What’s your excuse?

The forecast for the next week around Edmonton is for even more snow. We’ve had a week of gray, dull, overcast days and that makes shooting really difficult.

I can drive for hours on end in this weather and return home with a few photos. I’ll end up deleting almost all of them anyway or I can post them and then apologize for them not looking the way that I want.

Here’s something that I strongly believe in. If I have to make excuses for a photo, then as the kids say, fail. If it doesn’t meet your muster, delete it.

It’s difficult when you’re first starting out to be critical of the photos you take. If the horizon is level and all the tones are properly exposed, for most beginning photographers, that’s a positive.

Digital photography makes it many times easier to get to even an intermediate level than film photography. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot some more.

I’ve written a few times before about how I shoot and edit. If you were to see me before sunrise near the side of a road, one thing that I wouldn’t be doing is standing still. There is a very small window available to you to capture the very best light. I tend to shoot as many variations of that sunrise as I possibly can as quick as I can.

For a typical sunrise that might mean getting from ten to twenty four different looks. Into the sun. Away from the sun. Looking down. looking up. This foreground. That foreground.

I put the camera on the tripod, quickly compose, shoot and repeat. It goes very quickly and then it’s done. Over.

When I get home, I do a quick review and edit in the camera. During the first edit the obvious deletions are made. If the scene looks “wrong”, that usually means the composition doesn’t work for me, I delete the image. A few hours later, I go through the images in the camera a second time. I usually end up deleting even more photos. The ones that I might have been on the fence about are easier to decide about when you’ve gotten a little distance from shooting.

It’s now that I upload the remaining photos to my computer. As they upload, they preview. I write the numbers of the images that catch my eye and usually end up processing them. What works as a thumbnail on the camera back doesn’t always look good as a larger preview and the same thing goes for uploading to the computer.

I still process images from this edit and end up deleting even more. It’s kind of like using a finer and finer sieve. Each successive edit is more critical. The resulting photos are usually ones that end up going to agencies and from there the agencies do their own editing. Because I edit so tightly, eighty to ninety percent of what I usually submit is accepted.

No excuses. Only your best.

Happy shooting,


ps. I won’t be posting for a few days. It’s off to the mountains where the forecast is great for skiing but not so great for photography.

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~ by Dan Jurak on March 29, 2011.

6 Responses to “What’s your excuse?”

  1. Thank you for these tips. As a beginner I need to be more critical of my work!

  2. I’m sorry…. BAD LIGHT?!
    There is always something you can do with dull skies.
    Sure, it will not look like your usual sunrises but sometimes ‘bad light’ is well worth exploring. Get out of your comfort zone.

    Maybe I’m just not pro enough to understand light yet. :p

  3. @ Olivier, I respectfully disagree.

    I see lots of really bad, flatly lit images that don’t work. Shoot for the kind of look that appeals to you.

    I won’t critique someone elses photos for the same reason that I won’t tell them how to dress. Because I don’t like something doesn’t make it wrong. It only means THAT I DON’T LIKE IT! :)

    If you are referring to me about getting out of my comfort zone, what makes you think that I don’t ever shoot in terrible light? I have and I have deleted almost everything shot like that. I don’t care for that look, MOST of the time.

    Nice comment about being pro. Sarcasm noted. I’ll make a point of attending your next seminar. :)

  4. Why… well because you only show sunrises with a wide angle. (no offence)
    Sure that is your style, I know that. But you are missing out on a lot. Why don’t you post some experiments with that ‘flat light’

    Lately I like to experiment (wait that’s the wrong word, explore would be better) different styles of landscape photography that I like.
    Who says that the only landscape photography that works are spectacular sunrises? Why can’t a thick foggy empty landscape work? Sure – to put it in your words – the light looks ‘flat’ but that light can help you express a feeling or emotion better than a spectacular sunrise could.
    I always chuckle when pro’s go like “the light was bad, uninspiring, flat, blahblahblah”. What about ‘understanding the light that is in front of you and working with it’ thing?

    Just my opinion.

    No hard feelings? ;)

  5. @ Oli, I have plenty of images with flat light. I don’t like them. I don’t post them. My opinion.

    Unless they are either very strong graphically or very sublime, two opposites, flat light doesn’t usually work.

    I love the fog, which is flat light. Most of the time what looks great in person isn’t conveyed on the screen or in print no matter how hard you try and convince yourself or others. There is a reason why when it is foggy, I tend to shoot into the light, it gives direction and depth to the landscape. My preference.

    Now leave me alone. :)

  6. No excuse. I did 178 shots Tuesday and every one of them needs extensive fixing due to the last snow and HDR. The bare trees also bring out the worst in CA with the sun angles and bright sky. There are only 3 colours in all of them: dead brown, sky, and dirty snow patches. That’s why it’s best to wait 3 weeks for a bit of green to show. Light was good though.

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