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…Prevents poor performance. That’s right, planning and preparation prevents poor performance. It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am here as always on ScottKelby.com and today I want to talk a little about planning and preparing.

I’m currently in Scotland where I’m road testing my van (again) ahead of a trip to the Arctic for 80 days this winter. This is all about preparing whilst I’m planing for an epic trip and it can be a real deal-breaker without proper planning. This translates to everything we do as photographers and creatives to ensure our success. Here’s a quick look at who was with my van yesterday: –

In the background there you can see a couple of key features on the van. The big, all-terrain tires, the dead-bolt, and the roof light are all visible here and they’re all things I’m testing in my preparation. Taking this detail and transposing it into a photographic world we could say that preparing takes the shape of planning a strategy for our marketing and social media. We could say that it’s about having our batteries charged and memory cards formatted. We could say that it’s about having the knowledge of sun and moon phases to make sure we’re shooting at the best possible time, and in the best possible locations. This planning and preparation really does prevent poor performance.

It’s about having everything we needs, considering every detail and every eventuality, putting us in the best position possible. I’m aiming to be in the best possible position to travel to the Arctic, and to run my business as a photographer. It all goes hand-in-hand, and it all makes a big difference between success and failure. We can only blame ourselves if we don’t take responsibility and ensure we’re as prepared as possible. Just remember all the P’s. Planning and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance.

Much love
Dave

PS. If you want to follow my story, I uploaded a new video in my Due North series to YouTube.

It will be a very special event, and I’m honored to be one of the speakers, along with an all-star crew of instructors. Here’s how the symposium organizers describe it:

“Jack Graham and Bill Fortney invite you to join them for a memorable experience in the Saguaro National Park and Tucson area. Their immense experience throughout the photographic industry, leading workshops and helping people “see” more creatively, all go in to creating this amazing symposium.”

Here are the details:

WHO: You, Me, and some of the best photography instructors in the industry
WHEN: Next October 30, through November 3rd, 2023
WHERE: The Saguaro National Park area
HOW: For more info or to reserve your spot (space is limited), click this link

There will be incredible shooting and learning opportunities, so mark your calendars now and I hope you can join us out West – it will be (wait for it…wait for it…) epic!

OK, it’s Monday – a week with lots of fresh opportunities – let’s make the most of it! :)

-Scott

I had a moment Monday morning at the B&H Photo OPTICWEST Conference that will stick with me for a long time. At 6 AM, we pulled out of Monterey harbor before dawn on one of two huge whale-watching boats – each packed with hundreds of photographers, chartered by B&H Photo for the conference attendees. I was on the smaller two-deck boat – but it still had around 150 photographers on it, along with reps and loaner gear from Sigma and Sony (Canon and Nikon were over on the “big boat”). I was asked to be kind of an informal Cruise Director on the smaller boat (I shared cruise director duties with the awesome David Brommer on a cruise around Manhattan at the New York City OPTIC conference, so I was a seasoned tourboat sidekick.

Above: It was “Bring your long lens to school” day.

You probably already know I am not a nature photographer or a whale expert. The only whale watches I had been on previously were pretty much a bust (they claimed there was actually a whale out there somewhere, way off in the distance, but it was probably a sea lion or some driftwood). But on this whale watch, not only did we see lots and lots of whales, it was “whale soup” out there. We had lots of shooting opportunities, and even some “Friendlies” – whales that would come right up alongside the boat while our engines were off – they were literally six feet away. They were so close you could pet them, as long as you didn’t mind falling in the sea and never being seen again. Anyway, they were right there, and photographers who only brought their 400mm lenses groaned at the missed opportunity because the whales were actually too close to get a shot, so out came everyone’s iPhones.

Luckily I was not alone on this whale-watching hosting journey – I shared mic duties with a really nice nature guide named Jacob, who worked on the boat, knew the waters, knew whales, and (bonus) he was a photographer with some great whale shots himself. So, all I had to do was fill in the dead air between him announcing, “Three whales at one o’clock!” over the mic, and then he would hand me the mic. At that point, I would say something silly, like “For those unfamiliar with nautical boating terms, the front of the boat is referred to as the “Frontus.” So, you can see I did a whale of a job (That bad pun should give you some indication of how little I brought to the party). 

Above: Captain Bill at the helm. Or, ya know, the steering wheel thingy.

I did bring my camera, though, and I had a great view from up top with Captain Bill (super nice guy) and Jacob, “the whale guy,” and I got an okay shot or two, but I wasn’t really there to shoot – I was there to bring those crucial insights I usually save for the chapter intros of my books (stop snickering).

