Crafting an Image: Executing the Plan (Part 2 of 16)

Previous Post Crafting an Image: Start to Finish (1 of 16) Crafting an Image: Executing the Plan Having a plan and executing it are two di...

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Crafting an Image: Start to Finish (1 of 16)

Crafting an Image: Executing the Plan

Having a plan and executing it are two different things. Over the years, I've found that it's important to have a good plan, but once you start shooting you basically throw the plan out and do the best with the scene in front of you. Having said that — a good plan does a few things for you:
  • You have well thought out ideas in the back of your mind. This aids in creativity by priming your mind for lots of potential possibilities (https://explorable.com/priming). I sometimes prepare for a trip by looking at lots of other peoples' photography of an area — I do this not to try and do what others have done, but seeing lots of other possibilities can open your mind (counterintuitively) to do something truly unique.
  • You have something to fall back on should everything else fail -‐ this can generally help you be less indecisive on location to avoid coming up empty.
  • A good plan will include knowledge about the position of the sun, moon, and potential for too many people in the shot. It will help you avoid wasting time.

Meditate on "Place"

I usually like to sit for at least 15-20 minutes (if not much longer) and just take in a location. I do this for a few reasons.
First, a big part of the reason I do photography is to grow closer to nature and feel the raw spirituality that (for me, at least) can be had by connecting and attempting to understand nature. Doing this brings me a lot of peace of mind and helps me feel more centered and balanced as a person. If I'm just doing photography in order to be successful at photography through sales, then it completely defeats the point of it for me. I also feel that after I've meditated for a few minutes, my creativity and enjoyment of photography tends to increase dramatically as well (usually improving my results).

Secondly, I find that as I quietly absorb my surroundings, I also start to understand Place on a deeper level. I start to understand what makes a place unique and powerful.

For example, one of the best features of Arches National Park, in my opinion, is the amazing green grasses that show up in spring and fall that are "unblemished" by too many bushes. The green grasses contrast extraordinarily well with orange/red rocks as well as the frequent blue skies of the southwest; I've noticed, however, that photographs of Arches rarely include these lush grasses in favor of simply including the plain arches -- a huge missed opportunity from my point of view. I believe the grasses in the image below make the image.


Allowing yourself to just be in the "place" allows you to notice the subtle details like grasses or details like it. By being aware of the "essence" of a place you give yourself a much better opportunity to translate the emotion of a 3d real location to a 2d print that "captures" that feeling. I've included a few more subtle elements to Arches National Park — understanding these elements has led me to better images. I'm also including a few images from the past to illustrate the point.

  • Sharp Dropoffs
  • A jumbled feeling (Devil's Garden/Fiery Furnace)
  • Utah Junipers! (I kind of have a love affair with these)
  • Fins (giving a rolling feeling)


On Location at Delicate Arch

I arrived at Delicate Arch on Saturday, Dec 31st around 3:30 PM — giving myself plenty of time to scope out the conditions and try out lots of angles and get a general feel for the location. I had with me enough gear and provisions to do star photography that night as well as shoot the first sunrise of the new year (assuming I made it through the night). My original plan was to play the "overnight" part by ear (if there were far too many clouds after the sun had gone down I would have probably left).

When I arrived, the conditions were not ideal because the sky was completely blank (but good for the star photography I had planned), and there were 50 mph gusts of wind, so I spent about 40 minutes just walking around without my camera getting a feel for the place and generally enjoying the area. I walked around and visualized about 10 different angles. I walked to the cliffs behind Delicate Arch, I tried about 15 different angles all around the arch and generally just pondered all the different possibilities (priming myself for the days ahead as I would be shooting at Delicate for 3 or 4 days straight). I usually tend to get some odd looks from other photographers around as they tend to pick a spot and not move -- while I look at LOTS of different angles and generally move my feet, and I don't usually find a really good creative angle until I've done that to the point that everyone around thinks I'm crazy. Here is one not all that great of a shot I got that first night (unedited), but the important thing is I started to get a feel for the location.


I also got the below shot at dusk that I'll be merging with star shots I got later that night (which could become a different post).

Up Next

Shooting the first sunrise of the new year (3 of 16) (coming soon)

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