Getting Schooled in the Coefficient of Friction, and the Law of Gravity... The Hard Way

Getting Schooled in the Coefficient of Friction, and the Law of Gravity… The Hard Way

A few weeks ago, I had an argument with the coefficient of friction and gravity (read: slipped and fell). Gravity won big time: Made a trip to the ER, got a bunch of bone pix shot, was picked over and prodded, then sent home with a diagnosis (badly sprained wrist, bruised hip and a tweaked back), a bill (that resembles a mortgage payment) and a bottle of happy pills.

The following week was an exercise in boredom and frustration: Stuck in a prone position on ice packs, cycling through 750 satellite channels of… nothing (although I’ve become quite knowledgeable on Shark and Dyson vacuums), and not being able to accomplish anything. But the big frustration is not being able to hold a camera. And let’s not even talk about typing with one hand…

At some point and time, we’ve all experienced an oopsie, or lesson in gravity that renders us unable to do what we want to do. And while it creates a challenge for us to accomplish the daily necessities of life (brushing my teeth left handed, I get equal amounts of toothpaste in my mouth and on my face), there are two givens that cause great frustration: The world doesn’t stop for us while we heal, and we can’t make the healing process any faster than our bodies allow.

For nature photographers, it also means dealing with photographic frustration. Sprain a wrist, and forget about holding a camera or being able to hold onto a tree branch for stability. Break a leg or ankle, and you can nix that hike to a waterfall or bushwhacking to an open vista.  But there is still a lot you can do from the relative comfort of your sofa or Barcalounger during the healing process.

Plan Your Next Adventure

Every nature photographer has a “bucket list” of places they’d like to shoot someday – Glacier National Park, the Galapagos, the Northern Lights in Norway or Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii. So why not surf the Internet, and see what is involved (and the related costs) to make that shooting dream a reality? For far away journeys, check into companies that offer photo tours, as they take the responsibility of being at the right place, at the right time, off your shoulders. For do-it-yourselfers, tools like The Photographer’s Transit and Photographer’s Ephemeris can help you pre-plan your shooting schedule (and create shot sheets), so you can hit the ground running.

Keyword Your Images

Of all the tasks photographers perform in the digital darkroom, probably the most important (and loathed) is key wording images. It’s tedious work, but it’s the foundation for creating a database of your image collection. So why is key wording so important? We no longer use shoeboxes or labeled slide sleeves to store our images, so key wording provides useful reference information to search for your images. On the professional side, key wording describes what an image contains, and is essentially how others find your specific images among the billions that are on the Web.

How you keyword is equally important, and should include general and specific information. Experts recommend 10 to 20 specific “descriptors” per image, including location, major colors, and what is contained within the image. Consider the image below of Ulua: imbedded in the metadata are the keywords, description and my contact and copyright information. With everything searchable, any art director can look up Ulua sunset tide pool in Wailea, and this image will come up in the results.

Update Your Equipment Wish List

For those times I’ve found myself in bed with the flu, or recovering from falling out of a tree (don’t ask), a great pick-me-up is to grab a tablet or laptop and ply the photo mega stores (like B&H, Adorama or Samy’s), and update my equipment wish list. I actually have two wish lists: there’s the “want” list, which is my “when I hit the lotto or jackpot in ‘Vegas,” selections of equipment. The gear you’d get if you had the cash, photo toys that would be fun to play with, but they’re items that you don’t really need to get the job done.

That takes us to list #2 – the Need list. Those are the items that directly affect your ability to get your shots. This might include getting that dedicated 105mm macro lens, or replacing that ailing tripod that you’ve nursed back from the dead fat too many times (there’s only so much you can do with JB Weld).

Why do both lists? Because it never hurts to dream, and at some point and time, you may find yourself with a bonus from work, so you can get that underwater housing, and find a whole new realm to photograph.

Investigate New Outlets to Sell Your Images

If my wife had a nickel for every time I said, “I should look into getting my images into (insert your favorite store/stock agency/catalog here),” she’d be a millionairess. If you’ve got the time, start your spreadsheet of people and places to contact. I have one Excel file that holds all of my prospects, with different tabs for galleries, stock agencies, online catalogs, and shops.

I try to do a little research, so I can send inquiries to the specific buyers, or if it’s a small store, whoever the owner is. Once I have a list, I’ll then craft a query letter, introducing my work, myself, specifically noting certain images and/or styles that I think would fit well with their current inventory, and asking to setup an appointment. I ensure to enclose the web address for my online gallery of images, and if I’m posting the letter, I’ll also enclose a sample print.

Get Inspiration from Other Photographers

During a bout with the flu (which will drain any kind of creativity in your system), I pulled out my tablet and pointed the browser to for a little inspiration. If you don’t subscribe, or have never seen an issue of Outdoor Photographer Magazine, get of your duff, and grab a copy from your local news stand. OP is one of the best sources for information, how-to, and new product that relates directly to nature photography.  Their Site also includes monthly photo contests, and it’s a great place to see how other photographers view the world.

Many a time, I’ve found myself viewing the works of other shooters, taking cues from their images to craft into my own – using a fisheye lens to gain a new perspective, pumping the zoom while exposing a shot of an orchid or moving the camera during an exposure to induce motion or accentuate lines. It’s all about taking your creativity to a higher level.

So next time you’re sick in bed, or are nursing a sprain or strain, don’t fret about your lack of shooting time. Just click off the tube, and keep your creativity moving. It’ll help you feel better in no time.