I’m paid to be lucky and that means making your own luck – getting yourself in the right position, in front of the right subject at the right time, and in the right light
Michael Yamahita - National Geography
Price seeking vs impulse
Having been a photographer for more than ten years, I have come to realize that there are two essential approaches to landscape photography: prize seeking or impulse photography. Prize seekers always want great scenes in the perfect light.
As a landscape photographer, the prize seeker’s approach can help you get the most out of your photography trip. If you do everything right, you will come back very satisfied with your ‘seeking’ and more importantly, your photos.
To carry out a successful ‘prize seeking’, you need to plan your mission in advance and know exactly when and where to obtain your prize. “Get in and take the shot” is the prize seeker’s mantra.
Once you get your prize, you should move on to the next iconic destination. You need to schedule and plan your trips very well so that you can take in as many treasure hunts in excellent conditions as possible. It is all about getting the best photos –the enjoyment and whole trip experience is secondary.
On the other hand, you can go for the second approach that is more impulsive. In this technique, you will have to position yourself in only one location and allow the photos come to you. You will have no other plan or agenda except to hang out in one place and find out what happens next. The photography will be more contemplative; the pace slower, and the experience maybe even more significant than the photography.
A perfect iconic prize seeking photo. I hiked to this area around mid-day searching for that perfect shot of this old Lighthouse. When I identified this spot, I had to determine the direction of sunset and came back later on in the evening; when the sun was nearing the horizon. I had developed the finished photograph in mind well in advance. I got the prize that I needed!
Your sex and personality sometimes determine your type of photography. In general, I find that men prefer to be prize seekers, while most women are impulsive shooters – of course, with some exceptions.
It’s always interesting to watch how the two groups behave differently on photography trips. Prize seekers usually cover a significant area in two hours and come back with dozens of different photo composition. In most cases, prize seekers are the first ones to finish shooting, and they’re prepared to move on to the next photo stop long before the two-hour period is over.
Unlike prize seekers, impulsive photographers usually position themselves at the first fascinating spot they find around the photo-shoot stop and sit there taking shots for the entire two hours. When it’s time to leave the scene, they pack up reluctantly wishing they had more hours to hang out.
As a prize seeking photographer, you ought to move very quickly to position yourself in the ‘right’ scene at the right time. You should have a preconception of what you want to capture in a particular area and little should sway you in your goal to get the killer shot. Light, location and the interplay of the foreground with the background are the primary considerations.
Which approach is better? Well, it depends on your objectives and preference. A prize-seeker focuses on capturing certain types of shots and covers a lot of ground. So, if you choose to become a prize seeking photographer, then you are more likely to find and take a ‘big shot.’
You will have high chances of getting those ephemeral instances where the subject and the light merge to create impact and drama. Keep in mind that the portfolio of images of a prize-seeker from the whole two hours will contain one evocative photo (the prize ) and a bunch of fillers.
An immersive photographer may not acquire the ‘trophy’ shot but will capture several thoughtful images which stand alone and can work very well as a series. These shots usually tell a deeper and more interesting story than the big impact shots of the prize seeking photographers.
Like many things in life, you should avoid the extremes. Being an ex-prize-seeker, I’ve come to learn that the best of both approaches yields the best work. I still use the prize seeking strategy to plan for my outings in magnificent landscape with dramatic light, but once I arrive at the scene, I try to immerse myself in it, taking some shots impulsively.
If you slow down, look around, and let the location speak to you, you will produce images which have more depth and meaning for you.
Remember to take some time to look around.
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