What this story is really about

So, Jacob spots a small group of whales 200 yards out in front of us (a group of whales swimming together is called a “Cankle.”). Anyway, we start heading that way, and I’m out in front of the wheelhouse all by myself, and whales are diving in front of us, and the sky was amazing, and it was gorgeous brisk morning, and I was just taking it all in, and suddenly tears started streaming down my face.

It wasn’t the whales, and it was. It was all of it. The nature, the moments, how kind and gracious Captain Bill and Jacob were to me, who was clearly a fish out of water (no pun intended) on this whale watch. What I was, was overwhelmed. I was just so grateful that I was there. There in charming Monterey, on this beautiful morning, seeing these amazing creatures God made, up close like this. I couldn’t believe I was getting to do this – any of it. I was so grateful that B&H had chartered these boats for us; that they asked me to be a cruise director on one of them that morning, and that they asked me to teach at the conference in the first place. I hadn’t been in California since the January before COVID hit, and yet here I was – on the front deck of a whale watch boat, crashing through the waves, tears in my eyes and my heart exploding with joy.

This conference – all of it – had been a blessing. I saw the most amazing wildlife images I’ve ever seen during Frans Lanting’s wonderful keynote speech, and I think seeing his work had an effect on me, too. His heart for animals and nature is a joy to behold, and his talent as a photographer is extraordinary.

I guess this post is really about gratitude and perhaps a new appreciation for being out in nature and seeing it up close, or even experiencing it through photographs. As amazing as this past week’s experience has been, I’m thankful to now be on a flight back home to be with my wonderful family – the greatest gift God’s given me and the one I’m most grateful for.

Here’s wishing you a weekend full of gratitude, joy, and maybe even a win for the Buccaneers (Hey, it could happen). :)

-Scott

It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am here, this week from Scotland! I’m currently testing my van, Kofifernweh, to make sure everything is ship-shape ahead of my winter trip to the Arctic coming next month. This trip to Scotland is primarily for the purpose of van testing and second to that comes adventurizing!

This week I want to touch on a drone photography subject but one that can relate to what I suppose is called ‘terrestrial’ photography. Social media and the use of our smartphones has meant a lot more photos are best viewed in portrait orientation than before. When we shoot this way intentionally it’s important to bear in mind all the usual rules of composition, especially when we’re shooting with drones. Take this example:

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This three-shot vertical panorama includes the mountain and forest draped with clouds in the background, the majority section of the forest as the middle-ground, and the twisting road in the foreground. This gives our image layers and depth as well as giving it interest. It’s far too easy to let some of these elements go when we shoot a vertical panorama (which we should definitely try doing!) and especially so when shooting from a drone where it’s easy to fall foul of the plane window effect.

The plane window effect is the name I’ve given to a condition that befalls a lot of us when we shoot with a drone. We often forget some photographic principles, merely playing with the drone and being impressed with this birds-eye perspective. Consider everything you already know about photography when flying a drone and try to be more intentional about it.

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Shooting top-down drone shots is a perfect example of having to think harder. We have to rely on color, texture, patterns and composition to make up for the lack of sky and the often-repetitive elements in the scene.

Try vertical panoramas to make your social media photos pack more punch!

Much love
Dave

Photo by Emerson Chen

Editor’s Note: This was originally published March 2017, but is still as relevant today as it was then!

You Know You’re Learning If You’re Falling Down

I have no clue why these thoughts cross my mind, but they do. When the shooting gets slow and I’m with some friends and we just start talking to kill the time, my mind wanders to the bad side. Someone leaves their camera sitting on a tripod unattended, I slip over, remove the battery and then go back innocently to my own shooting. There’s the time I slip my CF memory card wallet vertically in the shade of a fellow photographer’s big lens. They can’t see it through the viewfinder but the AF can’t function at all. And of course, there’s the always-immature move of taking photos with another’s camera when they aren’t looking. A photo they definitely would not have taken themselves. My favorite comes from the days of film when someone would ask, “Got any good photos?” I had a dummy roll of film in my vest pocket that I would take out, grasp the leader, pull out all the film and look through it at the sun, then simply shrug. Oh the look on their faces when I did that! My only excuse for all of this is, photography has gotta be FUN!

I’m very blessed with two great sons who had to suffer through dad’s teaching as well as bad jokes. When the opportunity arose though for the shoe to be on the other foot, they made good use of it. Both are great cross-country skiers, something I will never be able to do despite all the help they provided and the fun we had together. Brent said something once though that I will never forget, because it so pertains to photography. I had all the right gear on, had read all I should do, and watched the videos. But falling I did with absolutely no grace. We were up on the mountain and I was soaking wet from falling so many times in my attempt to XC ski. Brent simply looked down at me as he helped me up and said, “You know you’re learning if you’re falling down.”

