Complete Field Engagement

T2i, 70-200L at 185mm, 1600 iso, 1/640s, f4.5

How many times in the past while taking photographs have you uploaded the images to your computer only to discover that you probably should have taken more time in the field getting something right? Being in too much of a hurry is a common problem that many photographers face. And it can take its toll on your images.

When I teach landscape and nature photography to a group or an individual, I sometimes talk about what I call CFE or “complete field engagement”. I use the acronym to represent 3 very important things that you have to get right – Composition, Focus, and Exposure. These are elementary and staple parts of taking any photograph, but even still, one or more of them is often what is responsible for ruining a chance to take a wonderful image.

My thoughts on CFE are as follows:

If you don’t have a COMPOSITION, you have no photograph period. You must walk around with your camera off tripod and find that interesting composition. Sometimes we don’t have much to work with in this regard due to obstructions, tree branches that get in the way, man-made objects and other clutter that is distracting and detrimental to the image. But, by taking your time and finding a composition that works, and something that is aesthetically pleasing, you’re well on your way to getting it right.

Check and recheck your FOCUS. If you’re doing landscape images with a great depth of field, figure out where you need to focus to get close to the hyperfocal distance. Always ask yourself if the most important elements of the image are razor sharp. There are many types of artistic renditions of fine art images where sharpness may not be the top priority, however, it pays to take some time getting your focus bang on. And always use your DOF preview button to make sure you’ve chosen the correct aperture.

Figure out how you want your EXPOSURE to affect your image. Some images you’ll want to purposely underexpose, some you may want to lean slightly to the right. Always consider the dynamic range of the scene, how many exposures you’ll need to produce the final image, and refer to your histogram after every shot. Is it important to see detail in the shadows? Are the highlights blown? Try to visualize the final print you’d like to make from photographing the scene.

Remember CFE and the principles of complete field engagement while taking your photos, and your percentage of missed shots will drop dramatically.

Happy shooting!


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