind of low-pressure practice will help you learn how to be proficient and it’ll teach you your camera’s limitations so that the next time a great picture presents itself you’ll be ready to seize the opportunity. Go ahead and milk the current situation for all you can, knowing that the pictures may not be awesome.
Do It All Again
The most important thing about going out to make pictures isn’t making pictures. It’s going out. You just need to get out there and make more mediocre pictures. Who knows? Maybe a great picture will happen, but if not at least you’ll have a had an experience. It sure beats going home grumpy and watching TV.
I enjoyed my evening out so well that I got up early two more times and went and shot the moon setting and boogied back into town before work. I’m excited that each month there’s a full moon and it rises and sets in a different place every time. That’s a lot of opportunities for a new adventure.