One of the mistakes I still make occasionally is pressing the shutter button before thinking things through and making some choices and changes. Sometimes I can justify this because the subject presented itself unexpectedly and is not going to wait for me or the choices are limited. Otherwise it is all down to me.
I want to share a “mistake” I made recently. This panning shot of a Kookaburra was not something I planned on or had time to prepare for. I would have preferred a little less motion blur in the head.
The conditions were not ideal as it was overcast with occasional showers. In hindsight, I could have bumped my ISO up to 800 instead of 400. Being able to change this at will is still something I am getting used to with digital. I usually leave it once I set it.
Good preparation reduces the chances of getting caught out and missing opportunities like this. A habit I developed back when film ruled was the pre outing check. I would do this the day before going out and repeat some of the steps on location when opening my bag. The basic actions were;
- Planning. This would vary based on what I wanted to accomplish. Sometimes there would be a plan B* as well.
- Check camera bodies or film backs** were empty. If loaded, use that first, if empty, reload with whatever film was required.
- Clean everything. Cameras, lenses and film backs inside out.
- Check everything. Batteries, light meter, camera settings, expiry dates on film, tripod etcetera.
- Packing. My average load was 10 kilograms (just over 22 US pounds). I was younger and more keen back then.
Moving to digital has changed this checklist but the core activities remain.
- Planning. Still focussed on what I wanted to accomplish. There is a plan B and occasionally I throw in a plan C.
- Clean camera and lenses. This is mostly an external wipe down. I get the CCD sensor cleaned if I see dust on it.
- Check everything. Batteries, light meter, camera settings, tripod and SD cards. I usually start with an empty card in the camera.
- Packing. My average load is 5- 9 kilograms (roughly 11-20 US pounds). I can explain this***. Honest!
With planning, you can’t really be prepared for everything. I try to have one or two locations in mind if it is somewhere I have been before, otherwise I will use Google street view to plan a route through areas I think might have potential. If I have something specific in mind I will set the camera and lens up in advance to save time on site. If not, I will start out with a zoom lens and change on the fly.
While I didn’t get the image of that Kookaburra in flight, it’s not all bad news. After all, I found a pair of Kookaburras that I can potentially go back to with the chance of getting something better next time. Here is the other one posing on a goalpost.
*Always have a plan B. Nothing worse than getting out, finding the light you really wanted is not there and then having no options to work with what you have.
**Since I couldn’t change film speed on a whim like I can now, an extra camera body or medium format film backs were essential.
***Most of the weight in any camera bag is lenses, especially zooms. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!