Number Five: Basic Planning. When I know I’m going out to photograph, I plan meals and other activities around the best light. On this trip, I was out looking for images by 6 a.m. I came back by 8 or 9 a.m., ready for a big breakfast and a full day with my family. For good sunset photography, I often try to have an early dinner, especially during the summer, and then go out in the evening until dark. We were staying right near the beach in Carmel, so it was a short walk with no driving involved. My point is that it’s possible to strike a balance with some basic planning. I’m not one to get carried away with precise planning such as using a compass or GPS so I can photograph at some preconceived “correct” location. I just need to get out there and see what happens.
Number Six: Patience. My assistant John reminds me that patience is important. Often when we arrive at a new location, we’re so excited that we work too fast and our focus is too scattered. The energy of a new discovery can be advantageous, but also distracting. If you’re at a new location, slow down and take a deep breath (or many, if needed!) in order to see the landscape more clearly. A calm, meditative approach for connecting with your environment is a valuable tool, especially in new locations! When you’re already familiar with a location, the urgency is less, and, most often, less stress means better images. So don’t fret if you’ve “been there before”; just focus on digging deeper. Digging deeper will only strengthen your vision!
When you focus on improving your photography, always keep working to develop your technical skills in terms of handling exposure, image design, depth of field and postprocessing technique. However, photographic success also requires dedication, such as adjusting your dinner schedule and long-term effort by returning often to favorite locations! I hope that these ideas help you make better photographs.
Writing this essay has encouraged me to develop a “best of” Big Sur portfolio for my website. Also, all of these images have been discussed in more detail in my photoblog. Come on by for a visit!
All of the images above were captured in the Carmel-Big Sur area in northern California. Traveling over Memorial Day, 2008, Neill found that there were six key reasons for his high success rate on the trip.
Visit William Neill’s website at www.WilliamNeill.com to learn about his new ebook, Landscapes of the Spirit, Digital Edition, check out his photoblog or sign up for newsletter updates on his courses with BetterPhoto.com.