Workshop participants often ask about techniques they can use to improve their photography. Many are busy with work during the week, so their only shooting time might be on weekends. One thing we all can do to improve our shooting is practice a lot. When was the last time you went to the park and really worked on creatively shooting those boring mallard ducks? Of how about photographing flying pigeons in the street? This might not sound glamorous, but shooting sessions like these will improve your camera handling and technique….the better you know your camera, the quicker you can get that fleeting shot.
Recently I was in Kenai Fjords NP, and we were returning from a fabulous day of photographing in the park. On the boat ride back we had a flock of gulls that just hovered and soared all around the back of our boat. I was sitting there watching the gulls when I realized this was a great opportunity to photograph flying gulls against beautiful scenery. Better yet, these birds got really close to the boat, no long lens needed. So I started shooting…and shooting…and shooting. I shot at 10FPS with my D4, and experimented with different focus patterns, shutter speeds, focus modes…I couldn’t remember that last time I put my camera through so many different settings experimenting with my shooting techniques. About 500 frames into it I was really having fun. ‘Boring’ gulls were becoming as exciting as sea lions on the rocks. By 800 frames I was laughing like a giddy child; these gulls were as exciting as breaching whales. By 1000 frames I was almost losing my voice I was laughing so much. And I was getting some very interesting frames, only shots I could get by shooting hundreds of gull photos. I honed some of my shooting technique that day, and learned a few creative approaches to panning bird photography. Practice with that camera, even with ‘boring’ subjects, you will be a better photographer for it.