COVID: A Year of Photography Growth
I was at work in my downtown Boston office last March when the news broke that COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. I remember turning to my fellow cube-mates in disbelief. We had all heard about the outbreak in China over the past few weeks, but even after cases starting showing up in Seattle, few of us expected things to escalate to a global level.
The heightened sense of uneasiness was palpable for a few days, but we all kept commuting into work, raiding the communal snack cabinets and avoiding the inevitable with after-work drinks - mask wearing wasn't even a thought. Looking back on those moments now, it feels like a different life. Can you imagine being at a bar right now? Or sitting in a crowded conference room? Wiggling into a packed subway car? I sure can't.
Things progressed quickly over the next few weeks and quarantine started to become a regular part of everyone's vocabulary. With lockdowns in place before long, I remember worrying about how I could keep up my photography without the ability to travel to amazing places. Fortunately, landscape and astrophotography just happen to be two of the best hobbies for social distancing, and you can do them anywhere.
Like most people, I've learned a lot about myself over these past 12 months, and I'm fortunate to be able to say that my photography has improved as a result of the pandemic. Here are a few reasons why:
Mt. Kearsarge summit in Warner, New Hampshire. July 2020
More & Better Planning
Planning is crucial to landscape photography, and I'll admit that I wasn't the best at it before the pandemic. I'd keep an eye on conditions for sunrises/sunsets and look around the internet for inspiring locations, but my planning process pretty much ended there. With COVID-related restrictions on non-essential travel and different rules in almost every town/state, it forced me to think more about where and when I wanted to shoot and map out exactly how I could do it safely. Careful planning allowed me to safely visit more of the New England region than I ever had before, and I gained experience in a variety of shooting conditions and locations. I'm still working on location scouting before I visit a location for a shoot, but in general I now frequently refer to topographical maps, weather patterns, star trackers, local news and other resources.
Jordan Pond Bubbles at Acadia National Park. September 2020
The Right Gear
It's true that you don't need the newest and most expensive photo gear to capture a great image. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider what types of gear are best for your style of photography and work toward getting what you need. After shooting for the first few months of COVID, I honed in on what I really like to shoot and what type of gear I needed to progress in those areas. It meant selling my old crop sensor DSLR kit for a full frame mirrorless body, figuring out what camera bag works for me, ditching a cheap old tripod and adding a handful of accessories to make my life easier. After doing those things, I can now stay out shooting longer and come away with cleaner, sharper images. Without the pandemic, I probably wouldn't have been as thoughtful about updating my loadout, so I'm happy with where I am now.
Sandwich, Massachusetts. May 2020
Attention to Detail
When you're in the middle of a pandemic, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. When you've got time, you don't feel rushed. And when you don't rush, you allow yourself to really focus on the details of every shoot and every image. I'm a perfectionist by nature, so I really enjoyed taking a little extra time to do things right - whether that meant reading every article I could find about how to take a good drone photo, making spreadsheets to compare lens specs, or pixel peeping every photo for sharpness. It's true that anything worth doing is worth doing right. That's a lesson I always try to apply to life in general, but I found it especially true of my photography in 2020. I certainly feel like going that little bit further resulted in more images I could be proud of.
Cabot, Vermont. October 2020
Without a doubt, 2020 was a challenging year, and a big part of me wishes it never happened. But, that would be ignoring the positives that came out of it as well - and there were actually many of those. I took some of my best and favorite images in the last 12 months, and continued to grow my photography hobby into something bigger. Here's to progress!