The Be Attitudes of Photography

 Great Smoky Mountains, Cade's Cove

Great Smoky Mountains, Cade's Cove

Over the past year several posts were made on this blog talking about what you should be as a photographer.  Below is a compilation of all those posts.  Read through them and apply them to your photography as needed.  Enjoy!

Be Educated

Photography is a broad subject.  From food, nature, portraiture, weddings, all the way through sports and action.  If you are new to this art you can quickly become overwhelmed by this.  My suggestion is find what aspects of photograph interest you the most and become educated.

While there is an option to become traditionally educated through college it isn't the only avenue available to you and those are the ones mentioned here.  


There are countless books written on the subject.  If you do a bit of research in whatever aspect has gained your interest you can find great books to help you get started.  If you aren't sure there are some general photography books available which cover many different areas.


You can find an almost limitless supply of photographic information online and never have to pick up a book.  However, do your research as not all online photography sites are equal.  There are a few popular ones where poor advice is the norm.


Workshops are perhaps the best way to further your photography education through instruction and hands on learning.  There is a theme within all of the this which you may begin to notice.  Do your research as not all workshops are equal.  Some photographers use workshops as ways to pay for their trips to exotic locations where their own images are the most important part and the participants are left in the cold.  Read the reviews to ensure you are getting quality instructors who are focused on you.

Photography Clubs

I am the president of a club here in Homestead, FL called the South Florida National Parks Camera Club (SFNPCC) and we are focused on helping educate our members.  Photo clubs can be a great tool to help new and experienced photographers learn and expand their craft.  If nothing else it will put you in contact with local people who share a common interest.


There is only so much you can learn from books, the internet, and workshops and clubs.  You have to get out and practice on your own.  This way you can put to use all the time spent reading and learning from other photographers.  


Whatever route you choose (and I recommend all the ones listed above) it is important to Be Educated.  It is through knowledge we photographers grow our craft. 


Be Prepared

Summertime in the Everglades National Park is, in a word, brutal.  It is not a hospitable environment for those of us who spend most of their day in air conditioned buildings.  I didn't realize this when my wife and I first moved down back in 2005 and so I put on my shorts and my short sleeve T-Shirt one morning and headed out for sunrise to see what photographic opportunities awaited (no bug spray either).  I drove and drove until I found the place I wanted.  This place had the potential to yield beautiful sunrise reflections in the water and the small mangroves growing there.  So, I got out of my car and started setting everything up and just as the sun started to rise I realized my mistake.  It only took a few moments for every inch of my exposed skin to be covered in biting flies and mosquitoes.  I screamed (a high pitch shrill of a scream), threw all of my stuff in the car, left the Everglades, and didn't return for two years.  Why did this have such a negative effect on me?  Because I wasn't prepared.

You might be asking why I just don't go in the winter?  Well, I do go in the winter but the Everglades truly come alive in the summer time.  The water is up, the skies are filled with dramatic clouds, and storms roll in and out daily.  I often say the best time to be in the Everglades is also the worst time.  You may also be asking why in the world would I keep going back?  That's an easy answer; because I want great photos.  The more I go the more I learn and the more I learn the more I want to go back and the more I go back the greater photo opportunities present themselves.

After my initial experience I started piecing together what I needed to survive the Everglades in the Summer.  Each time I would venture out I would come back with some "thing" that I needed to make it through the next time.

This is not just applicable to the Everglades.  This applies to any location you are planning to photography.  Research the area and the average climate in order to properly Be Prepared.


Be Deliberate

There are well known photographers out there that preach the spray and pray method of photography.  If you aren't familiar with this concept is is where you take gobs of photos in rapid succession in the HOPE of getting a good photograph.  I would encourage you to first take a different approach to your work.    

When you get to an area take the time to survey the scene before you extend your tripod legs and plop the camera right on top.  It is a good idea to leave the camera off the tripod so that you can easily look at different compositions.  Once you find what you are looking for then set your tripod up to reflect your vision for the photograph.

