ALWAYS SHOW UP
First, the “Something big”. I cancelled photo shoots for two clubs. Actually, I simply postponed the projects, but because “Always Show Up” is my mantra, it’s still a big deal. And it was really a difficult decision.
I was scheduled to photograph two golf clubs in South Carolina over a period of 5 days, but as the shoot approached, the weather forecast looked more and more grim. 95% cloud cover was predicted for 4 of the 5 days I was scheduled to be in the area. I don’t mind clouds. In fact, I prefer to have some clouds in the sky, rather than clear blue. But 95% cloud cover meant that little, if any, light would be hitting the ground. And that’s a worst case scenario for golf course photography.
I have in my Letter of Intent… which I provide my clients when I’m hired for a project… language that justifies a rescheduling of a photo shoot, but though the language states that changes can be necessitated by adverse weather conditions, it’s not entirely clear what weather conditions are ample reason for postponement. Which brings me to a communications shortcoming of mine. I assume folks know what I mean when I refer to “adverse weather conditions” or “bad shooting conditions”, and that’s probably not fair. I can successfully capture good images in almost any weather condition. But not always. So… what weather conditions make for a good photo shoot, and what conditions are unacceptable, making it impossible to capture usable images?
The key to great golf course photography… actually, the key to great photography of any kind… is light. The presence of light, the absence of light, or a combination of the two conditions are crucial to great photography. (But since I’m talking about golf course photography, that’s the focus of this missive.) Sunlight makes for great photos. Sunlight hitting the ground. Sunlight at a low angle. Sunlight creating dramatic rays in the clouds or beaming thru the trees. There are many kinds of sunlight that offer opportunities for great photography, but sunlight is necessary. The contrast created by sunlight and shadows strengthens an image, and can be used effectively during the editing process to build a dynamic, interesting image.
Let me pause for a moment to say that some of my favorite images have been captured without sunlight. I shoot every day at dawn when I’m on a project, and a gorgeous blue hour shot doesn’t include sunlight on the ground. I’ve also captured some wonderful images on golf courses on foggy mornings. But while those images work well as accent pieces in an overall set of images, they won’t hold up as the dominant portion of a golf course collection. Who wants to project their club’s image as one that’s always gray and gloomy?
I’m always looking for Interesting skies, and they can come in many forms. A passing storm… wispy cirrus clouds painting with light brush strokes across an otherwise pure blue sky… big, billowy cumulus clouds filling the sky and casting strong shadows over the ground. It’s hard to categorize all the ways that clouds help in composing an interesting image, but having something in the sky matters to me. I can work well with clear blue skies by shooting differently, though, changing to a long lens and minimizing the amount of compositional space devoted to the sky. I’ll often eliminate the sky altogether by zooming in on a green complex or an architectural feature or shooting around or thru trees. I can also shoot drone aerials focused solely on the ground, with long shadows adding the contrast and interest those images need.
Interesting skies reflected in a body of water are the mother lode of golf course photography, especially at dawn or sunset. Yikes! Many times, when photographing a transition from day to night or night to day, when great skies were reflected in water, I’ve found myself physically vibrating. This visceral, emotional response to nature’s beauty is something I try hard to communicate thru my images, and in many ways, these “transitions” define my style.
But back to the original dilemma of postponing my recent photo shoot. Faced with 4 days of almost total cloud cover, I knew in my heart that while I may have captured an image or two that would find their way into a final collection my client would be pleased to have represent his property, I also knew that a full collection of good images would not happen with day upon day of heavy cloud cover.
So, while rescheduling a photo shoot is a painful decision, I hope any future clients who fall victim to a postponement are as understanding as the two clubs in South Carolina have been. My goal is always to provide a great collection of images for my client, and the only thing that would cause me to postpone a shoot is a certainty… to the extent weather forecasts offer any kind of certainty… that that goal will not be achieved as scheduled. I haven’t postponed a photo shoot in years, because it breaks my heart to fail in my effort to “Always Show Up”. And I hope never to do it again.
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