PHOTOGRAPHY LESSONS LEARNED
I’m a firm believer that each photograph holds some lesson or other. For this photograph I was reminded of the following lessons:
- Define your subject before you worry about the camera.
- Don’t let your first composition keep you from creating a better photograph.
- Walk around the area to evaluate various angles and perspectives.
- Be on the lookout for the little details to help your images stand out.
Recently I had the opportunity to curate my first exhibition as a professional photographer. The client wanted to feature photographs that highlighted some of the unique features of northern California.
I was, at first, overwhelmed by the diversity of landscapes within three hundred miles of my home in Santa Clara, California. Mountains, wetlands, desert, ocean, the possibilities are endless. Then I stopped to think about how I saw California until I moved here two years ago. The two major features that stood out were the endless coastline and the National Parks, like Yosemite. With these features in mind I hit the road to create a series of photographs for the exhibition.
HITTING THE ROAD – SHARK FIN COVE
Setting off from home, my first stop along the coast was the town of Santa Cruz. After wrapping in Santa Cruz, I headed north twenty to thirty miles to the town of Davenport. Here, tucked along the nearby rocky coast is an interesting spot known as Shark Fin Cove. At the mouth of the cove is a rock formation that gives the spot its name. From certain angles it looks like the dorsal fin of some gigantic shark.
I set up in a spot that matched a view I had seen online, then waited for the sun to sink for the day. However, as the afternoon wore on I started to rethink my composition. Because of a clear sky, a third of my frame lacked interest. Therefore, I decided to move to a different viewpoint.
Lesson 2 – Get to your location early. Take your time to scout. Don’t get locked into the first place you stop, because there are often better vantage points nearby.
As I approached the beach, the Shark Fin loomed ever larger. The larger it grew, the more interesting it became. Also, being closer to the rock meant that the crashing waves became a more prominent component of the scene. To me, they added a sense of dynamic energy to an otherwise static landscape.
I started to formulate a new composition as I walked around the new scene. This one would make the Shark Fin a prominent feature, but also captured the waves breaking on the rocks. Making my way onto the rocky outcropping revealed the still pools of water that helped to give the foreground added texture. All-in-all, my excitement level grew as I continued to walk around the area.
SEA-ING STARS – IT’S PUNNY, RIGHT?
While snapping some test shots, I noticed the sun was in a great location to create a beautiful star burst in the camera. A few shots later I started to look for a reflection of the sun in the small pools at my feet. To my delight, I found exactly what I was looking for! Pulling the camera up to my eye I could see not one but TWO PERFECT STARBURSTS in my viewfinder!!!
I giggled like a little kid as I shot frame after frame. After reviewing the frames in camera I shot a few more just for good measure. I’m pretty sure the smile didn’t leave my face until long after sundown that day. Just thinking about a double star burst brought me joy.
When the time came to select pieces to include for the exhibition this shot was a no-brainer. Unpacking the 30″x45″ metal print brought me right back to that moment, standing on a rocky outcropping, giggling like a little kid. Seeing the piece hanging on the wall made me swell with pride. This reminded me why I enjoy spending time outside working to capture unique moments of nature. – PS – That’s me.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
I hope you enjoyed this story and the lessons. I’d encourage you to look at your photos, both the ones you like and the ones you don’t, to see what lessons you can learn from them. If you are interested in learning how to plan your own landscape photographs check out this article at Digital Photo Mentor.
Thank you so much. See you on the trail.
Matt is a creative fine art landscape and commercial photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He stepped away from a successful engineering career in the midwest and moved to California to chase his dream of becoming a full-time professional photographer. Over the last two years, Matt has traveled the world chasing light and capturing one-of-a-kind landscapes.
He enjoys sharing his adventures with family, friends, and strangers along the way. When he is not hiking to a remote location, Matt enjoys volunteering for local and national conservation organizations. His mission is to share the world with people, inspire a sense of adventure, and to make a difference for the planet.