While simply said and blatantly true, it’s pretty darn deep if you ponder it at all. In order to learn how to ski, you gotta fall down, and a lot until you master staying up. This directly applies to photography. Your photography will only grow if you fall down, fail. The thing is, you have to learn from your failures or you’ll either just keep failing, or worse, give up. Just how can we learn from photographic failures so we can keep growing? Having been falling for four decades and still being able to laugh at myself, I think I might have a suggestion or two to pass along.

It’s Only A Photograph!

The first is to understand this very important principle. It’s only a photograph! The right photograph taken of a powerful subject in a powerful way at a time when its clarity is needed by the world can have a huge impact. And I always remind folks their photographs can change the world. But at the same time, I also realize that if I totally toast a photograph, the sun will still rise tomorrow and life will go on. It is just a photograph. We put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re shooting that really shouldn’t be put there. Ever go back and look at photos you took a year ago, really look at them and think back at your thoughts when taking them? It’s those times if I were standing next to you, I might pull one of my bad photographic jokes on you just to remind you that it’s just a photograph.

KISS

The second is to remind you of the KISS theorem…Keep It Simple Stupid (the last word being key). We tend to not only take our photography too seriously but also make it too complicated. While there are times for fun, we go complicated. But making that part of our regular photographic ritual is suicidal for so many reasons. The main reason relates to, it’s just a photograph. When we make things complicated, they become a task, a chore. And how do we mentally treat chores? We tend to put them off. But more importantly in taking advantage of the best teacher we all have for our photography, ourselves, complicated makes learning really hard.

When we KISS, when we are successful, it’s really easy to figure out what we did right so we can repeat it again and again. But when we make it complicated, determining what went wrong is difficult so we run the risk of repeating that mistake. Failure is so important to our learning only when we learn from that failure. There is the practical side of KISS that you might like even more it – costs less! It takes a whole lot less gear and time to KISS than make it complicated. And when you take all you’ve learned, working with KISS and removing the stress of the importance of a photograph, you know what happens in time? You become a better photographer and that’s the whole goal (perhaps why my mind wanders and I cause trouble…hmmmm).

Wanna prove my point to yourself? Next time you’re working in the digital darkroom with a friend and they leave to take a break, take a screen shot of what’s on their computer. Then open that screen shot in Photoshop, make it full screen, and just leave it. They will come back and click on it like a madman to make it work, but nothing will happen because it’s just a screen shot. KISS! Take a deep breath, enjoy the amazing rewards photography brings to us every time we venture into it and remember to not take it too seriously. KISS and the most important thing, you know you’re learning if you’re falling down.

You can see more of Moose’s work and listen to all 300+ episodes of his podcast at MoosePeterson.com, and keep up with him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am back! This week I bring news – after taking the van to the arctic last winter, I’m now planning any return. I can’t wait!

Last winter I took my self-conversion Mercedes Sprinter, Kofifernweh, to the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a whole bunch more countries. This year I want to spend more time in a smaller area to really focus on a few subjects, including the northern lights.

A narrow timeframe in northern Norway and Lapland last year meant I spent a lot of time fighting the weather. This year I’ll spend a lot more time in these places, skipping the other destinations. Because of the Schengen clock (which I now have to consider owing to Brexit) I’ll be there for about nine weeks in order to keep up with other commitments at other times.

This season the northern lights have already given some stunning, strong displays, and I want to maximise on this during solar maximum. I’ll need to be mindful of temperatures in Lapland because of the time of year. Last year I experienced -37˚ and it was intense! I’ll be testing and showcasing some new tech as well, with partnerships lined up and in place with a few brands including Insta360. I hope to be able to bring you all with me virtually and hopefully show you the northern lights in 360˚ video. It’ll all be on my Instagram and YouTube, so be sure you’re following if you don’t want to miss anything. I’ll also be posting a bit to VERO, but I’m yet to decide whether that platform has legs.

I’ll be starting the journey soon with a warm-up trip to Scotland to make sure the van is in tip-top condition (which is code for ‘good enough’) and I’m open to ideas for locations, activities, and even gear to try. Get in touch with any ideas. I’ll be reporting back right here as well as finding more photography news, opinion and inspiration to share every Tuesday. If you’re a KelbyOne member you’ll even see some of the content I’m creating in Photoshop User. I can’t wait to hit the road again!

Come with me!

Much love
Dave

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