Here’s my routine…


7-12-13 Otter Point1

My camera is all set up for the shot I wanted to make when camped out for what was a stunning sunset at Otter Point in Acadia National Park. Believe it or not, this was my first serious attempt at making a photograph at this location (thanks Michael and Carol for the suggestion), though I have no doubt it won’t be my last. The jagged rock formations, the coastal pine trees, and the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean make this a really cool place to photograph. Here’s a recap of my evening spent there, and a brief insight into my routine…

7-12-13 Otter Point3

As with all new places, it takes a little while to get to know it, so I arrived here well before the sun was scheduled to set, and I wandered all around exploring the landscape looking for potential compositions. Different angles, different light, different rock formations, different weather conditions… truthfully, I could spend days here and never fully discover all of the possibilities, but on this occasion, I had to make do with an hour or so. Some people move quickly in this type of situation, especially as the sun starts to go down and the good light arrives, and they can end up making lots of good photographs. Me… I tend to “focus” on one composition, and I kinda stick to it (some might say that I get stuck) to make sure I come away with something I like. I learned a long time ago that if you can come home with just one photograph that you are pleased with – one that you might want to print – then it has been a good day. Here’s one that I like…

BH Otter Point1

Now… after I have settled on the composition that I like, as I wait for the light to peak, I do try to keep my eyes open and stay alert for other possibilities. I almost always have a wide angle lens (Canon 17-40mm f4) on the camera in these situations, and the unique perspective that can be achieved with this type of lens constantly intrigues me. I love how an object placed close to a wide angle lens is distorted to make it appear even larger, and I like to experiment with including near/far components to add depth. More often than not, I end up liking a portrait oriented composition more than a landscape one… I think that’s a result of the wide angle effect that can be attained with an interesting foreground element. I’ll check the focus throughout the scene using live view, I’ll bracket three exposures, each about a stop apart, so that if necessary I can blend for dynamic range back at the computer, and I’ll wait for the best light possible. Rarely will I deviate from the plan, and once I have honed in on a composition I like, rarely will I move my tripod and camera.

BH Otter Point6

Having said that, another lesson I learned a long time ago was to always look behind you, even if the scene in front of you is awesome… you never know what you might find. Here’s the view 180 degrees from the main composition I settled on. So, I’m slow and rather methodical in my approach to photographing a scene, and I kinda put all my eggs into one basket as it were with choosing a primary composition to work with. That’s my way of doing things and a glimpse of my routine… I’d be curious about yours.

23 thoughts on “Here’s my routine…

  1. Great series and great instructions. Having lived in the area for so many years I have had the opportunity to photograph it year round. Every season has its own special beauty

    • David Patterson

      Agreed… I love the fact that we get four distinct seasons, and that the park takes on a different look in each of them.

      • My pleasure. I always enjoy finding out about the creative process of others. I sometimes struggle with how long do I keep after one composition. Usually until I feel like I’ve got something that works. I certainly agree one shot per outing is a blessing.

        • David Patterson

          I’m lucky in that I can keep coming back to places like this to become more familiar with them. I had never actually been to this specific location before, and although I came away with a composition I liked, I’m absolutely positive that there are many more there to be discovered… especially at first light.

  2. Wow! (Or as my 21 month old would appreciate Wowee-Wowzer!) Absolutely stunning! I am just beginning to get into photography. I am planning on picking up a camera in the Fall. In the middle of purchasing my first home right now – so the camera will have to wait But I have to ask – is there a camera you might suggest for a serious beginner? And are there any specific books or websites you might recommend? Thanks so much! And by the way the second one is my absolute fave! Sharing on my blog & Twitter!!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Cat, and good luck with the blogging.. it’s fun isn’t it?

      As for a camera… you have a couple of choices. You can stick with a point and shoot… modern cameras are all pretty good regarding image quality (in optimal lighting conditions), you can explore more advanced cameras with lots of features, or you can jump into the more expensive world of semi “serious” photography and get a camera with interchangeable lenses etc. – known as a DSLR.

      With a point and shoot, the most important things I would look for are the level of image quality (not all camera sensors are equal), and the ability to use manual modes. Understanding the impact of choosing a particular shutter speed, or a particular size of aperture instead of going on full auto… there are creative decisions to be made that can help you make a better photograph than if you literally just point and shoot.

      Consumer reports just rated cameras, and these are the point and shoots they recommended:

      Top choices: Nikon Coolpix P330 ($380), Olympus Stylus XZ-10 iHS ($400), Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 ($350)

      Best Value: Nikon Coolpix L610 ($150), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH8 ($150)

      More advanced cameras will give you all sorts of features that you can leverage for creative purposes and will also give you better image quality in all conditions, especially when there is low light. Here are the CR recommendations in that category:

      Top choices: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 ($600), Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 ($1300), Nikon D&100 ($1500)

      Best value: Pentax MX-1 ($450), Sony NEX-3NL ($450), Nikon D3100 ($450)

      For the most creativity: Sony NEX-7K ($1,150), Canon EOS Rebel T4i ($750), Nikon D5200 ($900)

      I’ve got my “real” camera (Canon 5D Mark II), and then I have my most used camera (iPhone 5)… it’s always with me, and it’s my go-to camera.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      • Thanks so much for the fantastic info!! A friend of mine has a Rebel T3i I think or something close to that – so after a little research I’ve had my eye on the Rebel T4i for a bit. However, I use my iP5 a lot!!! It is my “go-to” camera as well – but I do want a “real” camera too… I’ll pick one up when this house business is over. But, in the mean time it is great to know someone as talented as you uses your iP5 camera too! 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on WahmCat and commented:
    A fellow blogger’s photography….stunning! It’s like the colors you might paint on a sunset that is in a magical make believe world – but are real and alive! Just lovely!

  4. Andrew Thomas

    David I love what you ended up with here…and it was very interesting to read your routine – its totally different from mine! I like to move around a lot as conditions change. One thing we agree on is that we are both happy to come home with one image from each excursion. The drive home knowing you have caught something special is a very satisfying feeling!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Andrew. I appreciate the kind words. I know I should be more flexible, but more often than not, I usually end up staying in one place and working one particular composition. If I get one keeper per outing, I’m more than happy. Everyone has a different approach to landscape photography, and that’s totally OK… in fact, that’s something I especially like about this crazy addiction.

  5. Reblogged this on 2 Guys Photo and commented:
    David Patterson has been a Featured Photographer at 2 Guys Photo and we’ve long admired his work. I thought I’d share this recent post from his blog because of the insight into his approach to photography. Thanks David for sharing with us.

  6. Thanks David for some insight into your masterful photography. I just reblogged at 2Guys Photo because I think we can all learn something from your approach. Best, Ed

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Ed. It’s a very simple approach… all about being there and soaking in the entire scene… the smells, the sounds, and of course, the sights. I enjoy coming home with a photograph that reminds me of the experience of being there.

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