When I first started to take photos in London (or pretty much anywhere), it would be a rather fast, disorganised ordeal from clicking away, taking hundreds of images around the city, to then getting back home, wading through and editing the images. I had no real plan or agenda when I would head out, there was no pre-meditated intention other than being there with my camera and the results certainly showed. I would occasionally take an "ok" photo but rarely would I take a photo I really liked such as the one below, taken more recently, which I would be happy to hang on my wall.
At the same time, all this was going on, I wasn't giving the right attention to the images I was taking. Nowadays I know I have a "keeper' the minute the shot is taken and I will be excited to get home and produce the final result. Way back when, I might not have even remembered the shots I'd taken and it wouldn't be until I viewed the images later that I would know if I had captured anything noteworthy.
Fast forward over ten years to today, and my photography is much calmer and deliberate. The photos I take are now more considered, pre-visualised and in nearly all cases, intentional.
Read on to see how slowing down the three stages of my photography process has contributed hugely to helping me become a better landscape photographer.
Stage 1: Planning the shoot
Before I head out to take photos, in most cases I will know exactly where I am headed and how long I need to get there. This might be because of previous scouting I've done or have used online tools such as Google Maps and other photography sites for inspiration such as 500px and Flickr.
Once I know the subject I intend to shoot I will check the right time to shoot with Suncalc.net. SunCalc will tell me what time the sun will rise and set on any given day as well as the angle of the sun at any time so I always know the best time of day or even time of year to capture the subject in great light. I will also use apps to check the weather such as MeteoEarth which will show me the expected cloud cover, wind direction or if rain is expected. Although with the famous English weather there are never any guarantees, with these tools I am able to increase the chances of coming away with a great shot of my chosen subject.
The important point to all of this planning is that if all goes to plan, I won't be rushing to get to a location and fumbling around trying to figure out a composition while missing the best light. The shoot should be calmer and more controlled allowing me to focus on taking the shot.
Stage 2: Taking the shot
It pays to find tools to help slow down your photography. One of the first tools I started to use was the trusty tripod. Tripods are a must for landscape/cityscape photography and having my camera attached to one of these automatically slows the picture taking process down as there is always an element of set-up to be done, adjusting the height, levelling the tripod head and so on.
In addition to the tripod, filters also help me slow down the process quite a bit, especially as I use a filter holder system which takes a little more setting up than the screw in kind. I use the system made by Formatt Hitech which I have found to be great to use with really high-quality filters. Popular amongst us landscape photographers, filters can be used to help balance the light in a scene or reduce the light for long exposure photography.
It is important to note that these tools can slow you down, but should not hinder you while in the field. Sometimes you need to act fast and being familiar with your tripod and filters can be the difference between catching a stunning shot with the best light or an average shot when the best light has disappeared. Having slowed down the process of capturing images, it allows me the time to focus on getting the right composition, the right light, removing distractions around the frame. Essentially getting as much of the finished image in camera as possible.
Stage 3: Post Processing the image
When I started to slow the process of taking photos down, one of the results was I now have far fewer images to process after the shoot. This is a good thing. I use Adobe Lightroom to for almost all of my processing but I rarely use presets so I edit from scratch for each image. Check out a recent post when I edited the Sunset at the South Bank image shown below.
With fewer images to edit and getting more right in camera, I spend less time overall editing photos. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy editing images, but I just don't have the time or patience to process through hundreds of them for each shoot.
So, there you have it, slowing things down allows me to head out to capture my chosen subject in good time, focus on the important things such as light and composition while capturing the shot and saves me time in the post-processing stage. All of these combined have resulted in my photography taking a huge leap forward from where it was before and I recommend it to anyone who might be looking for a way to progress further along their own photography journey.