Remember to Look Around

Photographing An Old Friend

I don't know about you but I have a few places on my location map that are easy to get to and provide a variety of angles to shoot from.  So when the weather forecast for last Tuesday was a bit 50/50 for a good sunset I thought I'd go somewhere I know so that if it fails to be spectacular I won't have spent a significant amount of effort getting there.

How I saw the scene last year.

Heading down to my target location of Emsworthy Rocks just down from Haytor I was still confident that I was going to get a good shot.  I decided to shoot the rocks and tree from a position that I hadn't used before.  My plan was to have my back to the setting sun so that the tree and rocks would be bathed in golden light.  There wasn't going to be much going on in the sky so I positioned the main elements higher up in the frame leaving some of the ground rock formations in the foreground.

Playing the Waiting Game

I went through all my normal checks for exposure and sharpness and then waited with the remote release for that magic moment where the colour would bath my subject in glorious golden light.

This is the scene I came to shoot but the light and sky just weren't what I wanted.

Well some time passed and I had shot a few frames but the scene just lacked a bit of punch.  In my focus on the scene in front of me I'd failed to look to see what else was going on.  It's all too easy to go out with a singular focus on what you want to achieve but this can sometimes mean you'll miss something a bit more special. I was convinced that my target scene would come good. However I casually turned 90 degrees to my right and was presented with a much more interesting scene.  The light on the rocks was much more pleasing and the sky had a bit more interest about it.

Change of Plans

On the same spot as the last image but 90 degrees to the right.

I pondered if I should go to the hassle of changing my composition and moving my tripod (which had taken bit of setup to balance on the rock I was perched on).   I knew I would regret it if I didn't at least try so I repositioned the tripod, got a Lee Filters ND 0.9 medium grad out and shot a few frames of this new scene.  

I did go back to shooting a few frames of my original composition but I already knew that I'd grabbed the best shot I was going to get that night. So what did I learn from this particular adventure?  Don't get too focused on one scene or shooting a particular direction.  The landscape, particularly the wilds of Dartmoor, are wide open spaces and the light can look very different simply by looking a different direction from the same point. I was committed to getting the image in my head but I almost missed a much better one.

Have you had a similar experience?  Have you looked round to find a much better shot or do you remain focused on what is in front of you?  Let me know in the comments.