“The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men, Often Go Awry” – Robert Burns
Failure happens to all of us. It doesn’t matter whether you are the most famous photographer in the world or not. Sooner or later, and sometimes many times in a row, each of us have come up with a photography plan that has failed.
It might be just a small detail that is off-kilter, or it could be that an Atom bomb went off completely destroying your plans.
No matter what it is, as photographers, we’ve all been there. And . . . we will all be there again. If you really want to be a better photographer, then the next time your plans fail ask yourself this one question: “What am I going to do about it?”
Most people just give up. Great photographer’s don’t. Rather, when things get tough and don’t work out the way they planned, great photographers do things differently. Here are 3 things great photographers do when their plans fail . . . that helps them create great photographs anyway.
1. Go Stand Where Everyone Else is Not Standing
If you want to be a great photographer, then don’t get mad when your planned photograph fails because there are loads of people already there taking pictures. Well, maybe you can get a little bit mad about it but don’t let it ruin your photography, Instead, go stand in a place where everyone else is not standing.
Let me give you a personal example of how this worked for me. I recently drove through Yellowstone National Park with my wife on a weekend getaway. Because it is September, which is the offseason, I expected crowds to be smaller than normal. I had a specific photograph planned for the Grand Prismatic Pool.
It was much busier than we thought it would be. When we got to the parking lot, there was no place to park. Cars were lined up waiting for a space and there appeared to be hundreds and hundreds of tourists standing right where I’d hoped to create my well planned photograph. (Thanks a lot tourist busses!)
So much for that idea!
After I fumed for a few minutes (hey I’m not perfect) I decided to get a different angle. I changed my plan and began driving to the parking lot for the 1 mile hike to the southern overlook. But . . . again, no parking! Dang it!! Now what?
I drove back to a pull-out between these 2 parking lots, got out and climbed a small mountain north of the Grand Prismatic Pool. Guess what? No one else was there! I was all alone with a great view
Here is one of the photographs I was able to create from this unusual and unused location while hundreds (it felt like thousands) of tourists tramped around in crowds below me.
2. Look for the Details
On the same trip, I had a plan to arrive at a certain location on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park just at sunrise. I expected to find several people fly fishing in this location because it’s very popular for fishing. However, when I arrived, there were no fishermen.
Additionally, there were several other photographers there getting ready to capture the sunrise with the steam rising from the Madison River. I was disappointed that my plan wasn’t going to work. But, I decided to stay and just look around to see if there was anything else I could capture that would be unique and interesting.
As I looked around, I realized there were several elk out in a meadow. This was near a bend in the river. The result, there was thick mist swirling all around that I knew the rising sun would backlight brilliantly.
Everyone around me was shooting with wide-angle lenses as the sun came up. This is what everyone else was photographing.
However, I put on a telephoto lens and began following one of the elk, waiting for it to turn so I had a solid photo of it looking back in my direction. This is the image I was able to create.
3. Most Importantly: Keep Creating Photographs
The single most important thing that a person can do when their plans fail if they want to be a great photographer is just to keep shooting. There is something about the creative process. Once you actually start, and keep moving forward, the creative process seems to get better and better.
On the same trip I mention above, I had yet another failure that led to an image I like.
I was in Driggs Idaho, close to the Tetons. I expected a fantastic sunset and a moonrise and I could capture together. However, the forecast called for clouds to move it on both the East and the West horizons. I knew this would eliminate any sunset light from either side.
At the moment I had decent light on the Tetons so I decided to drive around and find different fore grounds that I could put in front of the Tetons. Because I kept looking for and shooting photos, this is one of the images I was able to create.
Because you are reading this article I know you are like me: someone who wants to be a great photographer. Plans fail all the time. This is especially true if you’re taking photographs because there are so many variables you cannot control.
When your plans fail, you can still create great photographs. Try these 3 tips and I’m confident that your photography will improve and your photographs will be great!
[Note: Because I get questions about the gear I use, all of these images were created with my Fuji cameras and lenses. I used my Fujifilm X-T1 cameras, with the XF 55-200mm and XF 100-400mm lenses. If you would like more detail, let me know in the comments below.]
Always open to comments, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions and even your critiques. Thanks for reading!