There are times in photography where it is easy to get caught up in the moment of capturing images. The focus turns entirely into nailing settings and working hard for the best light. I found that especially when starting out or in the middle of a big photography trip I will ignore anything and everything that doesn’t contribute to me taking photos. While this does make sure I come home with a lot of images on memory cards I am not really enjoying the adventure as much as I could be and I don’t think I am doing my best work.
Thinking back to when I started out in photography, I did things for the love of it. I would go on a trip or a hike to enjoy the activity and if I happened upon something I wanted to take a photo of I would break the camera out. While things have changed for the better in most ways this mindset of just capturing images and anything else is a distraction is narrow and dangerous.
I end up missing out on the little things that made these adventures so enjoyable even if there wasn’t an image to be made there. There is also the danger of getting no images to take home or even worse when the photos I take don’t pan out like I had hoped. I have talked about it before on the blog and it is worth reiterating that if you have the expectations to capture portfolio images on every trip you are setting yourself up for failure, and if you don’t take failure well then things can start to really wear on your mental state.
The other issue with being focused on photography all the time on adventures is it will start to hurt your photography in a couple of ways. When trying to look for compositions all the time you can end up worn out quickly from over analyzing each landscape. This is meant to be a passive craft to some extent when in the field. Yes, there is practice to be done with composition, settings, and knowing conditions, but once you have a firm grasp of the basics it should start to come to you naturally. Do what feels right in the field and analyze what did and didn’t work when you get home.
Like I said earlier, the transition from being present on adventures to focusing too much on photographing it caused me to miss out on the littlest things. While they don’t always lead to an image they can also be part of the better images! A good example of this is when I was in the UK recently I saw a really neat tree that I knew I didn’t want to photograph, but it was massive and only just off to the side of the trail. While walking around it I saw a small section of trees that were subtly curved at the bases of the trunks. Had I not been wandering and enjoying the landscape for what it was I would have likely walked right by never taking the camera out.
The last point I would like to make is that if you are taking the camera out too often to try compositions and take images for the sake of taking them you make it more likely you will miss out on the best shots! I have been on plenty of trips where I kept trying things on the trail setting up the tripod and taking test images before moving on that when I finally got to where I end up shooting it wasn’t ideal compositionally or I missed the best light entirely. I try to avoid this issue now only stopping when I see a photo that must be taken. If I am looking for a place to shoot in the best light I will walk around the area more before settling on a place to drop the tripod. This skill takes time and practice to know when and where, but being sure to only shoot when it makes sense to will help to drastically improve the number and quality of your portfolio shots!
Wrapping up, I still get a bit too focused on the photography side of adventures and trips. It isn’t easy to find the right balance and it is going to be different for everybody and on different trips. Getting back to what made you want to pick up a camera and capture photos in the first place though is a great choice to make. Make yourself happier while in the field and enjoy the experience more. As a side bonus, you will take better photographs!