In my way of thinking "working the scene" is in reality working the composition. It can be very easy to become fixated, or locked into, a particular composition. In many ways we, as photographers, are reacting to a scene or subject matter on a subconscious level, and then seek to capture this moment on the sensors of our cameras. Perhaps it is something you have pre visualized, or you feel the composition is so strong that you feel compelled to wait it out for the right light. It is something I have noticed in some of my workshop clients and some are reluctant to make a change. Lets face it we can all get "focus-locked" on a composition. What drew us to the scene in the first place often subjugates our sense of observation. What we perceive as THE composition often narrows our view. But I want to suggest that there may actually be stronger compositions right before your eyes if you only take the time to "work the scene".
But what does this mean exactly? I think it is a process of slowing down and asking yourself what is it about this scene that you find compelling? What drew you to the scene and why did you stop? Take the time to look at all the angles. If possible move in tighter or move back. Get down low or move to a higher position for a different perspective. Walk around your subject and note how the composition as well as the the light changes. Take your camera off of the tripod and use it to quickly take a series of "digital sketches" which can help you see the different possibilities. Explore, experiment, and try to find the essence of the place.
One of the techniques I use is to zoom in on my shot with the Live View Screen. By zooming in and moving around my shot I can often find many more compositions that are achievable by simply changing my position or the focal length of my lenses. Often I will revisit the same location multiple times and under different lighting conditions. The benefit of this is that you begin to learn the rhythms of a place and over time you can begin to see beyond the original compositions and start to find more compelling images to help tell the story of a place.
The three images in this post were all shot in the same location but at different times and under slightly varied lighting conditions. The opening image essentially sets the stage and visually describes the powerful flow of a spring run-off through a glacial gorge. But by tightening up the compositions by changing the focal length of the lens I was able to isolate additional compositions that help to add more to the story. With each new composition the juxtaposition of the forms, and the balance and symmetry of those forms, change in relation to each other. "Working the scene" allows you to take one scene, or composition, and offer multiple viewpoints that can help you take more compelling and interesting images. RHC