by Athlete Ambassador couple, Leigh and Spring McClurg. Follow their blog at Pebbleshoo.com
We’ve all been there. You’re out in a wonderful environment, your heart rate is up, feeling a kickass endorphin high. Everything looks amazing, you take out your camera, unsure what to point it at as everything in the world around you is beautiful. “Click” you take a shot, confident you’ve captured this moment well.
Hours later sitting at home in your comfy house clothes, in a comfortable room, bathing in the glow of your phone or computer screen you look at that picture you shot and think “ugh, that’s horrible! It doesn’t look nearly as good as I wanted!”
We’ve all been there, including myself, many times. So here are some quick tips to help you capture those moments on your adventures better.
Tip 1: Focus on the Light, not on the Equipment
Unless you’re trying to shoot high speed sports or astrophotography the equipment you use to capture a moment largely doesn’t matter, so long as you understand how to get the best out of that equipment, be it a DSLR or an iPhone.
When out in the natural world, watch the light and how it creates shadows. There’s a reason photographers like to shoot at dawn and dusk, not only are the colours more vibrant but the shadows created are longer and more pronounced.
Instead of trying to capture where you are at that moment in time by taking a picture of the location, focus on trying to capture what the light is doing.
Tip 2: Shoot what it feels like, not what it looks like
This can likely be the hardest skill to master. Understanding what you are feeling, and what that looks like in relation to the environment that you are in.
It’s likely the number 1 reason your images, when viewed at home, don’t match what they looked like when you were actually there.
The reason is you likely felt elated, awestruck or happy and instead of trying to capture those feelings you took a snapshot of the location you were at.
It’s important to break out of this routine we’ve all likely developed as tourists in the past of taking pictures of locations to catalogue the fact that we were there.
If you want to capture a moment, ask yourself what you are feeling while you are in it and look around you to shoot what exemplifies that. Maybe it’s the sun light streaming through the trees, the feel of the ground under your feet, the smell of fresh rain hitting the earth.
If you get home and your image takes you back to that moment, you will have succeeded. The best photos are the ones that can make anyone that views them feel the same emotions that the photographer felt when they shot it.
Tip 3: Change Perspective
This is a simple one and you will immediately see a difference in your work as a result. Break out of the routine of shooting from eye height for all of your shots. Hold the camera to the ground, above your head, point it upwards, point it down. Just experiment with changing your perspective.
In line with Tip 2, I will usually shoot close to the ground if I’m running trail as that is primarily what I’m experiencing, the feel of the spongey earth below my trail runners.
If I’m up in the mountains I like to point the camera down to show the exposure I’m feeling while exploring, or pointed up at the sky to show how open the space feels in those high places.
Tip 4: Be Inspired, Copy Others
This might seem a little odd, but when you see a photo by somebody else that inspires you, take the time to go out and recreate it. Doing this will give you an insight into their process of creating that shot.
Don’t be afraid to copy others. Like with any skill, we can all learn by simply paying close attention to those that we deem are more experienced than us.
It will be through this process of recreating images from others that inspired you that you will discover what makes your eye unique. It’s important though to not claim this work as your own, use it as simply training.
Tip 5: Be there
For Athletes and Adventurers it can be hard to stop some times and just be present. It’s important to remember though why we choose to be outdoors, in scenic locations, instead of always in basement gyms, running on treadmills. Take time to stop occasionally and take notice of your surroundings. Be patient, if the light isn’t right yet, wait.
If you’re there, be all there.
I tried to keep this post less about using the equipment of photography and more about the process of it. All too often we can assume that a photograph we love must have been taken with an expensive camera. This assumption does a disservice to the trained eye of the photographer. We would never assume that the Champion of a hard Ultra Marathon won only because they wore expensive shoes. Like with any skill, your photography will only be as good as the training you put into it.
So simply put, shoot often, shoot differently, learn from others, have fun!