Hey Landscape Photographer! Make Your Own Luck

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Europe Gallery / Arches Across the Fiume / Buy a Print

I'm predominately a landscape photographer. I love being outdoors, experiencing the rhythm of nature, and capturing those moments. Although, moments are fleeting.

There is no doubt luck plays a role in whether or not I come away with "that shot". The light is in a constant state of flux, weather forecasts lean toward educated guesses, and golden hour is a mere sliver of time to get your shot. And you have no control over any of it.

Yes, you can plan ahead. And that's a very wise thing to do. Before I go out for a shoot, I know when and where the sun will rise or set, if the tide is coming in out going out, if the skies will be clear or cloudy. I research interesting subjects around my chosen location. I look at other photos taken at that spot. I head out into the field with a vision of "that shot" in my head. Just remember that nature trumps planning. Always.

So what can you do? Make your own luck and be persistent. Visit that choice location again and again. The weather and light will eventually cooperate and you'll get that shot you're after. If conditions are abysmal, turn the outing into a scouting expedition. Take shots to test out compositions, different focal lengths, etc. Really explore the space. Like the old adage goes, "patience is a virtue". We cannot bend the environment to our will. Be patient, try again and again, and "that shot" will come.

Here's an example. Last April, I was in Florence, Italy. I had five days. I knew I wanted a shot of the bridges crossing the river, a wonderful sky, something memorable. Every morning and every night I went to the bridges for a shoot. On my third day, the river was extremely still, the water's surface like glass. I came away with the shot you see at the top of this post which I'm very happy with.

As for the other days... meh. Here's a sampling those not so inspiring shots. Click for larger versions (if you dare :)

An uninspiring shot of the Ponte Vecchio. Dull sky, no reflection in the water. Actually, all around bad composition, too. What was I thinking?

A shot of the Ponte alla Carraia I tried to save in post. Lousy, Sky is interesting, but again, no action in the water.

My last sunrise in Florence. This shot is actually quite nice, pleasing, peaceful. Lacking foreground, however.

The lesson. Be persistent. And be nimble. Sometimes, we don't have the luxury of repeat visits to a location. Traveling is a prime example. While researching your location, look at photos taken there in a variety of weather conditions. When you're on location, if "that shot" isn't going to happen, shift gears and make the best with what nature has dealt you. Landscapes are generally about a foreground subject or the sky. If the sky is lackluster, de-emphasize it in your composition. Conversely, make the sky the star of the show when it's brilliantly lit up.

Keep at it. Persistence and flexibility are skills to develop if you love taking landscape photos. Do you have other tips, tricks, or rituals you use before a shoot? Drop a comment. This old dog likes learning new tricks.