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HomeESSAYS AND INSPIRATIONTaking Winning Shots is Never Incidental

Taking Winning Shots is Never Incidental

After I had retired, and my wife and I had moved to Kelowna, BC from Montreal I became quite serious about digital photography, a luxury I could never have enjoyed while working. Exploring the beautiful Okanagan Valley while hiking with my wife, Jane and our Golden Retriever became a large part of our new outdoor life. Having been married only a short time, I can remember my wife, who knew I was a committed photographer, once asking me why I very rarely ever brought along my camera.

The Toll House Tea Room, Berkshire, UK
NIKON D300 + 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50mm, ISO 250, 1/200, f/7.1

I had to admit it seemed like a paradox to me – a reasonable question for which I had no answer! Fast forward a year or so and the answer emerges into the light of day.

Here is my take on the question of walking the dog and being creative.

Coronado, CA, USA View of the San Diego, CA, USA skyline from the Coronado Ferry dock.
NIKON D300 + 12-24mm f/4 @ 18mm, ISO 500, 1/1, f/4.0

My experience with painting, drawing, and the whole Fine Art scene that constituted much of my youth, reminded me that when you’re in a creative state, you’re most definitely in a right brain state of mind and if you’re familiar with this mode, you’ll also know that this is not the time to socialize, but the time to look inside and dig deep for creative juices. Yikes, it all sounds like work to me!

The Sun Inn pub, Faversham, Kent, UK
NIKON D300 + 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, ISO 200, 1/15, f/4.5

Here’s my take on how to maximize your right brain photographic experience…

  1. Give Yourself the Time and Space (can we call it Freedom?) to Connect with your Creative Side. Set no timetable or agenda other than where you wish to start from. My best work is often while walking, hiking or cycling and rarely (as in never) through the windows of my Honda.
  2. Don’t Limit Yourself with a Rigid Plan of Action. Be open to inspiration. While I think that photo clubs and groups can help energize and focus people towards a common interest in photography, I have never been a proponent of the “This month our theme is… (fill in the blank)” school of thought. My best work was motivated by what took my interest and what I became engaged in while out in the real world. Be open to whatever Wi Fi ideas jump out and grab your attention.

Storm clouds grow over the mountains, Green Bay, West Kelowna, BC, Canada

  1. Bring the Equipment That’ll Do the Job. Bring along your tripod, monopod, filters, lenses, batteries, etc. you need to do the job properly. Nothing is worse than having the chance for a great shot and you haven’t brought along the right equipment. Be prepared and when the opportunity presents itself you’ll have no excuses for not taking home winning shots.
  2. Immerse Yourself in the Process without any Expectation of Success or Failure. A favorite Ontario, Canada fine art painter whose work I enjoy advised to, “Be prepared to throw away the first 300 paintings as part of the learning process.” Feel free to enjoy yourself. Immerse yourself in the process of shooting and then learn from the process itself and don’t expect success to come immediately.
  3. Be Curious. Open yourself up to new opportunities to explore your world.

The Cove Lakeside Resort, Gellatly Bay, West Kelowna, BC, Canada
NIKON D300 + 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 100mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/9.0

One of my most rewarding shooting experiences was prompted by an impromptu visit to a tiny rural museum where I could shoot anything and everything. As a result, I walked away with dozens of winning shots and a boost to my creative confidence. Opportunity awaits around every corner if you’re curious enough. Being creative is always a focused, solitary activity. Ask any artist. Concentrate on the job at hand and leave the schmoozing (or walking Fido) for some other time.

The Hieroglyphic Trail, Gold Canyon, AZ, USA
NIKON D300 + 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, ISO 640, 1/250, f/3.5

This guest post was contributed by Tom Cooper. Tom is a member in good standing of Professional Photographers of Canada. For a decade he taught digital cameras, digital photography, digital photo-editing and digital file management at Okanagan College’s Kelowna, BC campus. He currently teaches the Digital Photography Certificate Program at Red Deer College, Red Deer, Alberta. Tom and his wife reside in Kelowna, BC, Canada

© 2018 by T. W. Cooper All images and blog content are the property of the author. All rights reserved.

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