Get Out and Take Pictures

Snowy Colorado Mountains

The image above was taken on a beautiful Colorado afternoon in the mountains. It was 1 degree F, snowing, and windy, about a foot of fresh snow. Awesome! Except for the wind. Still, an excellent opportunity to get out and take pictures!

This is a theme I keep coming back to. You don’t improve your technique or vision by sitting around thinking about it. You have to take pictures. And evaluate them and throw most away. Daily should be a goal. Up to a point the weather shouldn’t matter.

My inspiration comes mostly from the outdoors, so that is what I will talk about. If you do your work in the studio and that is where you get your best, most creative ideas, great for you. I will be outside taking my inspiration from the world around me and getting exercise, fresh air, vitamine D, etc.

Shoot in these conditions

Cloudy day? GREAT. Use that giant soft box to look for those soft light images you have been wanting to take. And if it is scattered, broken clouds that is great too. It gives much more interest to the sky.

Sunny? GREAT. Use it. In Colorado, where I am most of the time, the sun is harsh and clear, not filtered through a lot of atmosphere. Conventional wisdom is that you can’t take outdoor images during the middle of the day when the sun is overhead. I like to challenge that. It is a good creative exercise.

Raining? GREAT. Unless it is a thunderstorm or really pouring down pack up a minimal set of gear and get out. Your camera is probably more water resistant than you think. Just keep it covered as much as possible and wipe it down frequently. And it won’t hurt you to get wet.

Snowing? GREAT. See above. I love good snowy pictures. I am amazed at the range of moods I can find.

Fog? GREAT. I love it. I don’t get nearly as much practice with this as many people do. It is too dry here. But fog is great for moody, minimalistic compositions. And the junk areas you pass by every day take on a whole new interest when blurred by the fog.

Cold? GREAT. Bundle up and get outside. Take an extra battery, because your camera battery is not as robust as you are. Other than the battery, your camera is pretty tough. I have a beard and I sometimes come back with my beard completely caked with ice. You warm up.

Hot? GREAT. For me personally, this is one of the conditions I like least. I grew up in the southern USA. Summer days could be 110 F. I hated it and moved away when I could. Still, I challenge myself to go out almost every day in the summer. (It’s usually only in the 90’s here)

Practice leads to…

You get the idea. If you see a dedicated athlete, musician, writer, teacher, engineer, whatever, how do they get better? They practice. Every day. Obsessively. That is not all they do, but the good ones all do it.

That basketball player may spend hours shooting free throws or practicing layups. That is not playing a game. But the point is it is building the reflexes and the muscle memory that will be used in the game. Making the moves automatic.

When we are out for our daily practice do not have the attitude that every image has to be great. They won’t be. Mine are not even if I am trying to shoot good ones. Practice is to build skill. Plan on throwing most away.

And the process lets us evaluate what we are doing. We can think more about what we like and what we will avoid. We see what works for us and what does not. This leads to helping us to perfect our style.

I have mentioned before that one of my heroes is Jay Maisel. I think he is in his 80’s, but I believe he still goes out walking every day looking for pictures. He’s starting to get pretty good. 🙂


Have you heard music or other things referred to as a “discipline”? It is a very appropriate term. To build skill you must discipline yourself. The repetition, the striving to improve each time helps you grow into your skill.

Photography is no different. Constant practice helps us improve our skills. Technical decisions become quick and effortless. We learn to more easily analyze a scene and hone in on the part that is important to us. Most important, we learn what we want to bring to our images.

Plan on throwing most of your practice away. The real benefit of these images if learning.

Have you tried this? Do you agree? Let me know.