In these uncertain times of lockdown due o the Corona virus us photographers have got a multitude of things we can do to keep us busy and to help us get even better pictures when we are allowed back out, hopefully in the not too distant future.
So how are you all beating the boredom ? This is what I've been up to....
Clean Your Tripod
This is one of those jobs which I'm sure we are all guilty of neglecting more than we should.
Tripods are an essential part of our landscape photography and we do tend to put them through some pretty nasty situations.
Salt water is a tripod killer, it corrodes parts and leaves them very brittle and susceptible to breaking.
Remove each of the leg sections and all catches and give them a deep clean in warm water to make everything a lot smoother to operate not to mention prolonging the life of your tripod.
Clean Your Filters
We all tend to keep on top of this fairly well but they can never be clean enough.
Ever noticed some of your pictures suffering from what seems like lens flare on steroids ?
Chances are your filters are dirty and it will exaggerate any flare to the extreme and ruin your pictures, I really can't put enough emphasise on how important this is.
Don't use any harsh cleaning products on your filters, a simple dash of luke warm water and a good quality cleaning cloth will do the job or a bottle of specific filter cleaner will cut through the grime in extra quick time.
Clean Your Lens
A no brainer really, and pretty self explanatory but extra care needs taking with lenses.
Use only the softest cleaning cloths, blow away any bigger particles with a rocket blower and spray any cleaners onto the cloth rather than directly to the lens.
If you are using a zoom lens extend it to its full and clean the inner sleeve of the lens with a dry cloth to help keep a smooth action and get rid of any gritty particles which could end up inside the lens collar.
Clean Your Back Pack
This one is always neglected ! We all put our back packs down on the ground, they get covered in mud and grit.
Strip the bag down of everything inside it and give it a really good deep clean then when you put everything back in it (After allowing it to dry for 48 hours) you can now decide, what do you really need to carry ? can you reduce weight by leaving items out ?
Its well worth taking some time to reassess your essential items, its very easy to over pack it and take items you don't really need "Just in case" can these items for example stay in your car boot instead ? (Nothing of value though)
A perfect time to not only clean your clothing but also to re waterproof it if needed with products like NikWax ? You should also look at your walking boots, check the laces are still in 100% good condition and change if looking frayed at all, you can apply dubbing or similar products to help with the condition and waterproofing of them.
So your stuck inside, but it doesn't mean you can't scout some great new locations ?
The internet will give you instant access to the worlds best locations, its an ideal time to get onto Google Earth and have a good look around your local area, Look at Instagram and see if pictures you like are geotagged with information about the area, Look at photographers websites and get location information from there.
One of the very best ways is with a location guide book, these not only show pictures of all locations but they generally give information about parking places, grid references, what's nearby etc.... Perhaps the best of these are the series of guides from Fotovue which are exceptionally detailed and usually written by a local expert on the area so really valuable.
There has never been a better time to learn landscape photography with the wealth of information on the internet, there are blogs a plenty and with the rising popularity of platforms like You Tube you don't even have to go to the effort of reading, you can simply watch !
Endless subjects are covered from every element of post processing, location guides or simply just following someones adventures, its all inspiring and well worth watching.
It will motivate you for future trips and top up your knowledge, it doesn't matter how much you know I'm sure you will pick up tips along the way, time well invested.
If your a lightroom user then why not use this time to take the next step and learn photoshop ? Your pictures will benefit from it and I constantly hear people say they don't have time to sit down and learn it, well now you have nothing but time !
Landscape photography books are invaluable, not only will they provide motivation but also location knowledge and an insight into different styles and may well open your eyes to something you hadn't even considered before.
Books are still on sale and can be delivered to your door so a really good time to pick one up, ask your friends if they have any they would especially recommend too.
Trawl the Archives
Ok so this is a no brainer and one we have probably all been doing !
Go through all your old pictures and see if there's some you didn't edit before that could really have potential to be included in your portfolio, fresh eyes often mean you can see things better in these images since you have had a break from them.
Maybe you just skipped over them last time as you felt there was an image you wanted to edit more so left these behind, either way its a chance to refresh your work and keep it interesting.
Re edit some of your existing pictures, can you do a better job ? you probably can as you will have learnt more since you edited it first time and again the fresher eyes will help.
Swop Pictures For Editing
Got a good friend who's processing skills inspire you ? Ask them if they want to do an image swop ? Edit one of theirs while they edit one of yours.
This can be a great way to not only find out new techniques by following their path of edits but also to see how they saw your picture and decided to put their interpretation on it.
This will open your eyes to a whole new world of creativity and I can't recommend it highly enough, not only does it beat the boredom but it helps you learn a lot about post processing plus will increase your bond with the other person, possibly been my favourite part of lockdown !
Try a new crop
The way you crop an image can really accentuate elements within the picture, but most people never touch this and keep it standard.
Try different crops on pictures and see if they can add to it, for example a 16:9 crop can bring images into a whole new perspective and get rid of dead areas, a square crop could focus the eye more into the area you want it to lead through.
