PHOTO TIP: When you just don’t find a photograph / Photographers vs. Shooters




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©Jack Graham Photography 

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy. “… Galen Rowell

Olympic National Park, Wa.

 How many time have you woke up in the dark, grabbed your coffee and headed out the door to capture that previsualized sunrise and guess what, it didn’t happen? All the great images we seen in books are most likely the result of being at the right place in the right time and knowing how to handle the conditions and subject matter. More often than not, the reality is that the potential doesn’t materialize. We often react with “There’s nothing here to photograph” and head elsewhere, or at worse, back home.

 If the light is harsh, yes, by all means head back home. However sometimes you need to hang in there, look around and really make sure. Often times, you may just not see the forest through the trees.

 Take a look at this design… can you tell what is says? (Answer at the end of this essay—but don’t look until you really study this design)


 The message here is that once you know what the design is, the message is extremely apparent and you’ll say, “Wow its right in front of me”!  Like the design, sometimes images are right in from of you, and you are just not seeing them.

 Perhaps you’ve been to a location and know that you made some good images there previously, and there must be a photograph, but on this day you are just not seeing one, even though the light and conditions are pretty good. So what do you do, before giving up and heading out elsewhere?  Here are a few suggestions:

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

1)    Are you using the right lens? If you have on a long lens, try a wide angle, or the other way around .Don’t be lazy, experiment with different focal lengths or use an old 35mm empty slide in front of your eye to se what the scene would look like with different focal lengths. If you have a wide angle lens fixed in your mind, you may be missing an opportunity to capture an image with a longer lens!

2)    Look vertically as well as horizontally. One angle can convey a totally different aspect than the other.

3)    Walk around with your camera unattached to your tripod. Don’t commit to a spot with your camera on you’re tripod until you’ve explored all possibilities.

4)    If you like photographing close up images, try that. Look for subjects that lend themselves to close up photography. There usually is something if you look hard enough.

5)    If weather is affecting the scene (and possibly you!) take advantage of it. Remember white skies are poison to a photograph. So eliminate the sky, focus in to a certain area around you and work it. If there are harsh shadows, use them, perhaps converting the image to a Black & white shot. Use what you have.

6)    Consider what you can do in post processing. It is important to make these decisions while in the field and not at home in front of your computer. Decide is you want to create an HDR image, or if you want to turn this image into an abstract.

7)    Get down low to the ground, perhaps with a wide angel lens. Or conversely, try getting up higher on a rock or tree limb. You might see a different perspective than you were seeing at your eye level.

8)    Relax, look around. Don’t stress about not “seeing” a photograph. Walk around, enjoy the day. You just might find that when you put less pressure on yourself, the image appears!

 If all of the above fails, then it probably is time to go somewhere else. However, from experience, it’s probably you and not the scene.



 All 5 images were made the same morning as I worked the scene in less than comfortable conditions.(Cold!!)


Brandywine Falls, Ohio



Ice design at Brandywine Falls, Ohio



Brandywine Falls, Ohio


Brandywine Falls, Ohio

Separating a Photographer from a Snap Shot Shooter

 Keeping what we just discussed in mind, let’s briefly address the differences between a photographer and a snap shot shooter. Many people, who think they are really “photographers” don’t realize that they are really snap shot shooters.  I see this lot in the field, and believe me there is a huge difference in results.

 Usually the snapshot shooter has little knowledge of the camera, composition and exposure, even though they think they do. They often walk around aimlessly, shooting frame after frame hoping for one that is acceptable (the blind squirrel theory), usually going home with nothing and hopefully wondering what they are doing wrong while they review their images. They usually become uninterested in an area quickly, give up and leave, as the next spot will always produce more opportunity!  The snapshot shooter, more often than not looks for the scenes in a specific location that have been shot before, by some of the great, well know photographers that they have seen in books. When they get to one of these iconic locations, often the subjects don’t look like they did in their books; but yet, they try to replicate these scenes down to the finest detail. They usually fail miserably.

 The photographer uses the conditions (weather, light etc) to make the image more dramatic. Perhaps the photographer does use an icon in their image, but the photographer usually looks for a different way to present it, perhaps in different light or a different angle.

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

 The photographer is relaxed, slows down and becomes involved with the nature of the area and does not press to capture many images. To the photographer one and maybe two quality images equal a good day.

 The photographer is usually the last one to leave, probably after dark and is anything but bored. He or she easily finds subjects, knows how to make them work within the photograph and goes home with a few quality images.

 Ask yourself… what are you?  Obviously we all want to be photographers. It takes more than owning a decent camera and good lenses!

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

   All 4 images were made the same morning, again at Brandywine Falls, Ohio ( in the rain!)

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

Oh yes… THE ANSWER TO THE 1ST QUESTION….. What is this design??

… It says “fly”. Look between the black objects. The white area spells “fly”. It just jumps out at you now? This is seeing the forest through the trees. Think about this next time you are out in good light, good conditions, and not seeing something to photograph

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

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