Outdoor photography is amazing. This activity (obsession) I have been chasing the past 5 years has allowed me to see some amazing places at the most amazing times. If I could get away with it, I’d do it all day every day. Unfortunately, things like mortgage payments, car loans, traveling expenses, grub, movie tickets… well you get the idea, get in the way. The bills have to be paid, so, like many of you, I have an 8-5 job that right now is really getting in the way of my nature photography. The solution I’ve found is to turn myself into an outdoor photography weekend warrior. Let me tell you what I mean.
One of my resolutions of 2012 was to get outside as much as I possibly could. Last January I pulled up my vacation scheduler at work and was amazed at how quickly those precious, wonderful days were used up. This left me the weekends—the ever important 48 hours of Saturday and Sunday. There is a big world to be photographed, which meant using the weekends wisely. I packed in as much outdoor time as could, and I can’t remember a summer that I had more fun. Day dreaming at work left me enough time to plan what adventure I might attempt on the weekend. Those of us who live along the Wasatch front of Utah are lucky in that we have great outdoor recreation close to the city. No matter where you live, with enough determination, I imagine most of us can find something interesting to photograph on the weekends.
Allow me to share a few tips that have helped me make the most of my weekends.
The down-time of your day job gives you an ideal time to think about where you will find yourself during the upcoming weekend’s golden hours. Planning at work is a win-win. First, it helps you survive the work-week, and trust me when I tell you that imagining yourself with a camera set up photographing a mountain peak takes the edge off the Wednesday afternoon slump.
Second, planning helps you make the most of your weekend. Iron out the logistics. Perhaps you only have Saturday afternoon—think of the local areas that need to be checked off your "must photograph" list and get there. Ideally, you have both days and can get on a camping or backpacking trip. A good idea is to think about how far you’re prepared to drive, look at a map of your area, and scout locations that work for your time frame.
If coming back with not only great memories, but also great images is your goal, then this is a critical part of your weekend warrioring. Having the confidence to capture a scene will make it that much easier to get off the couch and out of the house before sunrise on Saturday. This isn’t a tutorial article, so I won’t go into too much detail, but most of us know where our gaps are preventing us from taking our photography to the next level. Work on these. If it’s processing skills you lack, download a tutorial and learn some new tricks. If it’s technical knowledge, find some of the many great articles online and educate yourself. If you have questions here, feel free to email me, and I’ll do my best to help.
The easy part. What keeps me coming back time after time are the great memories gained throughout my travels. With the proper planning and execution, things will fall into place. Focus on whatever it is that draws you outside with camera in hand and get as much out of it as you can. A great weekend photography session makes it much more likely that I’ll take the time and energy to plan another one the next time I have a free weekend.
Looking back on 2012, it was certainly my most productive year from a photography perspective. I remember clearly about this same time last year (Jan ’12) wondering what new images would be in the portfolio by the end of the year. I had goals and knew what I wanted to accomplish but wondered what would come of it. If capturing great images is your goal, the single best thing you can do is get yourself out in the field as much as possible. It’s a numbers game; the more sunsets/sunrises you’re a part of with camera in hand, the more incredible light shows you’ll be bring back on the card. Also, practice in the field can’t be understated, and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to improve as you find a way to consistently be in the field.
Much of what I consider to be my best work was created during weekends. We’ve all got to work within the time constraints we’re given, but if we really use the time wisely, we can create incredible images and have a lot of fun along the way. So, if one of your 2013 goals is to become a better photographer, my humble advice is to turn yourself into a weekend warrior.
I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine, by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life."