Monday, December 28, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Be Persistent

Photo by Russ Burden

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.


To consistently produce great photographs, there are many concepts about which you need to learn. I consider reading the light to be the most important . Without good light, a good photo is hard to produce. I’ve often been quoted as saying, “I’d rather photograph an ordinary subject in great light than a great subject in ordinary light.” Next on my hierarchy is composition. Even with a great subject in great light, if the composition is weak, that image will lack drama. Also on my list of essentials are techniques with regards to depth of field, emphasizing movement, controlling backgrounds, and subject choice. Along with these obvious photographic concepts is one that has nothing to do with how well you know the art of photography. It’s the art of persistence. Without it, you’ll miss many a great image as you won’t persevere or be patient enough to let drama unfold or wait for the perfect moment when the subject displays the decisive moment.

The decisive moment happens when the action reaches an apex, when a subject portrays the perfect expression, when the animal conveys a special look, when the light becomes its most dramatic, etc. Waiting for this fleeting moment to occur may take, if you’re lucky, five minutes but it also may take hours. It may also never happen. The one guarantee I can give you is that if you don’t try to wait it out, you won’t get the shot. I’ve been told that I’ve been “lucky” that I got the shot where peak action or the perfect expression is captured. I offer to you that persistence and hard work played a much greater role than luck. Staying with your subject, waking up a little earlier than the other photographers, staying out a little later, keeping your eye up to the viewfinder even though it’s not comfortable all determine whether you increase the opportunity to get the shot or guarantee you won’t.

Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

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