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Thread: Inspiration out of Desperation

  1. #1

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    Inspiration out of Desperation

    Recently there was a thread about where to get inspiration which reminded me of a couple of situations that occurred out shooting. Because landscapes are challenging for me and due to limited time on site, when we travel I typically research the iconic locations in the area we'll be visiting and work them into our plan. Essentially I plan to go out and shoot scenes I've seen in books, calendars, etc. I'm not proud of it but those are the unvarnished facts. Interestingly, however, the most successful landscapes that I've produced over the years (heavens knows there have been few enough) have resulted when the plans break down and I'm forced to.... well to get creative

    This first example occurred during a trip to Acadia NP in Maine. We showed up at Bass Harbor Light an hour or so before sunset on a very promising evening. Much to my disappointment there were literally photogs lined up shoulder to shoulder from the woods down to the waters' edge. Everyone was set up ready to shoot the sun setting behind the lighthouse with what was shaping up to be a flaming sky. Somewhat disheartened, I decided to try some long exposures where the waves broke on the rocks, something I had always wanted to try and never had the opportunity to do. So there I was all alone, looking like an idiot set up in the opposite direction of three or four dozen people who knew what the heck they were about. The sunset turned out to be a dud and the lighthouse shot was a bust. All those folks ended up disappointed. I came away with a shot that I call "Consolation Sunset".

    NIKON D300, 16-85mm DX, f/22 @ 30 mm, 30s, ND filter (3-stop I think)
    Inspiration out of Desperation

    Then a couple of years ago we took a trip to Yellowstone/Tetons for wildlife and fall colors. I had my list of iconic spots at the Tetons for fall color shots one of which was Schwabacher Landing. This time we did show up in time to get a prime spot for a perfect reflection of the mountains as soon as the alpenglow started. People continued to show up including a couple of workshop groups led by prominent pro photogs one of whom had the gall to ask me to move because "these people paid a lot of money to be here". I don't recall specifics but I seem to remember making some suggestions on how he and his clients could spend the morning. Even had they been inclined to follow my suggestions I donít think it would have been physically possible given the size of most of their tripods. Anyway, the sun finally approached the horizon and as it began to get light it became obvious that there was a smoke haze filling the valley and any hopes of really good alpenglow shots of the Tetons were out the window (as it turned out, the forest service was doing a controlled burn a few miles away and the entire time we were visiting the valley sky was laden with smoke haze).

    We loaded up and left the landing. Between the shooting conditions and the disappointing interaction with the other photographers I was pretty bummed out. But having travelled so far I wasnít about to just pack up the gear and give up so began looking for opportunities that didnít involve long distance shooting so the haze wouldnít be an issue. A few miles from the landing we came upon some lovely stands of aspen in full fall colors. My bride made a comment about how well a pano of the scene would work for a specific spot in our house. The following image is the result. Another one born of necessity/desperation when the plan fell apart. This is one of the few images that Iíve converted with one of the photoshop ďartisticĒ filters and ironically one of my most popular with the general public (I guess there's a message there). Iíve sold several large canvas copies of this one. I've printed it as both a triptych (per below) and as a slightly different single panel pano.

    I guess the moral of the story is to just open your eyes AND your mind.

    NIKON D7000, 16-85mm DX, f/22 @ 85 mm, 1/25, ISO 400
    Five vertical frames stitched together in PSE6, palette knife filter applied
    Inspiration out of Desperation

  2. #2
    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    It is surprising what you can come up with when you have to work at it.

    "Consolation Sunset" is very pleasant but I think the light, glowing and vibrant aspens in in full colour is great. Probably a favourite because of the crisp clean airy feel it portrays. It would brighten up any wall.

    A lot of people think you just stumble across a photograph - true sometimes but usually I find you need to work a location or do some planing before you nail it.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 16th August 2013 at 01:43 AM.

  3. #3

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    I really like the first one, Dan, and know the exact place you captured the photo. Other than that, I have just a few quick comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    Essentially I plan to go out and shoot scenes I've seen in books, calendars, etc. I'm not proud of it
    Why wouldn't you be proud of it? Effective people make use of their available resources to achieve desired results and that's exactly what you're doing.

    a couple of workshop groups led by prominent pro photogs one of whom had the gall to ask me to move because "these people paid a lot of money to be here".
    I hope I would have had the presence of mind to tell the pro that he or she should return some of that money because he or she didn't get out of bed early enough to get them to the site early enough. I also hope I would have asked the pro for his or her name so I could spread word on the Internet that this is what happens when that pro takes your money.

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    It's funny how you can go out with a fixed idea in mind and come back with nothing or better still, something unexpected. I've also heard it said that if you see something worth photographing, it is always worth turning around and looking in the opposite direction. You seem to have embodied those thoughts here. Two very nice images.

