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Friday, December 1, 2006

Home Field Training

Mentally prepare yourself to think like a pro adventure photographer

Home Field TrainingAt first glance, it would seem that unless you’re a full-time adventure athlete, photographing action and adventure photography is something to which you'll have little opportunity to apply yourself. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth. When considering the steps to shooting action photos, there are many ways you can use these ideas when practicing and honing your photographic skills far from the mountains or wild rivers.

In this column (based on a chapter of the same name from my new book National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Action & Adventure), I want to help you understand the crossover possibilities of adventure photography and how you might apply adventure shooting skills to your everyday photography. There are many places around your neighborhood, everyday outdoor activities and amateur team sports where you can sharpen your eye for shooting adventure and action.

Adventure photography is part anticipation and part reaction. The best way to sharpen your reaction time for shooting photos isn't when you're photographing your first raft crashing through a rapid, but at home shooting at the local sports field, the skateboard park or on a bike ride around the block. The preparation to photograph good photos at a little league baseball game or a skateboard park is the same as on any adventure.

Shooting at those events and activities isn't simply an exercise that will train you to react faster, because the more you shoot, the more tuned into the activity you become, and speed will follow naturally. Crossover exercises will also teach you to approach an active situation the same way that professional photographers prepare before they shoot an event or an expedition.

Such photographic exercises simply help you see a game, for example, as a photographer and not as a spectator. As a photographer, you approach the activities as someone who's looking for photos that tell the story of the game.

There are many opportunities to shoot photos, but what separates a snapshot from a good photo is the preparation and planning that goes into making the shot. Before going out to shoot, pro photographers always have some kind of plan that includes a mental image of the type of photos they want to shoot.

Begin with a rough idea of the photos you want to shoot. Then work backward and decide what camera, lens and other equipment you might need to get those photos. As you preconceive the photos before a shoot, keep the ideas simple and flexible.

Before shooting a local little league baseball game, for example, think of photos of the pitcher winding up for a toss, a kid sliding into home plate, etc. Having a general idea of what photos you want to shoot will give you a focus and help you decide not only the lens and camera needed, but also when and where you need to position yourself to shoot the photos.



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