I'm a firm believer in putting in hard work in order to get good results. But it doesn't always go as planned, no matter how much effort you put in.
Case in point: I've been on a train photography kick lately. Not sure why or how it started, but I think the turning point was when a friend suggested that I should contact the marketing department at Canadian National Railway about shooting for them. This sparked an idea to go out specifically looking for trains to shoot.
Around the same time, I rekindled my love of neutral density filters. I applied them to every shot involving movement of some sort, in order to boost my modest fine art repertoire.
I closed off my aperture and slowed down my shutter, capturing flowing waterfalls, light streaks from moving vehicles, and ghosting effects using people. With my desire to create something new to look at, I also sought out moving trains. Look to my home page if you need more convincing.
This train photo was the culmination of a thirty minute hike in sub zero temperatures. But I love the results I got, especially of the perfect orange ribbon of train cars. The surrounding landscape is okay, but the star of the show is the train. I was also able to capture several other colour streaks from different coloured cars. A bit of hard work that paid off.
I went out to a nearby spot a week later. Way colder, windier, and not a pleasant experience overall. It was so windy and cold, you really couldn't have exposed skin and I had to hold onto my tripod so it didn't fall over. While not one of my favourite images by any means, there are some elements of it that aren't that bad. The orange streaking train cars work well along with the mountains on the horizon. Worth the effort? Barely.
This scene involved scoping out Google Earth for an hour, driving about half an hour, then hiking down a steep, icy hillside. My best vantage point was being perched precariously on top of a very high cliff with a sliver of a train cars rumbling below me. While I'm not overly displeased with the result, there are/were a few elements working against it.
The saving grace of this photo is that I guarantee nobody has an image like this, for better or for worse.
This shot took some work, well mostly in getting there. In chasing waterfalls, my wife and I found this one after a bit of searching online, followed by over an hour's drive and close to an hour of walking. When we scrambled to get there, the only place I could set my tripod down was in the stream amongst a bunch of fallen logs (which we quite slippery). I used a hand held Speedlite which I activated manually to make that red jacket pop.
I'm pleased with the results, but if my wife flinched at all, those efforts would have been ruined.
On the contrary, both of these images took almost zero effort (other than dragging myself outside). No, I didn't plan the shots, not did I use any special filters. They're both cases of being at the right spot at the right time with the perfect lighting. They are two of my favourite images that I have captured over the past couple of years. I know that to recreate both of these would take a great bit of planning, work, and even more luck.
The moral of the story? Put in the work, or don't, but be prepared to shoot at any time if you want good results.