Is this something you struggle with? I certainly do and it seams to go in phases, I have often asked myself “come on get out and take some images”, met often with the response no its raining or bad weather outside. In fact, I love landscape photography, and these are the best times to get out, but hey when I say its bad weather it means I can’t go out right?! Silly eh!
So, what am I doing about it? Well to be honest not a huge amount. What I come to realize in my photography journey is that I have in the past spent far too much time looking at other people’s work and not being content with mine, which is unfair as I’m very happy with many of my images but because I see others posting so much on social media etc, I automatically assume they must be out and about all the time.
Well, I decided I can’t just ignore this frustration, what am I going to do? What I have become increasingly aware of is the importance of being happy with what you create, just loving photography, whether you are out once a fortnight, once a week or every day, and not to base your success on how many times you go out taking photos but are enjoying those times you are out and excited by the results you have.
Now I’ve gotten to a point where I am happy taking my photography journey image by image. How did I get here and what inspires me?
Well a few things really .. firstly, I work in a city so I have started going out with my camera after work for a few hours, I find taking photos at night very challenging but also very rewarding as I love the tones and lights you get, even the most simple of images can look amazing at night. In addition to this I have had to get over my fear of using a large tripod in a city surrounded by lots of people – trust me this has made a world of difference to my images.
Taking the same image more than once. It may sound boring but that same image can look so different under different light and conditions and I was amazed with the results.
Knowing my limitations. What I mean by this, is you need to understand your camera’s limits in terms of ISO especially at night, those evenings when I have left my tripod at home I needed to find a balance between an acceptable image/noisy image with a high ISO and not blowing out my highlights, as you can have quite contrasting lights and darks. Also, I have a Nikon d750 which is not the smallest of cameras so I can’t be as discrete when photographing people.
Know your gear. Sounds silly doesn’t it but knowing how to use your camera is step 1 in photography but to be honest I think many people don’t take enough time to really know how to use their very expensive equipment. Have you considered using highlight weighted metering, what will happen if I change the white balance, what about HDR or the benefits of auto ISO, do you understand full manual mode? Plus, many more. Trust me it will help.
Using books. I discovered the Book Photographing North Wales by Simon Kitchin and Photographing the Peak District by Chris Gilbert and Mick Ryan. These have been a great help when planning a landscape photography outing. These books highlight keys locations to shoot, the coordinates to find the location, information on where to park and how to get to the location. Sometimes you just need a helping hand!
An aimless journey. Yes I know I just said the books I use inspire me but you cant beat an aimless drive somewhere rural in the hope you will find something interesting to shoot, be careful here though as you can get easily frustrated if you start to struggle and don’t get an image, trust me I have been there.
Who else inspires you? I’m sure I’m not the only one who scrolls through YouTube following photographers, looking at where they are going, their gear and being in awe with some of their images, as well as thinking “Why don’t my images look like that!”. Some of the people I am following are Thomas Heaton, Nick Page, Nigel Danson plus a few more.
Social Media. I am quite selective here as it can be overwhelming and annoying but yes, I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and 500px but I use social media not to gain followers but to see what images others create and by using social media as a photography planning tool. If you are planning a trip to Mam Tor in the Peak District then look on social media to see what images come out, it may give you some composition tips.
Google maps. If you type in a location, you cannot only see it on the map and in satellite view but also you can view other people’s images from this location. It does help with not only planning where to go, what images you want to take but also where to park and help with getting there.
Apps on my phone. I use PhotoPills, My Tide Times, Dark Sky, Magic Hour and OutdoorsGPS to help with my inspiration and planning. PhotoPills helps planning your compositions relative to light and the best conditions. My Tide Times helps with ensuring that if I’m walking out on the beach I won’t get caught out by the tide. Dark Sky helps with cloud cover in your area, Magic Hours tells you when the Blue/Golden Hour is and OutdoorsGPS makes sure I don’t get lost.
Re-editing images. This many sound strange but as my photography journey develops so do my skills at editing, I honestly look back at images I took years ago and go “What was I thinking!”. I have found that I edit my images less intensively now, the key here is local adjustments.
Learn to use all the tools available to you. If you are like me then you have a monthly subscription to Adobe CC where you get Lightroom and Photoshop and they are both amazing tools. Yes, at the beginning you will start to make your images suffer as you pump up the vibrance, contrast and clarity etc but as I have mentioned above local adjustments will make all the different. Learn how to really use Lightroom and Photoshop, use your brush tools, high pass filters, layer masking, blending modes, clone stamp and for the advanced luminosity masking and there is so so much more to learn. Knowing what you can and can’t do in post helps you when taking images. There are plugins you can buy that also help, but please note these are a good starting point and my feeling is that these should be toned down. Nik Collection is free to download, and I also sometimes use Topaz plugins.
I’m sure there are other ways in which you could inspire yourself, but you first have to be happy with yourself and your journey. All the above has helped me to go out and take more images.
Below are some images I took a few weeks ago after work.
If you read this blog it would be great to hear what inspires you……