When I started out in photography, I would often come upon a photographic scene, pull my camera up to my eye, trip the shutter than head off to the next locale. At times I was a bit more ambitious and took two shots before I headed off to something else. All too often, the results were disappointing.

As I learned more about photography and studied great photographers, I’ve found that all of them share one trait in common, when they come upon a photographic scene, they shoot it from every angle imaginable, with different shutter speeds, apertures and lenses. They return at different times of day and under varying weather conditions to photograph it.

They work it….

They work the scene. Once I started working the scene, my photography improved dramatically and it really isn’t that difficult to do. Just do what you enjoy and take pictures and don’t be so obsessed to drop the scene to move on to the next. Take your time and photograph what’s before you in every way possible.

Let’s go over a scene I shot a while ago — a little pier not five minutes from my house. I’ll describe how I worked the scene. Click on any image to make it bigger.

I came upon this little pier and thought it would be a nice photographic subject. This is the first shot I took of it. Not spectacular. If I would have stopped here I would have been disappointed.
I walked to the end of the pier and took this shot looking back. I was going for a symmetry shot… it didn’t work, but I didn’t give up.
As I walked back from the end, I turned around and shot this… getting better!

Ok, I took three shots and finally have one keeper. I could have been tempted to leave this pier in search of something more interesting but I’m working the scene! I have a lot more pier to discover.

I ventured under the pier to capture this image using a long shutter speed. Now this boring little pier is starting to become more and more interesting as I work the scene.

As I recall, to this point I’ve taken dozens of shots using a variety of focal lengths, shutters speeds and apertures and have two keepers. I shot it every which way I could with the equipment that I had on hand. I decided I’d like to come back another day at sunset and shoot the pier with a long shutter speed and those images and the story behind them are in yesterday’s post that you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Part of working the scene is to return, if possible, under varying light and weather conditions.

To work a scene, you simply have to be patient — don’t rush off to another location until you’re satisfied that you’ve exhausted all possibilities that are before you. Also see if you can return and take more pictures when the light and weather are different.

The more you’re exposed to the area and the elements that are contained in it, the more you’ll come to realize what the important elements are and what elements can be eliminated. That’s when your images of that scene will become special.

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