Why are some photographers continuously able to take breathtaking images?
Follow the rabbit hole of images on social media and you will quickly see that the photographers behind the amazing shots have a portfolio of them. These amazing shots are not just one-off lucky moments, right place – right time situations, but rather it is meticulous planning to be able to capture those bangers 9 out of 10 times.
Technically, 'good shots' have it all, composition and exposure are correct however they lack the "oh, damn" effect. Does this sound familiar in your photography? Perhaps I am just talking from a personal stand point but I wonder why I can't take shots like these guys ALL THE TIME!
Enough ranting about good versus great shots. How do you execute and what is the recipe for coming home with the prize every time?
Enter Nicolas Babot, a photographer from New Zealand. Ok, I agree, being in a beautiful place like NZ is half the job done, without much effort you can take a decent shot. We aren't talking about decent shots though, we are talking about amazing shots, and continuously coming home with them. Early one morning I jumped on skype and caught up with Nico on his adventures during the Southern Hemisphere winter and asked him how he stays motivated and what it takes to consistently get those prize shots.
Nicolas: "This year it was a dry snow season around Christchurch where I am based, further down south had a good snowfall, I still managed some great photography trips over the winter.
For me, I have two ways of doing things. There are those shots I have in mind and it's clear what I am going for, or the other way is to just go out for the weekend and see what happens, just take my camera and don't do a lot of preparation.
For the most part I have an idea in mind because there are many locations that I want to get to that have unique photo opportunities. For instance there is a location on the west coast of the south Island that is only accessible at low tide, I want to shoot at sunset, and with interesting weather. So with these three elements, if you don't prepare then it's super unlikely that anything is going to happen."
It's now not a question of "Will I do something this weekend?" It's a question of
– Nicolas Babot.
I got to know Nico over the past few months, we connected over instagram where I was browsing through shots of New Zealand and found his work. Since then I have been keeping in touch and following his adventures. It seems to me like he is continuously out shooting at different locations and achieving phenomenal results. I feel like most people often shoot around the same location close to home and then they hold off for this big trip once a year… except for Nicolas. Don’t get me wrong, I think shooting in your backyard is way under appreciated, but it seems Nicolas is always on a new adventure. This intrigued me and I had to ask him how he was able to head away on all these trips?
Nicolas: “Yeah, my friends give me shit if I am at home for two weeks in a row, they think I am sick or something. Firstly I am lucky that I have a partner who is also keen to go on adventures, she is into videography so it’s a good combo (www.theworldisacircus.com). Secondly it isn’t so much as motivation as it is just a routine. It’s now not a question of “Will I do something this weekend?’ It’s a question of “Where next?” “Where are we going this weekend?” So it is very easy to have the motivation because I don’t actually need the motivation. It’s just routine, It becomes my comfort zone, in another way. So it’s no effort to pack my bag and go.
A few trips I took recently included an 8 hour drive down to Fjordland to chase the meteor shower.”
“Summit in Fjordland. Super easy and super nice although I froze my ass off waiting around for a shitty sunset. The sky cleared up towards the end of the night where I managed to get one shot.Although the night was not so successful the sunrise was amazing so being up there alone was all worth it.”
“Mueller Hut was another trip. It’s an easy walk to do in the summer, winter is much more limited. Pretty steep, a lot of snow so we needed to use crampons etc. The Forecast was meant to be really bad, so that was actually why we went because it meant there would be limited people there as well as a great experience and good training having to deal with the bad weather.
However after all that, the weather didn’t come so we managed to have a some really great images.”
“I think that most of the time I can come back with something great because of the planning that goes in to it”
It seems that continuously getting great shots isn’t just knowing how to work a camera and getting lucky. So I asked Nico what is involved with going on these trips.
Nicolas: “I have a list of places I want to go which I mark on a ‘My Map’ on google maps. I may have passed a place befor and want to go back there, or I hear about a location.
I also do a lot of research online using 500 PX or instagram etc to find places I want to go, these are not only in NZ but all over the world.
I look at the weather, and see where is good, then I pair that with the places on my map which gives me a location to aim for.I can only shoot on the weekends so I look at the weather on Wednesday to start planning. This usually works but NZ weather changes a lot and the forecasts are not that reliable so I check again and make the final decision on Friday.
Some places it takes little more time to bring together. Like with Plateau Hut this past winter, I had been waiting for a year and half to do that trip. It took a lot more planning mainly because you need a helicopter to access the area. Thus I needed to co-ordinate with some friends to come on the trip, had to have the correct weather and then tie it together with the helicopter company.
Plateau hut is an absolutely amazing place, and not the usual face to see Mt Cook from so you can get some really unique images.I had a shot in mind. I wanted a shot of the Milky Way framing Mt Cook with the hut in the foreground. The cherry on top would have been to get the aurora in the shot as this l shot was facing south but it didn’t happen, although that was always going to be a long shot with a lot of luck needed… I’ll be back.
It takes more planning and more time but when it all comes together with those bigger trips, it is totally worth it.”
“Weather is one thing, and then once I have the location I always need to check the sunrise and sunset to find the direction and time where the sun is going to be, and where it is going to hit the mountain.
For Astro I look at where the milky way is going to be and what part of the night. For instance, my trip to Plateau hut I new the milky way would be just after sunset which allowed time for one beer in the hut after the sunset shoot, then I had to head out again.
I use a few apps to help with this part of the planning.”
I think that most of the time I can come back with something great, because of the planning that goes in to it. If I arrive 2 – 3 hours befor the sunest I have time to find the composition etc and then wait for nature to do its thing.”
So that’s it, that’s what it takes to capture those breath taking images on a consistent basis, PLANNING.
Do you have an adventure you would like to share? We are always wrapped to hear from our community and share your stories, so don’t be shy, shoot us an email and we can spin a yarn.
Happy planning and happy shooting.