Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Preparation Can Pay Off

Sandhill Crane Taking Flight

While scouting some new photo sites, I had a Sandhill Crane take-off to the left of me – about 40 feet away – and I made a couple shots as he was reaching to the sky. I noticed him taking off, deliberately brought my camera to my eye, checked my settings and fired away – not the best pictures, but not all that bad either – especially for the unexpected flight! A couple things came to mind.

I remembered last spring how many times some nice “targets” would suddenly appear in the sky – and just how bad I was at even getting a shot off, much less an acceptable one. I would fumble with my equipment, spot the target and attempt to change my setting and then get a shot off. That’s not the case anymore, so what’s changed?

Basically, I learned how to better utilize my equipment, pay better attention to what’s going on and to walk with camera setup to take unexpected shots. While the first two are important, it’s that last one that really pays off! My camera stay in Shutter Priority with at least 1/1,000th setting. Drive mode is set on continuous along with focus, exposure compensation is set for a sky shot and my ISO is set to Auto. Reacting to a suddenly available shot, all I have to do is bring the camera to my face, adjust my exposure compensation if it’s not a sky shot and make the picture.

It’s working well for me so far this year! Practice and some preparation have paid off and – in case anyone sees me taking those types of shots – I look like I know what I’m doing and not a monkey “romantically engaging a football” if you know what I mean!

Keeping your Feet on The Ground

And your behind off of it!

This was my first real winter shooting off-trail and in the snow and ice.  My primary goals were to keep dry, comfortable and everything (both me and my equipment) in one piece.   Several items helped accomplish this: long underwear, good boots, winter socks, gaiters and “Yak Trax”.

The Yak Trax are basically snow chains for your feet, easy to put on and comfortable to walk in.  They stretch easily around your shoe (various sizes are available) and secure firmly in place to give you increased traction in snow and ice.  I’ve put them to good use this past season and never once had a problem with them – work very well, as advertised.

The traction they provide on pure ice is incredible!  With these things in place, I was able to traverse solid sheets of ice with minimal effort and keep both my gear and myself safe.  I highly recommend them as a great addition to your winter hiking kit or as part of your winter emergency kit.  They’re also pretty easy on the wallet and can be found at many locations for around twenty dollars.  Two thumbs up from me!!

Measure Your Work Over Time

It’s easy with any new hobby (especially this one) to get discouraged rather quickly.  You won’t necessarily notice your improvement from day to day or week to week (although it does happen).  I think it’s similar to watching your weight everyday on a scale.  You can go a bunch of days with no change, or even an increase here and there – so you feel that your not progressing – makes it easy to give up.  However, ignore the scale for a month or two and then hop on (after doing the right things, of course!) and voila – you’ve made some pretty nice improvements!

Photography is very similar, it’s easy to get discouraged from day to day as you don’t see any improvement – check out these tips and you should feel differently!

  • Every couple of months or so, go back into your archives and take a look at some of your older work, even if its only been a few months – I’m betting you’ll be stunned with the improvements you see!
  • Join a site such as ShutterCal and post your photos as you progress throughout the year.  I’ve recently gone back and looked at some Eagle shots I took at the beginning on January and compared them to my most recent captures.  I was amazed at how “bad” the early ones looked!!  Resist the urge to delete and replace them though – it’s your visual record or your progress.  They weren’t “bad” photos (in fact I was pretty proud of them just two months ago) – they’re just a good record of your skill level at the time – so learn from them!

A Picture is Where it Finds YOU!

Quick as a flash!

A slow, lazy day taking pictures can get interesting real quick – make sure you’re ready when it does!  We were out shooting eagles last month and they spent most of the afternoon just hanging out in the trees being lazy.  Then out of no where an eagle came shooting over my shoulder, grabbed a fish, turned around and flew off!

Luckily I had my backup camera with my 400 lens slung over my shoulder, I quickly grabbed it, focused and shot as the eagle passed over my head.  Even more lucky (or maybe you could say “prepared”!) I had setup my backup camera when I got out that morning – and reset the exposure compensation a couple times during the day.  What turned out to be a great shot could have been a total miss if I didn’t keep my equipment ready for the conditions.

Lessons learned – be ready, just in case, for when the picture finds you.  The old expression holds true – luck favors the prepared.  Hey, someone tell my wife!  I really can be trained!!

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