Trite but True #1: Research your subject

Over the decades I have tried to learn from the advice, suggestions, and rules given by other photographers. Some ideas I embraced immediately, other I resisted, and still others I just didn’t get. But the ideas were repeated again and again. I came to realize that if a wedding photographer in Taipei was telling me the same thing as a wildlife photographer in Alaska, I should listen-and try out the advice.So, for the next 13 days, I will share this oft-repeated advice by adding a new tip to this column. At the end, if you follow along and try to apply these ideas, you will save yourself years of trial and error. And you’ll have the experience necessary to know when the rule does not fit and what to do then.

Research your subject.

The more you know, the better you shoot.Moose Peterson gets great wildlife shots because he knows the behavior of the animals he is photographing. He can anticipate their behaviors and responses, thereby making the most productive use of his time in the wild-and increasing the likelihood he will capture an exceptional image. Cliff Mautner is a great wedding photographer because he gets to know brides and their world before fingering the shutter button.In my own landscape photography, research is the key. Here is a typical briefing book I prepare for each new area I go to photograph.

This one is for Yellowstone National Park. My briefing book contains maps, packing lists, checklists of things to shoot, more maps, information on the area, position-tables for sun and moon, details on campgrounds and hiking trails, weather forecasts, a wildlife checklist, and still more maps.
By studying the topography, geology, and weather patterns of an area, I increase the odds of making beautiful, informative, or provocative images. Yes, I could just hope for luck, but I’ve found that the more research I do, the luckier I get.

 

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