Monday, June 8, 2009

Know Before You Go

There's a saying called the Five P's. It stands for Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. That's often the case when it comes to photography. Today's shot was taken in Watkins Glen Gorge in New York State. The hiking trail through the gorge is 1.5 miles long and has an elevation change of about 500 feet. The trip through the gorge takes you past 19 waterfalls. If you're into waterfalls, that's a pretty good falls per miles walked average. You may be able to tell from the accompanying shot (or maybe not), but it's dark in there. We decided to hike down from the top and take the shuttle bus back.

So, there we were, hiking along with cameras around our necks and me with a tripod slung over my shoulder. The cameras have matching quick release plates. Whichever one of us saw a shot would pop the camera onto the tripod and shoot away. As we walked many people looked at us askance. Well, truth be told, they were looking at me with a wary eye, carrying the tripod. Cameras aren't that rare in the gorge, but, apparently, tripods are. Like I said, it's dark in there. To get any sort of Depth of Field (F22) your ISO needs to be jacked up and your shutter speed still winds up at about a gazillion. One woman, hiking up the gorge, commented that she should have thought to have brought her tripod. If she was interested in a shot like this one, yes. If she wanted a shot of "Dad and the kids in the gorge", no. An off the camera flash, shooting on rear sync, would have produced some very nice shots of a family outing.

Needless to say, stopping and shooting on a tripod did make the hour long walk into an all morning affair. This image came toward the bottom of the trail, just past one of the many stone bridges you cross in the gorge. There was a little "step out" area where a tripod could be setup without interrupting the flow of people. I was shooting with a Nikon D300 and rather than sticking my face to the camera was using the "Live View" feature to do my composition. The sound of foot steps fell away, which I attributed to intense concentration. That is until I turned around and saw a crowd, looking over my shoulder checking out the image on the LCD, blocking the entire trail. Oops! It's amazing how many people can see what's going on on a 3" screen. Due diligence was paid and each exposure was made using the self timer to reduce the effect of mirror slap. That might have been just a little over kill considering the pounding feet trouping past (once the crowd dispersed).

The "morale" of the story is to think ahead. If you can picture the shot(s) you might want to get and can visualize the conditions you're likely to find, you can probably figure out most (some) of the gear you'll need to carry with you. Remember, whether it's a tripod, speedlights, filters or other gear, Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.