The bottom line here is there isn't any fixed rules for ratios so try a few and see what works for you ? It might just be a game changer and lets face it, you have the time to experiment now.
Clear Out The Crap
We all have hard drives full of pictures, but how many of them do you actually need ?
If you are really hard on yourself you can delete out so much rubbish that you will never process as its either not sharp, poorly composed, camera shake etc.... Why keep these images, you will never use them.
Photographers tend to keep everything for situations like winter down time when you trawl the archives looking for images to process again, but we rarely keep on top of them and clear out the tat.
Well guess what, you have nothing but time so keep it clean !
The garden and the house have infinite possibilities for intimate close up shots and its a great way to practice shutter speed and aperture control and understand them better.
Do you need a macro lens ? Well in the truest sense of the word yes, but in reality no you will be able to take shots pretty close up with most kit lenses.
It will teach you the importance of shutter speed to avoid movement in your subject and also get you to work harder with your lighting, all of which will benefit your understanding of things in your landscape photography in general.
Typically for me I lent out my macro lens to a friend before the lockdown and now can't get it back, but I hear he's enjoying it !
My poor dog will be pleased when lockdown is over as he has been the non stop subject of my lockdown photography, I'm pretty sure he's going to request royalty payments soon !
Refresh Your Portfolio/Website
What was once considered your best work might now be considered at best an "ok" shot.
Have a look back through and take out these shots so you have your very best work on display and represent yourself at a higher level.
It takes a lot to be critical of yourself but you will be your own most realistic critic and you know what you are capable of producing, just ask yourself, is it your best work ? If the answer is anything but yes then take it out.
Perfect time to refresh your website as well, maybe tidy it up, make it more user friendly etc.
Start a group chat on Facebook or Instagram during these times and reach out to a few of your fellow landscape photographers, they are good moral boosters and lots of different view points will be put forward and you can learn a lot from others.
It never hurts to have a few friends in these times and it's a good way of making sure everyone is doing well, remember a lot of people will be completely alone during these times and small things like this can make them feel less isolated.
Kindness costs nothing, we should all be looking out for each other.
Now is a perfect time to connect with other photographers too, your favourite ones who you normally wouldn't dream of messaging, well why not ? They're probably stuck at home bored just like you so why not send them a message, it will give them a boost and chances are you will get a reply right now as they don't have much else to do, they're all human after all.
Don't be afraid to approach people online, there's never been a better time, and who doesn't love a compliment.
Grow Your Social Media
Let's face it, we're all locked down and we're all looking through platforms like Instagram at the moment just to relieve the boredom, so make sure your work is one of the things people are seeing.
While I'm not exactly a fan of social media I do believe in this situation it can be a good friend to you and has some decent benefits to it, use it to your advantage and showcase your work to new audiences.
Get to know your local area
Ok so this is a tough one and I have wrestled with whether I should put it in or not.
The bottom line is we need to socially isolate, but at the same time we're allowed out for daily exercise as long as we avoid social contact.
Now is the perfect time to explore what's on your doorstep, and by doorstep I do mean local, getting in your car and driving miles to explore a new area is NOT acceptable and should be discouraged by all but you will have things right on your doorstep that are worth shooting and scouting.
They might not be right to shoot right now but they all go in the location memory bank and might be suitable at a later time of year with frosts for example.
You need your daily exercise so might as well make it double useful.
To be double clear here i'm saying WHILST on your daily LOCAL exercise just keep an eye out for interesting things, it is NOT an excuse to walk miles out of the way to go and look at things, be responsible.
Photograph The Moon
The moon is a fantastic thing to photograph, always interesting in each phase.
Obviously a long lens is key here and to be shot from your garden, not from a picturesque location you have had to travel too.
Theres a lot a lot of clear nights at the moment so its the perfect time to photograph it and it will certainly keep you entertained for a while at least.
Obviously the longer focal length lens you have the better but you can at least try with shorter focal lengths and then try and crop it down a bit.
Something different to normal at the very least.
Get familiar with your camera
Your camera has the capability to do so much more than you already use it for, now is the time to dig out the manual and see what it can really do.
All those buttons you never touch and menus you never really dive into can now be examined a bit more closely and learn what they do,
Sure lots of them will have no real use for you but knowing what they do may just be that key thing that helps you one day when you least expect it.
Knowledge is power and knowing your camera will make you better all round photographer as well as potentially open up more chances to be creative with your camera.
One thing a lot of landscape photographers never touch on their camera is the video settings, I'm no different.
But learning these gives you the opportunity to have it in your arsenal and use it in the future, maybe explore a time-lapse setting, or understand the FPS (Frames Per Second) and how they effect the finish of your video etc.
You can never know enough and now is the time to learn.
Whatever you decide to do stay safe and make sure you follow the rules about staying home.
The sooner we beat this the sooner you will all be out again so be a responsible photographer and don't go out and especially don't encourage others to do so via social media. Lead by example and save lives, don't be selfish and cost them.
Stay Inside, Stay Safe.