Now that I have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather, indulging in a little quiet time, communing with nature and taking photos, I could not help but notice that my hobby does have its share of pitfalls.
In trying to capture the perfect shot, I often feel like a secret agent, trying to move in on a subject in stealth mode, intensely looking at the world through a viewfinder.
But in doing so, and in being so focused, I have occasionally lost track of the intricacies of the physical world around me, including time and space. From a health and safety perspective, it concerns me a little, given my tendency to occasionally be a bit of a klutz.
Yet even when faced with these challenges, I don’t seem deterred. The rewards of capturing a great nature shot are worth every bump and bruise.
Also, Mother Nature has a way of keeping photographers on their toes by changing the perfect conditions with little advance notice. It can get a little frustrating but I’d like to think that this is part of the thrill of the hunt when perseverance leads you to that shot that made it all worth it.
Here they are, my top 10 pitfalls of nature photography:
10. Losing track of time
It has happened that in the process of evaluating the composition and the lighting, taking a test shot, evaluating the result, making adjustments, taking another test shot and repeating until I think I have captured the best photo possible, before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s delightful to lose myself in the creative process when I have unlimited time on my hands, but it is quite another matter, when I am on my lunch hour and due back for a meeting at 1:00 sharp.
9. Wearing the wrong shoes
A subset of #10, sometimes I get so enthralled in my photo shoot, not only do I lose track of time, but I lose track of space and distance and find myself farther away than I originally planned. It is on the long walk back and dealing with a blister that I realize that I was not wearing the right shoes for such an undertaking.
Another subset to #10, even in shady conditions or overcast skies, the sun’s damaging UV rays can still get through in a matter of minutes. Sun protection is essential for outdoor photo shoots. If you are follicly challenged like me, a hat is a good idea too.
7. The wind
Just when the photographer has the perfect shot set up, isn’t it just like Mother Nature to send a gust of wind to shake up the subject. When shooting a small subject like flowers or insects, it could be the difference between a great shot and a missed one. Unfortunately there isn’t much one can do to influence the wind, except to learn to work with it and to be patient.
6. Fast moving vehicles
When taking shots along a path, I deliberately try not to get too deeply into the creative zone. I try to stay vigilant and aware of my surroundings when cyclists and skateboarders are whizzing by at high speeds. It’s just a matter of self-preservation as a quick photographic move to catch up with a squirrel might not afford a fast moving vehicle enough time to stop and avoid a collision.
A photographer can have the perfect shot set up with ideal lighting conditions, when Murphy’s Law or Mother Nature steps in and delivers clouds to mess things up. Or conversely, a photographer could have a perfect shot set up on an overcast day, when blinding rays of sunshine peek through the clouds and spoil the esthetic of the shot. That is the thrill of nature photography, in trying to capture the perfect shot given the conditions, knowing full well they can (and likely will) change on a dime.
It is a little irritating to have a pest ruin a zen moment in nature photography. When life hands you mosquitoes, try taking pictures of them!
3. Uneven ground
In approaching a subject in the suburban wild, I have learned to be more cautious when I am (literally) off the beaten path. Debris can all-too-easily accumulate in those spots where the ground is uneven, leading to a false sense of depth. I am getting increasingly aware of those.
I love my hobby, but it’s not worth twisting an ankle or breaking a hip over it.
Upon mastering the art of looking down for secure footing, looking up can be equally important to avoid contact with branches that can suddenly jump out at the photographer. Branches can be very sneaky in that way.
As they say, in life, sh*t happens, but nowhere is it more true than when intensely watching a subject through a viewfinder and not watching where you are stepping. It hasn’t happened yet, but I expect that there will come a day that when moving in closer to capture the perfect shot in tall grasses, wildflowers or weeds, I may lose track of where I am and step into a “gift” from Mother Nature.
But in the end, even given these challenges, it keeps me coming back for more. With changing weather conditions, changing lighting conditions and nature itself that is always evolving, that is what keeps the hobby fresh and interesting. Even if I returned to the same subject, no two days are exactly the same.
It is those changing conditions that ignite my creativity in trying to find the perfect shot in a world of imperfect conditions. There are some things we can control, and others we cannot, but ultimately, if we waited for all conditions to be absolutely perfect, we would never take pictures.
Isn’t it interesting how photography can be a lot like life?
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Have a great day,