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    Thanks for commenting, guys. There is a reason that most really good photos that you see of iconic spots are taken by local photographers. It really takes some time to understand a place and know what conditions make it really special.

    Colin, I was too angry for much rational thought after the pro talked to me. I used to be a commercial fisherman so the expetives just rolled of my tongue naturally but the gears upstairs were dissengaged by that point. Coincidentally a couple of months earlier I was staying at the same bear camp where one of them was holding a workshop. He wasn't the one who tried to get me to move. I don't begrudge those guys making a living but it is taking it a bit far when they think they have the right to do so at others' expense.

    It always amazes me when you see people set up for sunrise/sunset photos that they typically stand trasfixed on the same horizon the sun is transiting. Rarely do you see people look around at all of the other possibilities that may exist at that magical time of day.

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    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    These two images put a lie to your statement that landscapes are challenging to you. Really nice.

    More likely, like for all of us, nature doesn't cooperate when you want or you just can't seem to get an image of what you see into the camera. I am very used to chucking out 90 percent of the stuff I shoot for landscapes because of my inability to capture something decent, lack of ability to compose or the light is just horrid and flat.

    One thing I have noted. Everyone says use a wide angle for landscapes. I find that a telephoto zoom is my friend because I seem to have weird telephoto vision and the only way I get what I perceive is to compress the scene.

    As you pointed out in your case serendipity is the usual way I get most of my nature shots. Planning seems to work only rarely for me.

    Are scene hog photogs rare? Where I live I am usually the only person around. I am frankly appalled by this behaviour. On the few occasions I had to share a vantage point I went out of way to share a particularly good position with my fellow photographer. (After getting my shots of course, I may be an altruist but there are limits!)
    Last edited by tbob; 15th August 2013 at 11:43 PM.

  7. #7

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    These two images put a lie to your statement that landscapes are challenging to you. Really nice.

    More likely, like for all of us, nature doesn't cooperate when you want or you just can't seem to get an image of what you see into the camera. I am very used to chucking out 90 percent of the stuff I shoot for landscapes because of my inability to capture something decent, lack of ability to compose or the light is just horrid and flat.
    My cull ratio is higher than 90 percent. I know that one of my challenges is that I rarely dedicate time to go out and shoot landscapes. They are typically "bicatch" either because we're traveling through someplace iconic at whatever time of day it happens to be or when I'm out shooting wildlife and a chance scene/lighting arise for which I'm willing to take time out.

    One thing I have noted. Everyone says use a wide angle for landscapes. I find that a telephoto zoom is my friend because I seem to have weird telephoto vision and the only way I get what I perceive is to compress the scene.
    Likewise. Maybe because the vast majority of what I do requires telephoto and that's what I'm comfortable with. Even when I use my 16-85mm I find myself shooting at the high end of the zoom range. Shooting waterfalls etc. I often shoot what might be called "microscapes" which are just a small intimate part of the overall scene. I do much better with those shots. But I think that tendency/preference is also a personality trait. I can stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and get engrossed in so little cactus plant or one specific rock formation. I'm constantly amazed by the little details in nature and yet don't really like macro photography.

    Are scene hog photogs rare? Where I live I am usually the only person around. I am frankly appalled by this behaviour. On the few occasions I had to share a vantage point I went out of way to share a particularly good position with my fellow photographer. (After getting my shots of course, I may be an altruist but there are limits!)
    I wouldn't call it a big problem but it is far from rare in national parks and other iconic locations. Also at those locations there is typically a fairly international set of people and I can't say that I've noticed one culture being any better/worse than another. There are two distinct categories. There are the pushy serious photogs with thousands of dollars worth of gear who seem entitled to do as they please, then there are the point and shoot tourists who are clueless and step in front of your tipod in the middle of a long exposure. The second group are aggravating but not ill intended. The first group are the ones who really ranckle.

  8. #8

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    The very few landscapes that I have successfully coughed out fall into that "I was forced to get creative" category . To paraphrase a quote "Photoshop has been very good to me".
    I go out in the evening on my electric scooter, with a video head attached to the handle bar, hey I'm 70y/o, gimme a break, and shoot thingys, be they bugs or flowers or critters.
    Lucky to see a 2% true keeper rate to run through PS, getting "creative" mind you.

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    Some good images and points made. Imo best inspiration for those with exhausted ideas is for someone to ask you to shoot for them. Jump to it and don't let go that chance. Of course making visits to places never visited before can provide for anticipated inspiration so don't forget your camera.

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    Re: Inspiration out of Desperation

    Dan, I really enjoyed this thread. Great photos, and a motivational message. Thanks

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