Location, Location, Location! Location is incredibly important for natural landscape photography. Finding imagery appropriate for healthcare involves proper research. I think about these five factors before I set out on a photoshoot:
- Research – Where would we be without it? How often have you fallen into a rabbit hole when you started out searching for say, things to do in San Francisco, and then 45 minutes later you’re reading recipes for heart-healthy cooking? Here’s how I stay on track: the magic of Tabs in your browser.
- Make a Bookmark folder in your browser titled “Trip Research” or “Location Research.”
- Find websites that are valuable (see my bookmarks below) to your research
- Add these sites to your “Location Research” folder
- When you have time to do trip research, open all the above websites as separate tabs in your browser with one click. Here’s how I do that in Safari:
You can see in the above dropdown all the websites in my “Location Research” folder. The websites I use are all related to parks, hiking, photography, etc. but if your interest is architecture, art, museums, etc. you can develop a list of relevant websites. When you click on “Open in New Tabs,” all those sites open instantly in a browser window with tabs for each website. Here’s what I get:
You can see all the tabs for those websites now available, (see red arrow above) and you can start plugging in “San Francisco Parks” or whatever search criteria you’d like to use in the search bars in each of these tabs. You quickly get a lot of ideas for locations to explore. Now what? You’ve got to keep track of the places somehow…
- Google Maps is an amazingly robust tool. If you’re interested, let me know, and I can do a blog post solely on how to use this for trip planning. Here’s the result:
What’s nice about Google Maps is I can call this up on my phone as well, so once in the field, it makes for very nice trip planning & navigating.
- Weather, Weather, Weather Life as a nature photographer is nearly completely controlled by weather. Not just the weather of today, tomorrow & next day, but what’s happened over the past year. I’m constantly watching weather patterns across the US, looking for precipitation patterns, snowpack, drought, etc. It all goes into the trip planning process.
What do I look for? Water is life. A heavy snowpack is one good indicator for a good wildflower year in the mountains, but it has to be followed by some regular rains and not too hot of a summer. Extended periods of drought in California, followed by fire, then followed by good rainfall spells a wildflower explosion the following year. There are many such patterns that you learn to look for, and I could probably write a book on the topic.
In short, I pick an area of the country that interests me, then decide what time of year I’d like to shoot there, then what ideal weather conditions will lead to a successful trip. Fall color in Utah? How much rain did they get in early spring? If it was a wet spring, then the budding leaves are not developed ideally, and they become susceptible to fungus in the late summer & fall. The fungus can ultimately destroy the fall color of an aspen forest! Black aspen leaves aren’t beautiful!
As you can see, the weather is everything, and it’s very complex. To be ahead of the game and optimize chances for success, a landscape photographer has to be as much meteorologist as camera operator!
Here are some websites I use:
- Take pictures, LOTS of them, before a trip. Much of my time when I’m not on shooting trips I am front of my computer. An image you see on the website sometimes can come from just 20 or 30 minutes of work in the digital darkroom, but many landscape shots that are optimized for large enlargements require many hours (2 to 4 hours per image). Digital retouching eats up an enormous amount of time when I’m not traveling. But before a trip, it’s important to get out of “computer mode,” and dust off the skills of actual field work.
Cameras today and the techniques available can get pretty complicated. You have to “get in the groove” of using these complexities as a near thoughtless flow from idea to execution. That takes practice and usually several days of intense shooting to put you in gear and in the flow. The time to do that is the week before you leave. You don’t want to be fumbling with gear ineffectively when you happen upon a gorgeous, fleeting scene on the first day of a trip.
- My final tip for trip preparation is a critical one – mindset. When I am en route to a location I develop a mindset that can only be described as: “I WILL put myself in a position to let Mother Nature show me her best, and I WILL come away with the best I’m capable of.” Field work means long hours, dashed expectations, uncooperative weather, logistical problems, etc. Great nature scenes don’t happen often and not on command. Often you feel like Mother Nature is conspiring against you. If you aren’t determined, resilient, and confident, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Many times in the field, when I have to dig deep to go the extra mile, I think of the patient, staff person, the family member in the hospital, or the designer/architect that needs the artwork.
Henry Domke Fine Art is about bringing the healing aesthetic of nature to people who need and benefit from it the most. That’s a big energy boost when the alarm clock goes off at 4 am before an early hike to a location!