No, I am not suggesting you should uproot and relocate. Or join the great resignation and quit your job. These can be beneficial at times, but it’s not what I am talking about. I’m simply saying that art is a physical process. We need to move freely when we are are exploring for images.
Certain of the images I shoot require a tripod for rock solid sharpness. I actually like this, because it brings a discipline to the process. There is a trap many of us fall into, though.
When we set the tripod down it’s like it takes root. We’ve gone to the trouble of setting it up, leveling it, composing a shot, and we tend to not move it. It creates inertia. But perhaps that first place we put it was not the optimum location. We need to tell ourselves there is a better placement and we need to find it.
Use your feet
“When finding the right angle for a shot…’Move your ass’.” – Jay Maisel
Photography is a physical activity. At least for the type of outdoor photography I do. I walk. I stop and frame up a scene and take a picture. At this point, though, do I go on or explore options? Either answer is right depending on the situation. But are you confident enough in your compositional prowess that you know you got the best shot of the scene?
I have learned the hard way that many scenes can be improved by “working” them some. Take some more time. Move. Try another angle. Get higher or lower. Take a few steps to the side to eliminate a distracting background. Wait a minute for the light to improve.
In other words, once I have the shot, I need to look for ways to improve it. Most often, this involves moving, walking, squatting, thinking. One of the great technical advancements of digital photography is that we can see our image immediately. We can examine it and critique it to see how it could be improved. Do it if you have the time and opportunity.
I tend to quote the great Jay Maisel a lot. He is very quotable. Here is one that elaborates some on this idea:
“You find that you have to do many things, more than just lift up the camera and shoot, and so you get involved in it in a very physical way. You may find that the picture you want to do can only be made from a certain place, and you’re not there, so you have to physically go there. And that participation may spur you on to work harder on the thing, . . . because in the physical change of position you start seeing a whole different relationship.” – Jay Maisel
A great scene often has the opportunity to explore variations. Change the crop. Go in for closer detail. Vary the exposure. Look for an angle that shows better shape or lighting or gets rid of distractions. Moving even a step or 2 can make a large change. Out constant attitude should be, “yes, that’s good; how can I make it better?”.
Again, an advantage we have with digital imaging is that shooting these variations costs us almost nothing. Yes, we have to edit them, but the reality is, that is an embarrassment of riches. We might end up with 10 great images of the scene to choose from. It can be hard to pick the best.
Moving is an attitude
This sounds weird. Moving is an attitude? What I mean is that we should always be ready to explore chances of improvement of a shot. Don’t let our tripod get rooted. Have the flexibility to let ourselves try a different angle. That often involves physical movement.
I believe I have missed many great opportunities by shooting the first composition I saw. I now try to make myself explore variations and be willing to move. One of the great influences in framing a scene is the position you shoot from. And as Jay said, moving and trying new ideas gives us a new perspective on the scene.