Outward Bound - A Sunrise Photo Shoot for Stock
If you’ve seen my work before, you’ll know that I tend to avoid human presence or evidence in my landscape shots. But I’m becoming more sensitive to the need for that human element in shots I am submitting as stock photography.
Early mornings are not my preference, but I had been thinking about this shoot in my head for more than a while. I was inspired by all the amazing work I’m seeing on the Adobe Stock Discord server, from photographers across the globe. I know the “people-ratio” of my stock catalog is slim and I wanted to do something to change that and to hopefully increase sales.So I naturally thought of combining a couple elements that I love; the lake and the sense of peace a kayak can produce.
This sunrise shoot would require me to be up and out of the cottage no later than 5:30 am. To help with that early morning set up, the day before, I went down to the beach at the cottage and scouted a couple locations/angles for my shoot the next morning. Interestingly, one angle that I had immediately dismissed turned out to be my primary angle.
I knew I wanted to include the kayak in the majority of the shots. I also - more loosely - planned on including myself in some of the shots for a direct human element. I visualized shots of me in the kayak, with me remotely triggering the camera, and possible shots of me off the shore completely. The reality of the shoot was a bit of a compromise, but I liked it.
I also prepped my kayak the night before, so I could basically grab-n-go, everything I needed already in the kayak and the kayak itself on the dolly. Losing 5 or 10 minutes fumbling around in the morning could cost me the sunrise.
Looking out my window early that Saturday morning, I didn’t hold a lot of hope for the sunrise; the sky was overcast. But as I trundled down the road to the lake, I caught glimpses of pink near the horizon. My pace increased.
When I got to the beach I started first with a quick smart phone grab to lock in the colours in my mind.
I quickly realized that I would be lucky to set up in two places before the light changed radically. So, using the “path of least resistance” process, the first place I set up was the one place I didn't think I would use; compositionally, it was a good spot - right on the shore, camera aimed at the sunrise. However, this viewpoint also meant I’d be spending time removing the buoy line that marked the swimming area at the lake - the original reason I rejected the location.
I started with a shot of the kayak still on the dolly, and then placed the kayak right on the shore, pointing towards the sunrise. I had my red life jacket and the paddle as props for the first series.
After a few frames, I moved myself into the scene and - trying really hard to not look like I was doing it - I triggered the camera from my phone, holding as still as possible due to the slow shutter speed. I shot with and without the life vest on. My back was mostly to the camera so there would be no need for a model release. I’m sure I will cooperate with myself if one is needed at some point.
The sun was getting higher, so I quickly moved the kayak to my second scouted location, a reed and grass covered spot just north of the beach area. I knew from scouting that this area could give me a variety of compositions.
As with my first location, I shot with and without a human (me) and also did some tighter shots. The angle and location also leant themselves to more vertical compositions.
In the end, I came away with about 8 different shots (with slight variations). By the time I was done with my second location, the sunrise was done. My third location would have to wait for another day and time.
Of course, it pretty much goes without saying that I also captured some pure landscape images during this shoot.
With the shooting behind me, I contemplated going for a paddle, but the humidity was already increasing, and I didn’t relish the thought of being on the lake in long sleeve and long pants. Also, not being the most graceful of kayakers, I really didn't want to attempt boarding, paddling around and disembarking from my kayak with camera and tripod in hand... So I opted to head back the the cottage and review my work.
Tip: Lightroom Mobile has supported direct raw import to my iPad for some time now, and I’ve been using this workflow regularly. I use a hybrid workflow where’s I work in both LR Mobile and Lightroom Classic. I ingest through my iPad, make my selects and do the brunt of my processing on my iPad, and once I’m home, I boot up LRC and let all high res raw assets sync to my desktop.
The Clean Up
After culling and processing, I still had some work ahead of me: removing the buoy line from certain shots and the more meticulous/tedious process of searching for and “scrubbing IP” from and shots I wanted to push to my Stock catalog.
Note: Scrubbing IP means to remove any details that can be considered intellectual property, such as logos, trademarks, company names, specific markings, even colors. In this series of shots, I had kayak logos to deal with as well as markings on the life vest and clothing. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes...not. Case in point, the semi-obscured but still readable kayak logo in the grass and reeds shots.
Much like my harvester combine shots, scrubbing IP took the most time (or it felt like it did, anyway). I made liberal use of the Patch Tool and Healing Brush in Photoshop to not only speed up the process, but also produce realistic, quality results. Minor retouching can be done in Lightroom, but when you have intricate elements your need to alter, Photoshop is the best way to do this.
Removing the buoy line completely changed the feel of the composition. The image went from “being in a park” to “being in the middle of nowhere”. The time and work need to remove the line was minimal, but well worth it.
Overall, I'm pleased with how the shoot went, and ecstatic that the 10 images I submitted to Adobe Stock were all recently accepted! To add icing to the cake, the shots are already showing up in a several keyword searches on the stock web site.
If there was one failing to the photoshoot, it is that I did not have the presence of mind to capture any video. In hindsight, I had at least two perfect opportunities to shoot footage. As a longtime photographer, video is yet to become second nature to me - but it must. I have to get past the stage where I must consciously think about shooting video; it has to become just one of the things I do when I make photographs.
The good news is, there are many more sunrises ahead of me, and the lake isn't going anywhere. With those certainties, I fully intend to return to beach for some live action recording in the near future.
Other Helpful Links
Adobe Stock: http://stock.adobe.com
Become an Adobe Stock contributor: https://contributor.stock.adobe.com/
Guerrilla Marketing with Adobe Stock and Adobe Portfolio:
My Stock Portfolio: https://stock.adobe.com/contributor/205449780/Jim%20Babbage
My Photography website (including links to my Stock collections): http://jimbabbage.photography