The sound of my alarm jolts me from a restful sleep. Groaning, I turn it off and automatically try to find reasons to stay in bed. Do I really need to go shoot sunrise today? Shouldn’t I just stay under this warm, cozy comforter?
Eventually, I guilt myself into getting out of bed and layer up for the chilly morning awaiting me outside.
The hourly forecast still looks promising as I make my tea, grab my photo gear and head out the door. Visions of a vibrant sky dance in my head as I drive down to the ocean. As I pull into the parking lot my heart drops as I see full cloud coverage in the sky. While it had been forecast to be partially cloudy, the sky in a monotonous gray, void of color or texture. There will be no radiant sunrise today.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in landscape photography, you have probably had a similar situation happen to you. Most likely, many times. Light doesn’t materialize and you’re left wishing you’d stayed in bed. Or, the skies are clear but there’s nothing to create a dynamic scene to capture.
In fact, for every stunner of a sunrise that I get to see, I probably strike out five other times in terms of light and color.
Early on, I would get disappointed if the light or weather didn’t cooperate with me. But now I approach such situations with a different attitude. My rule is that my camera must always come out of my bag, no matter how uninspired I am. I challenge myself to always create an image, despite what the conditions are.
The results of consistently sticking to this self-imposed rule have been positive. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I’m magically creating portfolio pieces while trying to make the best out of a less than ideal situation. But I’ve definitely had some surprising results that have led to further exploration and growth in my photography.
When determined to create a shot, I’ve found myself exploring smaller details instead of grand landscapes. I’ve noticed things like soft morning light hitting dewdrops on grass. I’ve practiced new techniques like panning, which can turn an ordinary scene into something abstract and artistic. I’ve experimented with using atypical lens choices for different situations, like using my nifty fifty to play with shallow depths of field in scenes where I would usually shoot f/8.
I’ve played with long exposures and practiced photographing whatever wildlife happens to be keeping me company. Heck, one day I even shot some tall grass growing in the parking lot and it turned into one of my most popular images that year!
Give it a try
The bottom line is that there is always something you can take a photo of. There’s always an image waiting to be created, and light waiting to be captured. Planning ahead is great, but putting in the effort to adapt and create images no matter what, is also a sure way to move forward with your photography.
So next time you want to leave your camera in your bag, get it out and see what you can come up with. You might be surprised with the results!