When Not to Take a Photograph

Every time I am out in the field, I knowingly pass by opportunities.

These opportunities are fleeting moments in time, potential photographs.

Sometimes these brief photographic “blips” are within a small space per square inch.

And most of the time, I am consciously aware I am passing them up.

Every step is another away from a photo, whether it is worth stopping is up to you.

In one of my ‘On Location’ videos, I was quite frustrated with how the day turned out photographically speaking. A lack of photos meant I ended up rambling on about the desire to find a subject instead of actually hunkering down and hitting the shutter button.

However, I did not want to get caught up in forcing a photo to happen. That added pressure can be useful in the right situation, however the inspiration still needs to occur first and foremost.

I had hiked over 15 miles that day since the light broke. Up and down hills and boardwalks, across creeks, far and wide around the landscape in search of compositions.

The new-to-me location was so spectacular that I became overwhelmed to capture it on digital pixels. By the time the sun had set, my desire and motivation incredibly dropped off.

I made it to the trailhead on the hill, where I could finally see the light I was missing out on while in between the hills and ravines. Despite setting a while before, the sun left an imprint in the sky that I wanted to work with.

Sometimes a photo can come from a happy accident.

I first saw this fascinating tree at the edge of the parking lot, and with the last bit of daylight after sunset I tried to work the scene. Due to the darkening light, I set the camera on a tripod and dialed the settings. A wide aperture of f/4.0 to let in all the light I could along with an 8 second exposure at ISO 100.

Composing the image was rather simple, a wide angle focal length of 16mm with the camera and tripod set as low to the ground as possible. This was to show the might and strength of this unique tree. Also a simple compositional problem to fix was a house in the background with porch lights glaring. I opted to position this distraction directly behind the tree from my position. Essentially the only light source was to be the last bit in the evening sky.

As expected, cars kept passing on by, their headlights buzzing from left to right. At first I avoided them altogether, hoping for a 30 second exposure to not be ruined by their glare. The tree was to be silhouetted and that was my goal.

In a moment of serendipity, the image below was one of five exposures and the last I took just minutes before leaving the location.

That fifth and final image was moving and compelling to me that I waited around a bit more to explore the idea. However something was holding me from pressing the shutter again. I simply couldn’t do it; this was it. I packed up and left soonafter.

If you want a moral to this story, let it be that the best moments and images can come as a surprise. You shouldn’t have to force the conditions to work, sometimes the possibilities come to you even if you didn’t want them in the first place. Like the car headlights, this wasn’t what I initially wanted to occur. Yet this became the highlight of the photo and trip for me.

Half of the battle when out photographing is accepting what you want to happen may never actually happen. This is OK.

Allow any energy and ideas to flow into composing the photograph. Sometimes you may be surprised what the results are.

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Published by Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a 25 year old photographer located in Beavercreek Ohio, United States. Specializing in wildlife and landscapes both big and small, Ryan has sought to capture many different natural locations throughout the Buckeye State and beyond.

One thought on “When Not to Take a Photograph

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