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Know Precisely What You Can and Cannot Control

Good photography has a lot to do with choices and skill, and sometimes with luck or perhaps karma. Some things are within your control, and some are not.

You can't control the weather. Weathermen try to predict whether it will rain or snow but are helpless to prevent it or make it. As a photographer, you share the same limitations. You can control your degree of preparedness for possible weather, but are at the mercy of the rain and seasons when you stand before the vista you drove hours to get to. Yet bad weather can make for good photographs too if you are open to letting it and dressed for the occasion.

It's marvelous to be in the right place at the right time, at the peak for wildflowers that bloom all too briefly. But you can't control when the flowers bloom. They answer only to the runoff from melting snows and the rising thermometers. You can hike up to mountain meadow only to find yourself blocked by deep snow drifts, or you can find the going easy enough, but the flowers dried and faded when you reach your destination. Tracking yearly averages can help, as can reports from others who've given it a go recently. Today's social media has been a great boon to those of us trying to outguess the condition of trails and flower fields. Yet sometimes it is still possible to feel disappointment if things don't work out as anticipated. Being occasionally forced to find other subjects though can sometimes be just what is needed to spark a deeper encounter with creativity.

You can't control the depth of field you will have to work with given a particular lens, aperture and so forth. The laws of physics and optics are pretty much immutable. But you can control how you react to such limitations. You can always recompose and look for shots to avoid them. But you can also use them creatively to blur the background and isolate just the most important edge of your subject. Or you can use focus stacking software to create images that might have been if the rules didn't exist.

You can't control what time the sun rises, but you can set an alarm clock and drag yourself out of bed early enough to greet the dawn. Sunset photography is inherently easier for most of us than shooting at sunrise since we tend to be awake at that time already. At worst, it might mean juggling dinner schedules or other plans. At least as far north as where I live though, summer sunrises come awfully early and require effort to record with camera and lens. There's an old expression that farmers have to set their clocks by the sun. I think that's at least as true for photographers, or at least those who work outdoors.

You can spend a great deal if you set your sights on the best camera gear available, or you can concentrate on using what you have effectively. There's no doubt that access to quality equipment can make things easier, but no amount of money spent on lenses can substitute for being in the right place at the right time. And neither can substitute or the creative vision to see the possibilities of what is right in front of you. Or slightly to your left if you look for it.

Sometimes it can be tempting to dwell on the reasons you didn't get one image as opposed to what might have led you to find and capture a different image. Sometimes we fall into the trap of looking for excuses why things didn't work out as planned than what we might have done differently ourselves. Learning to achieve proper exposure is easy. Learning to adapt to circumstances and work with what you have can take time and practice.

Not everything is within our control. But enough things are that we always have choices. And that can make things quite interesting indeed.

Date posted: December 10, 2017


Copyright © 2017 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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The Myth of Being Born with It
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You're in Control

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