absent space [deleted] 10:25pm, 23 February 2015
In our world of relatively fast, easy, accurately exposed photographs it's far too easy to rush into and out of a shoot of a subject. After all, we don't have to set up and level a tripod generally. It's not necessary to struggle to get the view camera into place atop it, focus, make adjustments, refocus, measure the light with a handheld meter, set the aperture and shutter speed on the lens, close the lens, insert the film holder and remove the dark slide, shoot, replace the dark slide and remove the film holder, not to mention the processing of film afterwards.
Anyone who had to go through the above-mentioned process indeed took the time to consider the subject and to, as much as possible, find the most interesting point of view, most appealing angle, crop carefully, watch the background, and mostly assess the quality of light that was playing upon the subject.
I find that even when I force myself to use a tripod I tend to set up in the first position I find easiest to use physically, focus and shoot, check for decent exposure, then pick it up and move on to the next subject.
Now for most people whipping out the smart phone and taking that quick shot is fine and satisfies personal record-keeping needs, documentation of the event of the moment. I do that also. However, to take it up to the next level like big time landscape and nature photography for sale in a gallery or "out there," on a website, a few more steps will be essential even with our instant feedback digital cameras.
First of all, use a tripod. I don't care what the equipment guru in CA says, tripods aren't for wimps. The opposite would seem to be true. It takes a real man (or woman) to carry one over hill and dale. Using a tripod allows you to compose carefully and to be sure that when you press the cable release button what you saw is what you get. This especially applies to close up work since the framing is more critical than say for a sweeping landscape. Also, in close up work you must necessarily deal with slower shutter speeds because most often you'll be stopping down to compensate for the shallow depth of field that close subjects curse us with. You'll also want to be using the lowest ISO you can, further limiting the available shutter speed's....speed.
Before actually setting up on a tripod, though, walk around your subject with the camera hand held to find the best point of view and angle to shoot from. Of course only explore what you can set up the tripod to do. A worm's eye view will be hard to get on a tripod for most of us. Maybe if you have a stake and a 90 degree finder you can set up a steady camera in this way for that very low POV. Once you have your best position, set up the tripod with your camera.
I've recently discovered the joy of using live view on my Canon 5D Mark III. It gives a similar experience to using a ground glass on a view camera, only it's right-side-up and left to right orientation is "correct." It might be a good idea to find a loupe to place over the LCD to make viewing the composition and focusing easier. When I use it I will employ the magnifier for really fine focus, again, especially useful with macro or close up work where it really makes a difference where the principle plane of focus lies. You can preview the depth of field very nicely in live view as well if your camera has the depth of field preview button.
If I'm doing close up, I'll close the live view and use my mirror lock up to reduce vibration during exposure. After exposure I'll do a visual check on playback and consult the histogram. Does the subject's range of values warrant high dynamic range treatment? If so, take the time to bracket your exposures and use a good software package to do your exposure fusion. Might your landscape benefit from photo merge in Photoshop for a panorama? Consider that then.
If other points of view were also appealing, take those. Will the light change in the next few minutes or hours, or was it better earlier for this subject? Wait or return. Explore your subject in different seasons, or under different weather conditions. We never really see the same thing twice if you consider that photography isn't so much the recording of an object as much as it's the celebration of how light was revealing its presence at a particular point in time.
Could your moving water benefit from a slow shutter speed? Do that and take different timed exposures, HDR, or multiple exposures to gauge the effects of different techniques. I've done the same with tall grasses blowing in a strong wind. Get artistic.
Take your time with your subject and pre visualize what you'd like the final image to look like and work accordingly. You'll be pleased with the results. These ideas really apply to fairly static subjects, obviously. If you are shooting moving creatures or people then some compromises will be called for. Good luck with your shooting!
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