I adore landscape photography, the sense of well being, stimulation and enjoyment I take from being out with my camera is enormous. However, photography can be damn frustrating and in fact it can be bloody soul destroying at times. I don't want to hide this fact, I want to be open and honest, especially with people that are relatively new to it, as it can be a major turn off when we are trying to find your photography footing. We invest a lot of time and effort into our photography but there are a lot of variables that can hamper our success regardless of how much we prepare for a shoot. We have to deal with the unpredictability of the weather, we have to make the right decisions on our location, we need to be able to execute the shot when the chance arises and we need a large helping of luck on our side. Some of these aspects we can control, however there are some which are very much out of our hands. If you don't have the luxury to be able to go out whenever you wish then it isn't uncommon to hit a barren spell. I've had many spells like this and it isn't for the want of trying, however the elements seem to have other ideas. We are all going to encounter this at some stage, it's just part of the game.
It's OK to get frustrated and down hearted, it's normal. I don't know many photographers who don't get frustrated and go through barren spells. Social media has put huge pressure on people to dish up a constant supply of top quality content.......you need to be posting banger after banger (Instragram language, not mine) and get hundreds of likes, shares and retweets every single day. This simply isn't reality.....let me let you into a little secret.......not every time you go out with your camera are you going to get a world beating image. We tend only to show our successes on social media and not our failures. However I guarantee that the vast majority of photographers have had more failed attempts than successes. What we need to do as photographers is turn these frustrations into positives. We need to use our time efficiently and maximise every minute when we are out with the camera...regardless of the weather conditions we are presented with. We have to think about the long game, Instead of just packing up and heading home. In this blog I'm going to offer some points on how to best utilise your time when on a barren spell or presented with poor weather conditions.
If you can't get a shot on the day that's fine and it's very rare you will go to a location and get a winning image first time around. So I try and do some exploration of the area and scout out new locations for the future. You never know, you may just find a hidden gem. The perfect example is my image of the old wall on Park Fell, I discovered this earlier in the year after a failed sunset mission. Instead of going home, I had a really good explore and found the wall and also another couple of potential locations. If I'd gone home in the huff I wouldn't have found this location. There is nothing better than finding new exciting locations and it's a hugely important part of photography and a good amount of time should be dedicated to it, you will reap the benefits long term. Spend that extra few hours having a really good explore of your chosen location, you certainly wont feel like you've wasted your time.
An image I've had planned for a while after I came across this scene while exploring the area after a no existent sunset.
Refine your compositions:
If you find that killer location then it's worth spending the time refining your composition. Take that little bit of extra time to really think about your composition, consider what are the important elements, what you don't need in the image, look at the settings, take a test shot etc. As you are under no pressure you can really tweak and refine until you are 100% happy. Once you have done this then you are all set for when the conditions are good. This way you'll be nice and relaxed on the shoot, knowing you have a great composition and the settings you'll need to get your image. I've got a list as long as my arm with locations to revisit when the conditions are perfect....its just a matter of getting there, setting up and waiting for that light.
Brush up on your technique:
Just because the weather isn't ideal doesn't mean you don't have to get your camera out. Use this time and take that opportunity to work on your photography skills. There is no better time, as you don't have any pressure, time constraints or the worry of missing epic conditions. The more you practise the better you will become. Get to know your camera and its settings, work out what your lenses sweet spots are, practise hyper focal distance, if you don't already try using manual settings etc. The list goes on, there is always some technical aspect you can work on and then when those magic conditions arrive you'll be a technical whiz and ready to get your image.
An image I took on a pretty miserable day at Wastwater. I decided to practice some long exposures and different techniques. In the end it was worth it as I came away with a decent image.
Have a plan B:
If location A isn't going to happen then moving to location B which isn't as reliant on the weather is a great idea. I tend to visit locations like water falls, woodland or places where we can look for more intimate images. Landscape photography doesn't have to always be about the grand vistas. This can really channel our creativity and take us out of our comfort zone, which can help us to develop as photographers. If i know the weather isn't going to be great and this proves the case, I always make sure I have that back up ready and another location close at hand that will work in most cases.
Looking for different more intimate landscape images can really stimulate your creative juices:
Take a gamble and ignore the forecast:
We can spend a lot of time checking out the weather and evaluating if it's going to be worth while heading out or not. You have to take the forecast with a pinch of salt and the weather people have been known to be wrong from time to time. So my advise is always go out with the camera if you can, regardless of weather as you simply never know what your gonna get. Some times the gamble doesn't pay off but other times it does. I've gone out in the most atrocious conditions and come away with an image, on the flip side I've gone in very promising conditions and got nothing. So just embrace it, don't be afraid to get out in awful conditions because sometimes these can yield the best results.
An image where the forecast was for heavy rain, gale force winds and no light. I stood for 2 hours in those conditions and got 30 seconds of amazing light, sometimes the gamble is worth it.
Look back over your back catalogue:
If you can't get out then it's always worth going back through your back catalogue of work. You can review old images, re edit them and work on the processing side of your photography. Make plans for locations you want to revisit, rehash and update your website, get your work printed out, there is nothing better than seeing your images in print. This is also a great way to review your images and see how you can improve. My point is there is always something we can work on and improve.
Just enjoy being out and about and your luck will change:
If your not going to get an image, just enjoy the experience of being out and about in nature. Go for a walk or hike or just sit and take it all in and enjoy. It's not a major hardship spending time in the great outdoors is it? I'd rather be out than sitting at home being miserable. Your luck will change and all the failed attempts will be worth it to get that one shoot where it all falls into place. Hey look, landscape photography isn't easy and we need to develop patience, determination and perseverance if we want to be successful. The highs will always eclipse the lows and we just need to always keep this in mind...the next banger is always a round the corner.
I think you've got to just keep plugging away and keeping your mind open. It's so easy to throw in the towel and not bother but you'll probably feel worse for not making the effort. Luck, like the weather changes rapidly and the next killer sunrise or sunset is always around the corner. So just make the most out of any situation regardless if you get an image out of it or not.