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See What You Are Missing!
by Steve Kozak, M. Photog, CR, PPA Certified


I frequently lead workshops in several unique locations across the county. Some of these destinations have a tendency to overwhelm the photographers who are experiencing the landscapes for the first time. From intimidating shelf roads around Ouray, Colorado to the vast dunes and beachscapes of The Outer Banks of North Carolina, the excitement of being outdoors in such an inspirational environment causes some photographers to miss many wonderful images. Here are a few tips that I like to share which help to make the most of your time working in such dynamic locations.


Work with a Plan
Try to approach each location with a shooting plan much the same way a movie director would shoot a scene in a movie. A director will establish a location for the audience by organizing the camera shots into three basic categories: wide shots, medium shots, and close-ups.


The Wide Shot Sets the Scene
When you approach a scenic location, you are able to look all around and gather a variety of details that make up the "big picture." A wide shot allows viewers to do the same thing by orienting themselves to the scene. This enables the viewer to put the elements together in context. This is where I would use Tamron’s 28-75 F2.8 or the Tamron 17-50 F2.8. Using either of these lenses at wide angle allows me to share the entire scene in the image. The ability to zoom in slightly allows me to compose the image exactly the way I want.


The Medium Shot Tells the Story
The medium shot compresses the major elements of a scene into a single image. This is a great time to look for foreground interest, framing elements, leading lines and other compositional tools. Again, my Tamron 28-75 F2.8 is the lens of choice. You might think I would use the 75mm end of the lens for my medium shots, but more often than not, I like to get as close to my subject as I can. This often means I am still using the wide angle end of the lens. I find being closer to my subject allows me to better capture the magnitude of the subject – especially as it relates to its surroundings.


Close-ups Provide Drama
Close-ups focus on the minute details of a scene. Telephoto and macro lenses frequently work well for close-ups. These lenses have less depth-of-field which allows me to isolate and separate the main subject against an out-of-focus background.


Shoot from Several Angles
It's a good idea to capture several images, and then change your position to shoot from a different vantage point. By moving around, you bring some elements of the image closer together while separating others. You also change what is in the background, either by including more environment or by separating the subject from the background. Search for the best vantage point, the most interesting composition, and the decisive moment.


Slow Down
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen workshop attendee’s jump out of the Jeep and take off almost running to start photographing. I have certain locations where I require participants to find a spot to sit down and spend at least 15 minutes simply observing the scene from a single location. This helps to focus their thoughts on the location and really take in all there is to experience from that one spot. This is the time to determine their shooting plan and it usually results in their seeing something they may have missed if they just started shooting away.


Keep a Journal
I have my participants keep a journal of each day’s activities. I know many of you will not want to do this at first—but you will thank me later! Try to write as you go and leave room for additional thoughts as you reflect on your experiences later. Include items such as: the name of the trail, the name of the waterfalls, the town or area, your experience getting there and what you experience while you are there. The images you take will mean more to you when you can connect the images to the experience you discuss in your journal. It is far better to share an image with someone and say, “Here is an image of The Mittens and Merrick Butte.” Showing off an outstanding image of “three big rock formations” does not sound quite as impressive.

Steve Kozak is an active member of the Texas Professional Photographer’s Association (TPA) and the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). He has earned the “Master of Photography”, the “Photographic Craftsman”, and the “Certified Professional Photographer” degrees from the PPA. Steve’s photographic work has been accepted into numerous exhibitions, including a prestigious EPCOT Eastman Kodak exhibit in Orlando, Florida. He also has works in the Loan collection that travels the world to promote the PPA. Steve’s work has appeared in numerous professional publications and he frequently writes for the Professional Photographer and Texas Professional Photographer magazines. To learn more about Steve, please visit his website at www.photoproworkshops.com.

Click here to download a printable version of See What You Are Missing Tips.
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