F-stops, ISO and shutter speeds are all a part of making an image. The easy part. We measure the light. Adjust composition. Turn knobs, push buttons and then press the shutter. Maybe we even add our own light with reflectors, strobes or even a few hot lights. The one thing we cannot control is the subject we are after. For many of us who shoot on location or landscapes, you quickly realize that getting access is half of the battle.
I often wander the High Plains of Colorado. Seeking out the simple and unique that this environment has to offer. As you travel east away from the rocky mountains the landscape begins to change. Like ripples in a pond the ground begins to lay still and flat. Old barns, tractors and grain silos are scattered across the horizon. There are images to be made every where. However there is one catch. Access. Mile after mile of barbed wire keeps cows and horses in and you out.
Now what. Grab a tele photo lens? You can but you will flatten out your image like the one I made below. I wanted to get close, use a wide angel lens and really accentuate the features on these silos. Instead what your left with is an image that I like but I find it a little flat compared to the vision I had for it.
Standing in my way was a single strand of barbed wire. I have a few photog friends that would simply go over the fence. I on the other hand, can't bring myself to do it. So what is the alternative? You have to practice the hard part of photography. Building relationships. We can learn all the technicalities we want about making a sound image. Sometimes that is not enough. We need perspective. To get close, see the textures in the buildings, feel the grass and dirt under our feet. Get to know what we are photographing.
Recently I was introduced to a local farmer/cattleman in my area. I spent hours with him riding the range that his family has owned for generations. In Talking with him, not just looking for pretty scenes. But listening to how they work and live. Getting to know the history behind the old silos and abandoned barns on his land. What was astounding to me was that I had been past his property many times and had noticed the old farmstead but had mentally checked it off as, off limits. If I had kept that mind set I never would have seen this.
As we pulled back down the long dirt road into the courtyard of Harold's (the farmer) property he simply asked, " did you find what you were looking for? " Uh Yeah, do you mind me hanging around for oh… a year or so! I now had access and a much better appreciation for the land I was about to shoot. I am not saying that everyone needs to knock on doors and ask if they can get a private tour of your land/ business or building. But if you are looking for something different it might be the answer to some frustrations.
Probably the biggest lesson that I have learned over the past couple of years; is that some of the hardest parts of photography have nothing to do with the technicalities of our exposure’s. Vision, inspiration, access and building relationships are the hard part. Maybe even the most important part.
You can also find this article on Capturing Exposures in issue of a new online magazine that I have been fortunate enough to contribute to.