Let's face it, being a photographer is a great gig. The opportunity to "walk in the shoes of others," learn about life while making pictures, getting up before dawn reaching locations before anyone else, experiencing that glorious light all to ourselves is our bonus check.
How great photographers approach their craft usually includes a few common denominators. The most typical? Problem solving. How do I get that shot? Sounds simple enough, right? More often than not it is. The idea that is. But, where most fail, is they decide not to execute the necessary efforts to get there. They leave it in the idea phase. There's millions of great ideas. Taking the time to carry it out is the most crucial step. And, its work.
How can I capture a moment like no-one else? What do I need to make this happen, what special equipment, trips to the hardware store, assistants, waterproofing, shock resistant material, auto or manual, duck tape, helicopter, so on and so on. These are good questions and investigating how you accomplish this elevates your vision to photographic reality.
The key for young shooters is to think big. Don't let your goal be dampened by saying "I don't have this or know how to do that." FIND A WAY! Your vision gave you an idea, so follow it up. What you learn from this will be another vise-grip in your visual tool bag. And, I promise you'll revisit it time after time solving other photographic problems.
One of my favorite techniques is the use of remote triggering. Mounting a camera on top of kayak and triggering from a bridge or shoreline to capture action, clamping my camera on the wings of an airplane and firing remotely as the pilot banks a turn, digging a hole in the ground and placing a camera in the path of stampeding buffalo. All these options give me the chance to create something new, a different perspective that places the viewer in places they have not experienced before. Plus, its damn fun trying this stuff.
The challenges as you can imagine are plentiful. But remember, this is problem solving and a big part of your job. Don't let the fact that its tough at times to figure out the what, when, where & how deter you. Once the solution is found, its easy........and rewarding.
One of the most beautiful examples of problem solving I've seen recently are the images of Minneapolis Photographer Paul Nelson and his bird images. (http://www.wildbirdsflying.com/) and the underwater dog photography of Seth Casteel (http://twistedsifter.com/2012/02/underwater-photos-of-dogs-fetching-their-ball/). Both shooters have approached their subjects using different techniques but the end results are simply off the charts cool as hell.
There are a number of ways to use remote triggering devices to achieve the desired photographic results. I've mounted cameras on the back of backboards in basketball games, wings of aircraft, the bumpers of cars, bridges, kayaks, tree's, and am currently working on remote set-ups in the forest to capture wildlife on popular game trails at night.
Some devices use infared beams to trigger the shutter, others use wire connections (although these are mostly obsolete) and the more common is the wireless trigger. Other options include using a intervalometer that is a separate unit or even built into some higher end cameras. These are popular with time-lapse photography (see previous blog post here).
Take a internet trip into You Tube and you'll find all kinds of homemade recipes for creating remote triggers that work quite well, but also companies like Pocket Wizard make exceptionally engineered products that are trustworthy (http://www.pocketwizard.com/). Also, popular with bird watchers and outdoorsman is the Reconyx brand (http://www.reconyx.com/). These mount to tree's or rocks and can be used to capture wildlife in the field. Another one, I believe this is one used by photog Paul Nelson is THE TIME MACHINE (http://www.bmumford.com/photo/camctlr.html).
You've done your job when you hear the accolades and comments like "you've got the greatest job in
the world." No need to tell them how tough it was to get it. It comes with hard work and the conclusion to an idea. On a side bar thought.....For you young shooters, this is important too..........get a dayrate that is fair when taking on such assignments. Your time is money, just like the client. You use resources, time and energy to capture that split-second. Don't back down on getting paid for it.
In the end, finding a way to best capture what you are trying to say visually isn't always easy.
But, its always worth it.