Plan to Succeed (but don’t be rigid)

Mute Swan Drying it's wings © Chris Maskell 2011

In photography, as in life, it is best to have a plan. Approaching a shoot with a plan helps to focus the mind on the task in hand and increases the chance of getting the right shots in the bag.

What really brought this to mind for me was my first forays into the world of Urbex. If you approach without a plan, you tend to wander about taking things in, making mental notes to grab that shot or, alternatively, randomly shoot at will before security find and remove you. As a result I developed a plan; skirt perimeter making notes of access & exit points and externals for later, get in and get to highest point (make mental notes as you go through, but get to a vantage point), from height you get the chance to observe your surroundings, then work out taking your shots as you go before the external views.

Today I decided the clouds looked dramatic, the light was good, so I decided I was shooting landscapes in Richmond Park. Time was limited but I had a couple of shots in my mind, I had a plan.

I made my way to the car park in the middle of the park and started out on the 5 minute walk to Pen Ponds, two interconnected ponds in the centre of the park. From here I knew the sun would be just above the tree line along the length of the top pond, perfect for what I had in mind. The plan started to fall apart as I lined up the first shot, Canadian Geese decided to get a closer look at me in case I had food, they were posing so I took the shot, and the next, and so on. Twenty minutes later and back to the 1st set shot, until I heard a whooshing noise from the lower pond. A quick look and my mind was set, I had to get a picture of the Mute Swan, that was preening and flapping it’s wings to dry them (the earlier whoosh).

Hence the image above, after fifteen minutes crouched in the cold autumnal air and several attempts my impromptu model faced me and flapped.

I shot a few more, returned to my original set shot and moved back through the park anxious to take the other shot in mind. On the way to the car (it’s a big park), the sun shining through the trees prompted more delays, but I finally got to the second location only to see smoke billowing into the ark from a neighbouring garden. Several shots of sun rays through smoke later and I moved to the second planned shot of the day, before returning home.

Did the plan fail? Not really, I got the shots I went for, but was adaptable enough to get others which, had I stuck focussed to the plan, I may well have missed.

Camera: Olympus E-500

Lens: 40-150 Zuiko

Processing: minimal, cropped in Photoshop, minor levels correction.


9 responses to “Plan to Succeed (but don’t be rigid)

  1. Pingback: Plan to Succeed (Part 2) « ChrisdMRF·

  2. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ as the old phrase goes. Certainly worked here! – that’s a classic shot of a Swan with wing feathers beautifully displayed. Great shot

  3. Nice post. It’s great to have a plan but always be adaptable to other opportunities, kind of like always looking behind you as you never know in which direction the one killer shot may be.

    • This is the point Mark. It’s easy to wander aimlessly with a camera and not get many shots (or many decent ones), but I find when I go out with a plan, even a vague one then shots will present themselves.

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