If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an outdoor lifestyle photographer, it’s that everything is trying to work against you. The likelihood of an assignment going exactly how you planned for is generally one in a million and the elements will forever be an obstacle so long as you continue to make a living in the outdoors.
Mother Nature is truly a blessing and a curse for us outdoor photographers, but something that separates us pros from amateurs is being able to adapt.
Adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to being successful in the field. If you let a bit of rain deter you from pulling your camera out and snapping photographs of the waterfall you just drove 4 hours to get to, then I can guarantee you you’ll miss the shot and come home empty handed.
As a professional, it’s your job to deliver. Most clients won’t care about how you got the photograph as long as you showed up and delivered an outstanding final product.
So what do you do when the elements aren’t on your side?
Be a professional and work with what you’ve got. Overcast skies? Re-work your shoot to be more dramatic. Cloudless blue skies? Include sun flares and sun bursts to add another dimension to the photographs. This is your opportunity to hone in on your craft and highlight your creativity, besides, you were commissioned because someone liked your work after all.
It’s easy to shoot in ideal conditions but what separates you from an amateur is that you’re able to use the conditions to your advantage and produce original work on demand.
With that being said, show up prepared. It is imperative that you are as prepared as possible for anything that your location throws at you. Whether it’s a rain shell to stay dry, polarized sunglasses because it’s unexpectedly sunny, or extra snacks because your shoot is going longer than expected, be ready for just about anything. There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative while your basic needs are begging you to take care of them.
I’ve learned this lesson from experience. I’m lucky to have learned it early on because last week specifically, I was shooting in the desert where it rains maybe five days a year. To my luck it happened to rain all five days that I was there.
I had to completely rework months of planning and location scouting as a hurricane was making its way up from the coast and causing tons of rain everywhere I planned to shoot.
As much of a curve ball as the weather was, I came prepared and ready for the elements so I was able to adapt and I did not leave empty handed.
I was actually able to condense three different shoots that were supposed to take place at different locations, into just one location and produce exceptionally more than I most likely would have if the weather had worked out as planned.
To give you an idea, I was able to capture a dreamy lifestyle shoot, then I found a huge puddle of mud that the rainfall created to use in an epic product shoot, and I was able to perfectly capture branded content all in one location.
Another piece of advice is while travelling, be ready with your gear, props, etc. because sometimes the best shooting locations are the ones that you would least expect, e.g. side of the road. You definitely do not want to kick yourself for not having your drone nearby because you packed it away to use later on or foregoing that outfit that ‘could look cool in this spot’. A mentality lesson from the outdoor photography field, never assume that you’ll ‘just get the shot tomorrow’ because most of us have learned you can never count on tomorrow always working out.
The moral of the story here is that if everything had gone as planned I would not have produced these shots which I am more than happy with. In this field, you will continuously be tested, you will constantly wrestle with your patience, creativity, and flexibility. I promise you that you will continue pushing your creative limits and produce some of your best work when you adapt to your surroundings.