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on Jan 4, 2011 in Tech Tips

Planning for Goals

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My New Year post was pretty popular and brought in a number of questions. A frequent one I differed to answer until today rather then repeat myself 30 times thinking it might help a few others in the process who didn’t ask the question.

The bottom line was, “Goals are great, but how to you find a goal and then plan for it?” Or you could rephrase that and ask, “How do you plan to shoot something you’ve never shot before?” That’s a damn good question, one I’ve faced many, many times in my career and one I’ve spent a whole issue of the BT Journal just to answer. That’s 28pgs trying to answer that one question! You gotta start with a target, something you wanna photograph. This most often starts with a photograph you saw and it struck you, you decided it was an image you’d like to take and have for yourself. A very common species folks wanna photograph are Grizzly Bears (can’t blame ‘em). I tend to start by once seeing that photo that catches my imagination, finding out where that photo was taken. That knowledge and being there doesn’t mean you’ll get that photo but it does have the potential.

Probably the #1 mistake photographers make is thinking that just because you do your homework and put in the time it means you’ll comeback with the photographs. I wish it worked that way, I really do, but it don’t. I’ve been skunked a lot and often by “freak” things mostly weather related. No matter, you do your homework based on what you’ve learned and put your best foot forward.

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Once you have figured out what you want to photograph, what your goal is to accomplish, you’ve gotta think through the problems you might come up against. How can you think about problems about something you’ve not even photographed before? How about we stick with weather. Finding out weather history for a location for a particular time of year is pretty easy these days with the web. You’re heading to Alaska for Grizzlys, there are some months you are guaranteed to get rained on. If you don’t plan for that problem, you could have real problems! What does rain bring to Alaska, BUGS! What does rain bring to Oshkosh? Very limited parking for plane camping. Can you plan on that in advance? No way. But whether it’s bears, planes, birds or rocks, one thing your homework will help you plan on is the gear that’s needed to make the photograph. If your longest lens is 200mm and you’re heading to Brooks for bears, you’ll come back short. You’re heading to Oshkosh with only a long lens, you’ll miss a lot of images a simple 24-70 would capture.

This is a very important question every photographer should be asking about all their photography. It’s an answer I wish I could answer in one posting but I know I couldn’t with a month long series because there are so many variables. But this is a start. Hopefully the next posting will fill in a couple more holes.