Why focus beats megapixels
08/02/12Many comment on the fast speed that I walk, even when simultaneously carrying the full camera kit. I know that certain things will slow me down, Haystacks or similar for instant. Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ve found another – altitude! For the past few days, I’ve been living my life above 8000 feet, that’s over 2000 mtrs and it is telling. This morning for example, Julia and I were scouting an area above Bryce Canyon at over 9000 feet and even a slight incline held me back. Apparently at this level, you only get 70% of the oxygen you need. Add in my not inconsiderable age and I have to acknowledge that it has made things harder. What this has also done is slow me down which in turn has made me take in the vistas, of which there are many, searching for the composition that will work.
Constantly reviewing the hand held compass to work out where the sun’s directional light will fall later on, has brought amusement to those around, but it is necessary.
In Yosemite, the usual vistas are well known and no doubt, every square inch has been explored by someone at some time. This should never thwart one’s own efforts to think outside the box; push creative skills or try very hard to find a new angle. Add to the mix the aforementioned use of directional light, moonlight or even flat low light, and making images with impact does also make you work hard at your photography. Being professional, adds to expectations which in turn makes me work even harder. I often say that it is easy taking photographs and it is. Images with impact however take effort for most, me included.
My usual day on a trip such as this, is up before dawn, travel to a location scouted usually the previous day, set up and wait for the light to do it’s thing or not as the case may be. If it does, then I have to capture the image as intended – checking and double checking histogram, composition and focus. Travelling half way round the world to experience that crushingly beautiful scene, with the right light at the right angle with the right mist in the right place, is a complete waste of time if the basics are not right. Forget your 24 or now 36 megapixels, if it is not focused correctly it will be a waste of time money and effort. So that is what I do, check, check, check. Where was I, oh, yes, then it is back to base for breakfast and a warm up. Most mornings have been 5-10 degrees C below zero, so fuel to warm up is a necessity. I follow this with a download and back up of the morning’s shoot, before setting straight back out again for further recce before returning around 2pm. If we haven’t grabbed a sandwich out, then we’ll grab one now, whilst checking in to the office and answering queries and emails etc. By now, in winter, it is time to head back out for the evening location. Here in the USA National Parks, even in winter there are hoards of Japanese tourists. Luckily these tend to disappear once the light starts to go or the wind starts to blow its icy chill. Sometimes these pre ordained shoots don’t work for you. Cloud drifts in and blocks out the directional light you so planned for. But you have to take that with the upside when it all comes together. As you will see from some of my images, I work well into twilight and beyond. Julia usually goes back to the car by this time to read her Kindle, before my work is done in the field and it is back to base. The images are again downloaded and backed up, before supper, a glass or two of whisky and bed before starting it all again in the morning. Unless of course, we have one of a number of the 300 plus mile drives to do to get to the next location. A restful break it isn’t, it is my work. I have one more shoot to do tonight before heading off again tomorrow. It is hard work, but I love it.