"And bad mistakes, I've made a few..." So sings Freddie Mercury in We Are the Champions.
All photographers make mistakes. Those who are experienced are less likely to do so, but nobody is immune to the occasional goof - not even artists whose work you greatly admire. Rookies aren't the only ones who make rookie mistakes!
Especially if you're just embarking on your photographic journey, it's good to remember that. Don't be too hard on yourself.
With time, you'll make fewer compositional errors. You'll be more aware of the light. You'll notice more things, like what's going on around the edges of the frame, or distracting background elements. You'll remember to check settings (like ISO). You'll remember to charge your batteries.
Still, things can go wrong - especially when you're trying to work quickly. Let's face it, it's not unusual for nature photographers to have to scramble (think rapidly-changing conditions or fast-moving wildlife).
Sometimes you don't know you've made a mistake until after-the-fact; it might not be discovered until post-processing. You can do a lot in post, but some flaws are fatal. It's deflating to pull an image off the card about which you had high hopes, only to discover a critical error. It doesn't matter how strong your composition was, or how interesting the subject matter, or how special the conditions might have been. You can't save the photograph, and there's no do-over.
That's a bad day.
Want to avoid unpleasant surprises in post-processing? Here are a few tips:
Check Your Glass
When shooting in fog or mist (this includes near waterfalls or fountains), be sure to check your lens frequently for water droplets. You'll probably be thinking about this if it's raining or snowing, but when the water is coming at you more subtly it might not be top of mind. In those situations there's a good chance you won't see any droplets when looking at the scene through the viewfinder - but if they're there, the camera will see them and they'll ruin the photograph.
Take Insurance Shots
There's room on the card. Don't be stingy; shoot a lot. Bracket. Try more than one compositional variation. Fire a burst of shots if you're photographing wildlife to increase your odds of getting at least one image that's tack sharp.
Is it breezy? To avoid any unwanted motion (let's say you're shooting trees or flowers), take multiple shots. Even when using a faster shutter speed you can get movement. The more you capture, the more likely you'll end up with one crisp photograph. If you're trying to create a panoramic in such conditions, be sure to make more than one series (a few more if time permits), and avoid placing stitching in the middle of an object that might be prone to moving.
Don't be in a hurry to put your camera away; the conditions may get even better. Sometimes it's hard to know what will end up being the most compelling scene while it's happening, so just keep shooting. It's usually obvious when things are "past peak:" the quality of the light changes, the color fades, the storm loses intensity, etc. Until then, stick with it.
Depending on what you're photographing, focus-stacking may not be an option. If you want to get as sharp as possible from front-to-back with a single exposure, stop down and focus the camera at midrange. Sometimes midrange is hard to establish, though, and you can't always determine from the depth of field preview whether or not you've nailed it. You can make a shot and then try zooming in on the display to check it, but if things are moving quickly you may not have time for that. The solution is insurance shots. Choose a few different points at which to set your focus, and capture them all.
Use Your Polarizer
You can't remove glare in post-processing. Especially if it's a damp day, put the filter on and keep it there.
The better you know your gear and the more shooting time you have under your belt, the less likely you will be to make mistakes. They'll still come, and you may lose some otherwise good images as a result, but the errors will occur less frequently.
Lessons learned the hard way are sometimes the best; we tend not to forget them.
The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
In Local News
The snow just keeps on coming in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming, which is great unless you have to get somewhere. Winter driving around here is never a picnic; 2022-2023 winter road maintenance - or more accurately the lack thereof - has sunk to a whole new low.
All the local mountains are recording excellent levels of snowpack - enough to address agricultural irrigation needs for the coming growing season. Obviously, it remains to be seen how the rest of the winter will play out.
It might seem early, but requests for backcountry reservations for the summer season in Grand Teton National Park are being accepted now. Likewise, campsites in the park (Signal Mountain, Colter Bay, Jenny Lake, Gros Ventre) are now available to reserve. Be advised the calendar is only open through the first week of July at this point. Visit Recreation.gov to apply for backcountry permits or to snag your campsite.
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