Within the context of my business I meet quite a few people. As could be expected, discussions about various approaches to photography often ensue. Each of us makes decisions about photography, and our lives, based on our experience and philosophy. This article discusses why waiting for ideal photographic conditions may be detrimental.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. I’ve included a few photographs to serve as visual breaks.
Recently I had a chat with an individual about going on extended photography tours to capture landscape images. During that discussion they made an interesting comment. “I assume that you only shoot landscape images under ideal conditions during the magic hour… just like I do. ”
No doubt they were as nonplussed with my reply, as I was with their statement. “Actually… I’ve only ever planned to do landscape photography under ideal conditions a few times in my life. When on an extended photography tour we just take each day as it comes. Our approach to our photography is best described as catch as catch can.”
Our viewpoints varied significantly so our discussion moved on to different subject matter. Our chat did cause my mind to muse about the notion of waiting for ideal photographic conditions.
I thought about how many people have the opportunity in life to only do their work under ideal conditions. Do PGA golf pros win countless tournaments because they only play when there is no wind, no dampness, and the temperature is between 16 and 24 degrees Celsius (~61 to 75 Fahrenheit)?
Are there any players in the Football Hall of Fame who were known to be ‘the best in the sport’ based on them only playing during ideal game conditions?
I could not think of anyone in professional sport who had achieved greatness by only plying their craft during ideal conditions. The opposite was actually true. The truly great players excelled in spite of the conditions they faced. It was their ability to rise above their immediate situation that allowed them to push the development of their talents. They discovered how much more they could accomplish with their expanded skill set. Overcoming adversity is a key factor in each of us becoming the best that we can be.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with planning a photo shoot to take advantage of ideal conditions. Creating masterful images happens as a result of a number of factors, and shooting conditions can play a significant role. If we are exclusively focused on pursuing ‘the best possible image’ then that planning orientation makes total sense.
What I am suggesting is that only shooting under ideal conditions may become a self-limiting exercise. Just like a pro golfer who only chooses to play under ideal conditions. How could they learn to adjust their approach, and perform at a high professional level during periods of inclement weather, without actually doing it? Watching it on YouTube doesn’t cut it.
I thought about photo journalists who ply their trade during the heat of the battle in war zones. Do they get the opportunity to raise a flag so the bullets, bombs and grenades stop for an hour in order that they can capture their images? They operate in the most harrowing of conditions with many winning Pulitzer prizes for their amazing work.
There is no doubt that striving for ‘the best possible image’ under ideal conditions is a worthwhile pursuit that can lead to truly spectacular photographic creations.
I also believe that it is important to strive to capture ‘the best image possible’ under difficult conditions. In my mind, these are the situations that present the biggest opportunities for personal growth and creativity. After all, our most meaningful challenge in life is competing with our own best self.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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