A lot of photography is simply being ready to take photos at a moment’s notice. Over the years there have been many times in which I’ve said to myself, “Man, I wish I had a camera right now.” Sure, more often than not I’ve probably had my phone with me which has a camera, but it’s not the same. Yes, the best camera is the camera you have with you, but there are many instances in which even with today’s current technology, a phone camera isn’t going to cut it.
Take this photo for example:
There’s no way a phone could have produced this pic. Not without a bunch of post production work anyway.
My wife and I were driving along some back roads in Idaho this summer. This year it was quite smokey due to the many wildfires in that part of the country which offered up some pretty amazing sunsets. At this moment, at this place everything was just perfect; the setting sun bleeding through the haze was looking great with amazing colors. But it was setting fast.
I wanted to do a pic, but we had to hurry. Because I wanted a portrait with the setting sun in the background, I knew it was going to require flash to do it right. So I pulled over, set up a bare speed light on a stand, pulled out the camera and started shooting. It took no more than a couple of minutes from the time we stopped to when I was taking pics.
I’ve been practicing doing just this; quickly setting up and just firing off some shots. But the key is being prepared to do just this at a moment’s notice. Part of being prepared is of course practicing, but the other part is just having the gear with you. You don’t need to have a lot of gear either. When we go out and about, I typically have at least one speed light and a single stand along with a shoot-through umbrella. But often times I don’t even use the umbrella. In fact most of the time I don’t even use the flash setup. But when you need or want flash it’s awesome to have it
So, basically, I’m traveling with a small case containing my camera, a couple lenses and a couple of flash triggers. Along with that, one stand, one speed light and one shoot-through umbrella. I can carry it with one hand if I stuff the stand and umbrella under my arm. No, I don’t want to walk around/hike with it, but we’re talking driving around.
I suggest putting together a simple setup that you can use in almost any setting. That will require the use of flash. A flash isn’t required if you don’t mind limiting yourself a bit, but it definitely expands the settings in which you can take photos. Then practice with it. Practice setting it up and dialing it in quickly. Then take it with you when traveling around. Then when you’re driving around and you come across that perfect time, place and moment, you’ll be ready.