Try and envision the end result before you ever snap that first photograph and Be deliberate!  


Be Flexible

Okay, you have spent a good bit of time and money getting to the location of your dreams.  You have pictured this moment in your mind so many times and educated yourself on what to do and what photos you want to take.  Then, you get to the top of the mountain and you are completely socked in with fog.  Not the good kind of fog but the fog you can cut with a knife.  What do you do?

The above scenario has happened to me on more than a few occasions.  The weather and I always seem to be at odds with one another.  Admittedly the first few times this happened it ruined my day.  I would spend the rest of the time driving back and complaining about what just happened.  Hmmm...  I wonder how many photos I missed because I wasn't willing to look?

Be Flexible.  The day doesn't have to be ruined because the scene or area failed to meet your expectations.  If you look hard enough you can find other things to photograph.  Being flexible is the mark of a good photographer.  Being able to consistently produce quality images regardless of the situation is what you must strive for.

The two images above were shot on a day much like the one I described above and the capture only took place because I refused to let the situation end my day.

Granted, there are times when the weather is so against you the day has to be called but honestly, those days are rare.  Learn your craft and learn to Be Flexible.


Be Healthy

On one particular trip to the Everglades  I decided not to go where I thought the best image would be.  Why did I do this?  Because I was so out of shape the general idea of walking through waist high grass and ankle deep water was an exhausting one.  You see most of my life I have struggled with my weight and general lack of exercise.  I am certain I missed the shot I should have gotten.  There were other days too where staying on the couch seemed like a much better option than getting to the glades because it was a struggle physically to traipse around in the wetlands.  How many shots have I missed because I just didn't feel like going?  What opportunities passed me by because of my health?

Sometime in October of 2015 I started hitting the gym on a 4 to 5 times a week basis.  Since then I have been able to spend a great deal more time in the Everglades going places I never figured I would go.  Getting off the couch didn't seem like such a burden any more.  My energy levels have dramatically increased as well.  But something else happens when you are healthy I hadn't considered.  Creativity.  Because I was no longer concerned about the heat, the bugs, how high the grass was, or how far out I had to walk I could think about the image I wanted to make.  I could explore a subject and only think about the subject.  

I have a long road ahead to be really healthy but the benefits are more than worth the efforts.  So, to help improve your photography and overall quality of life...  Be Healthy. 


Be Respectful

Sometimes we photographers focus on the image we are trying to create and we forget about others.  The others can be our families, tourists, workshop participants, other photographers, or even the wildlife.  

With all of the negative press we photographers get we are starting in the hole already and you would be amazed at how a little courtesy goes a long way.

One day I was out at the Anhinga Trail looking to take some bird photos and came across and individual who had a nice 500mm lens on a gimbal head and he was all set up at a popular point.  This point has enough room for two, maybe three people to stand and observe the scene/wildlife.  He was plopped right in the middle with a large bag on his left and another camera on his right.  He was taking up the entire area.  I attempted to make general conversation but was completely ignored.   Worse than that are the tourists who had come to enjoy the park would stand way back and try to peer from a distance for a glimpse of the wildlife.  

Being a photographer and the president of a photography club I have had the pleasure of knowing many photographers and I can tell you that this guy is NOT the norm.  But what do you think all of those tourists think?  There is a large chance they will transfer what happened to them to other photographers they come across.  Thus, damaging our image further.
Lastly, we should not just be thoughtful and kind to other folks because we don't want our image tarnished...  We should do it because it is the right thing to do!


Be Better

Recently I was at my son's orchestra rehearsal and the conductor said something that resonated with me.  He was talking to the kids about what to strive for.  He said you should never strive to be good or to be excellent.  He said you should always strive to be better.  "Don't be good, be better.  Don't be excellent, be better.  Don't be great....  be better".

This has real application in photography.  There are times when you might think you have seen everything, that there is nothing else to learn.  Believe me, I have met several photographers that are convinced they have "arrived".  But as photographers we should always be learning and trying to grow.

We should be seeking ways to "Be Better" not only in photography but in life.