Shooting Smart: How to score (almost) every time out there
Today, we're going to tell you one of the biggest secrets of a successful landscape photographer. It also happens to be the way to make the most of Escaype. We call it shooting smart.
The keys to shooting smart are: flexibility and adaptability.
We've all been in the situation. You've driven an hour. The clouds looked great all the way up. Suddenly, just twenty minutes before sunset, a thick grey wall of fog appears out of nowhere, socks you in, and the show is over before it starts. That's all, folks. Drive of skunky shame to home coming up.
But, was it really over? Or were other options available?
Even with the most powerful weather forecasts available, the following points for shooting smart remain indispensable:
1) Avoid setting your plans in stone. Yes, even if we forecasted a 100/0 from Davenport to Santa Cruz with a slight chance of patchy fog, and you drive to Davenport and find it fogged in, you should be prepared to try a spot a couple miles away. Don't just sit there in the fog, and don't turn around and drive home! Be a smart shooter; report it immediately so we can let you know what your options are.
Of course, there are occasional exceptions. If you came to shoot the full moon at a specific angle, then we'll do everything we can to make sure you know what you're in for. But if you're in search of a burn: flexibility is key.
2) Consider the big picture and not just very specific, localized forecasts. If the app says 100/0 all over the coast and has a mysterious 30/20 at the Golden Gate Bridge, this means the model is seeing an excellent sunset for the most part, and there may be small blue holes in the clouds, which may or may not be exactly at the Golden Gate. Once sunset nears, we will be tracking these blue holes and alerting each other to them -- if you notice that the blue hole is actually down in Pacifica, be a smart shooter and don't stand underneath it. (This is when it helps to have a backup...)
3) Know your location. In general, you want to face a burn for the best chance of color. For example, Kirby Cove faces southwest and is not a summer sunset spot. The coast from Davenport to Santa Cruz is much better in winter than summer, both at sunrise and sunset. Bowling Ball Beach is not prime at a 6' high tide. Mt. Tam is prime for fog around 1500-1700 feet and Russian Ridge is prime around 2000-2200 feet. All of these kinds of things can be discussed in your group, but it's your responsibility as a smart shooter to research them, or to be prepared to learn the hard way. Excellent resources include googling "tide table [your location]", TPE, PhotoPills, PlanIt!, and dozens of other apps and websites for evaluating conditions and locations. We'd rather not answer these questions for you when the info is already somewhere else, because that leaves us less time to answer the weather questions that no other weather service does.
4) Always have an appropriate backup plan, and preferably more than one. Your backup spots should solve the problems you anticipate you might encounter at your first choice. For example, if your first choice is Marshall Beach, Baker Beach is not a backup for fog or a blue hole in the sky, as if the fog comes in or the blue hole forms, you're screwed at either spot. Treasure Island, however, is a suitable backup. In the event that your first choice doesn't work out, we will likely be able to verify that your backup has more favorable conditions.
5) Use common sense. If Escaype forecasted a 100/0 from Pescadero to Half Moon Bay, and you're in Pescadero and it's meager cloud cover an hour before sunset, but you see the clouds just to your north... get in the car and drive under them. If you drive to Russian Ridge and find it fogged in, don't just give up and drive home -- drive up a couple miles to a couple other spots and you'll find yourself above it. Remember: shoot smart.
All this may mean you'll have to do some research to find more spots to shoot around the Bay Area. But ahhh, that's one of the most fun and exciting parts of photography: discovering your own favorite local spots by researching and exploring, then making the shots you visualize into reality.
Finally, we'd like to clarify an important Escaype policy that has been in effect since day one, but we've been a little lax on it, and in order to focus in on what we do best for you as our groups grow, we're going to have to crack down a little. Believe me -- it's all for you.
Remember that Escaype is the world's first comprehensive weather service for photographers. This means we are here to answer all your questions about weather and light in the bay area.
While we may pop in from time to time to provide critique on photos you share in the groups; while we may chip in for discussions about gear, processing, and workflow in the groups; and while we may offer a few location possibilities at times -- remember, however, that we are not a Bay Area photo tour service, and we are not advertising nor providing a full-service workshop, and any non-weather advice we provide is a pure courtesy and is not included in the Escaype package. If you're interested in working directly and closely with us for in-field guidance, in-depth processing, and extensive image review, we are happy to provide that with private workshops.
You are more than welcome to ask for location advice, arrange carpools, and the like, in your groups. But remember that you haven't hired us to answer those questions -- you've hired us to tell you when the weather is looking prime for photography. And we do that best when we can focus all our time and energy into it.