Engage brain before lifting camera …

Picking up my Washington Post off the driveway, I got yet another example of what separates a real pro from just a guy with a nice camera. Sitting above the fold, four columns wide was a photo showing the very top of the Washington monument. An earthquake had damaged the world’s tallest stone structure and the picture showed an inspector, using ropes, beginning his decent of the 555-foot tall obelisk.

It’s easy to get a graphic shot like this but Post staff photographer Linda Davidson spends hours getting all the details just right. In the post 9-11 world you have to be very, very careful with photos of landmarks and jet planes. The plane, taking off from Reagan National nicely filled the right side of the photo and is headed away from the monument so as not to alarm anyone. It’s a small detail but the silhouette of the worker at the very top of the structure provides perfect balance to the image.

When I asked her about the photo she pointed out something I over looked—patience.” The technical part is very important, but so is patience, she said.” Having an idea, waiting for the weather to clear, watching planes and traffic patterns, I can’t stress enough the patience that can go into things”.

For gear, she was shooting with a Nikon D700, a 200-400mm zoom combined with a 1.4 converter to give her a 560mm lens. By choosing the long telephoto lens she is able to stand far away from the subject, bringing the viewers eye right to it he top of the monument where the action was.

It seems a shame to have to point out the obvious but this photo is real. This is not a composite image. The plane was not photoshopped into the image. The little man on the top of the monument wasn’t copy and pasted from a different frame. Many people think good photography requires the use of that famous Adobe product but in some cases it’s just a shooter that knows their craft.

Teachable moment here:> I don’t want you to run out and buy a $5000 lens, for most subjects any camera is fine. You can improve your pictures by just thinking more. Once you take a good photo (like the monument with the climber) think of what you could do make a good photo even better. Don’t settle for the obvious but push yourself to something better.

Do a search for Washington Post photographer — Linda Davidson, her work will inspire you!


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