Steps to becoming a better nature photographer – run the fences

#3 – Run the fences

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This is my  dog “Hops.” He’s a part terrier, part spaniel mutt that we got from the local [wikipop]SPCA[/wikipop] roughly 13 years ago. At age 13, he’s basically retired from many of his “dog duties.” Standing diligently at the front door watching for strangers has largely been replaced by sunny naps in the back yard. He still has one routine that he does every day: running the fences. Any time he goes into the yard, he faithfully runs a lap around the perimeter. He inspects every bush, every smell, every inch of the fence as he makes his way around the yard to sure make his arch nemesis, THE SQUIRREL!, hasn’t encroached upon his territory.

A lesson can be learned from Hops. Both his attention to detail and the diligence with which he performs his task can be applied to your photography. If you’ve taken a workshop with Gary Hart you’ve heard it called “border patrol.” I’ve also seen it referred to simply as frame inspection. (I like to call it “running the fences” because I get to show you a picture of the Hop-dog.) The premise is simple. After you’ve found your composition, follow the edge of the frame completely around the viewfinder. Every item in your composition should have purpose. It a stick, bush or SQUIRREL! is sticking into the frame, look at it and make ask yourself what it’s adding to the composition. If you can’t come up with an answer, adjust your position and come up with a composition that doesn’t include it. This technique is another reason why I feel a tripod is absolutely necessary with landscape photography.

Having the camera mounted allows you to be very deliberate with your composition, it slows you down and lets you think about what you’re doing. The fact it keeps the camera still is just gravy. The next time you’re out shooting, slow down, be deliberate and run the fences. You’ll be surprised how many more “keepers” you start getting.


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