Back in December 2014, I went for a photography hike in the wetlands “Oisterwijkse Vennen”, The Netherlands. The past months have been very busy, so it took me a while to post-process the photos. And while post-processing, I found a series of mediocre photos. And I wondered… What went wrong that day?
That particular morning I arrived early, as I usually do when I go out for photography. It gives me time to find a nice location to park my car, and look for my first spot to photograph. It was still very dark in the forest, and I walked up to the first lake I wanted to photograph (picture above).
I waited a little for the sun to rise, and enjoyed the forest waking up. I was taking shots with exposures of over one minute and enjoyed the effect this had on the water in the photo.
I completely forgot about the time, and I was standing at the wrong side of the lake when the sun rose. Behind me the sky turned red, with only a dark forest behind me. I picked up my tripod and camera, ran through the mud to the other side of the lake, and hurried setting up for a shot. At this point I was so rushed, I was not able to pay attention to detail. I knew the sky would change any minute, so I wanted a quick shot. After I took my first photo, I realized my composition was off, and there were many distracting elements in the photo.
I found a calmer foreground, took another photo, but now I realized my foreground was boring! As I hurried to find another point of view, the sky slowly turned blue. One more time, I tried to take a photo. It is quite hard to photography a bright sunset, when the forest still is somewhat dark. Hence, I decided to use a graduate natural density filter. This filter is dark on top and slowly changes to completely transparent. This results in a slightly darker exposure on the top of the photo than on the bottom of the photo to keep details in the sky.
Somehow, I didn’t work out. I got cranky, and did not enjoy the forest anymore.
Now, a couple of months later, I still remember that day. Later in the morning, my camera and one of my most expensive lenses almost fall onto a concrete floor, I could just save it. I remember, at that point I decided today wasn’t a great day for photography.
As I started in my introduction, when I started post-processing these photos much later, I found so many mediocre photos. What went wrong?
1. I wasn’t at the right spot
I was prepared. I knew when the sun would rise, where it would rise, and I even knew where I wanted to be when the sun rose. But I didn’t know what photo I wanted to take. Instead of hanging around in the forest, waiting for the right moment. I should have find a spot to photograph the sunrise, so I wouldn’t need to run.
Lesson: If you are going to take a photo of the sunrise, find your location, and try out different compositions and exposures, so you’re ready when nature gives you a great show.
2. I got cranky and indecisive
Not everything is going to be as I want it to be. I was prepared for a boring sunrise. If the sky would be grey and boring all day, I would go for some macro shots. But I lost focus, let the surprising element get to me, and from that point, I started doing things half-hardheartedly.
I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results. Michael Jordan
Lesson: Stay calm, and decide. Better to have one good exposure, than three bad photos.
3. Quantity over quality
That day, I took many photos. If there is one thing, we can learn from painters, is that it takes time to create a perfect image.
Lesson: Instead of shooting this many photos, I should have gone for a couple of good ones. Trying different point of views, different exposures, different perspectives, different compositions. I should have walked around, to find a good foreground. And I should have repeated this process until I liked the photo.
In the end, at least I got some shots, and I did enjoy being alone in the forest. While post-processing, I also realized, maximizing the dynamic range in a photo is difficult. And shooting stunning sunsets is tricky. Something I will focus on in the future!
My dear readers, what do you think? Did you experience this once too? Let us know be leaving a comment!