Thought on Photography

When planning a photograph you want there are many things to consider. One of the most important is timing. There are four levels of timing to consider they are yearly/seasonal, daily, shutter speed, and shutter activation. The seasonal and daily are cyclic and used in planning your trips to create images. Shutter speed and shutter activation are critical in creating the best possible photograph.

Yearly activity varies in its start and stop times. The length of a season can vary from a few days to a few months. Weather conditions have a large impact on the seasons. The spring wildflower bloom here in the desert is dependent on the rain happening several times during the year.

Seasonal timing can be on a yearly, bi-yearly or monthly cycle. The coloring fall foliage is a prime example the yearly cycle. Birds’ looking their best in breeding plumage, or mammals with their best coat are also good examples. Time your trip for the middle of the season to ensure you find the desirable condition. One of the twice-yearly subjects is bird migration. Find out when during spring or fall they migrate through a photogenic area to be able to create some great images. It has been noted recently that bird migration is starting earlier and the range of the birds has also been affected. Check with locals for best times and locations before leaving.

Daily is the time of day when the light is best for your selected subject. Is morning light or evening light best for your subject? How far away from the destination do you have to spend the night and how long it will take to get to your locale will determine your schedule. Do you prefer sunrises, sunsets, or both with a lunchtime nap? If you are wanting to photograph animals, determine when during the day they are most active.

The length of time the shutter is open has a big influence on how your image looks. A fast shutter speed will freeze action. If you want to blur action then a slower shutter speed is needed. Flowing water can be made to look soft and inviting with a slow shutter speed. Flowing water with fast shutter will freeze the action. Neither is an accurate view of how our eyes saw the water so play with both speeds to see which you prefer. Leaving some blur in images of moving animals gives a sense of action. You can blur the background by using a slow shutter speed and panning with the animal.

The moment of shutter activation is a determining factor in the quality of your images. It can be the difference between getting A photograph and getting THE photograph. Waiting for the light to be just right on scenic views can make a huge difference in the final image. Watch and wait for the peak action or the best pose when photographing animals. Catching the wings in a good position, up or down, on birds in flight can help your image. Modern cameras with rapid burst rates allow you a better chance of getting a desirable wing position. If the subject is slow or stationary single shot mode may be best so you can pick optimum time for actuation.

The key to getting the images you want is having all the factors come together. For example I had seen images of Snow geese landing straight at the camera and I wanted to create one of my own. Finding the Snow geese was easy as I live fairly close to Bosque del Apache and could visit each year sometime from mid-November to mid-February. After getting there I determined the time of day when light would be at my back when looking into the fields where the geese fed. That would give optimal lighting on the geese. I set the shutter speed and ISO fast enough to stop action and had to hope for other conditions, like the wind to align to come from behind me. The geese also had to be feeding close enough to the road for my lens combination. It only took me seven years of visiting to get all the factors to come together so I could get the image.

Waiting for optimal conditions is good but locally get out and take photographs anytime you can. This will help you hone you skills. Remember the best time for you to take a photograph is when you can. 

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