Archive for October, 2011

HOW TO: Comfort and Flexibility In The Field

October 8, 2011 9 comments

Imagine how annoying our lives would be without camera bags and camera straps. Our pockets would be bulging and spilling over with lenses, filters, cable releases, batteries and all sorts of other paraphernalia. We would be spending most of our time picking stuff up off the ground rather than shooting.

I have been through a whole gamut of camera bags, from the small square shoulder bags to a photographer’s vest, all the way up to a large photo backpack. Each one has served me well over the years and I have kept them around to store older camera gear. Last year I was in the market for a new bag. I wanted an option that was smaller in size, would hold all the gear I use now, and could be carried comfortably.

The go-to bag I am using now is a crossover of two styles. It is not a large backpack nor is it a small shoulder bag. It is worn like a backpack, but with only one strap crossing over your chest, rather than the two shoulder straps of a traditional backpack. When you need something from the bag, you sling it around front to access the main compartments, without having to take it off. It has the easy access of a small shoulder bag, but stays securely on, leaving your hands free. I can also carry it as a bag with a handle if I want to, so it provides me with the flexibility of use I need.

Some folks like to take every piece of gear with them at all times, and options are available if you need a bag designed to hold gobs of equipment. Other folks carry just enough for what they are anticipating to need on their shoot, and options are available if you want to take your camera and a few small items. I fall somewhere in-between, so my crossover bag fits my current needs perfectly.

If your old bag is on it’s last legs, or you just feel the need to upgrade, there are more choices available now than ever before. Over the years, manufacturers have developed designs to fit anyone’s requirements. There are shoulder bags, backpacks, pouches, waist packs, holsters and vests, just to name a few. Many of them are customizable with removable inserts, multiple pockets with several different ways to access compartments. Most are made with modern materials that are weather-resistant, durable and lightweight. Others are still made with classic materials, such as canvas and have an aged appearance.

Camera straps are another item I have changed out over the years. Straps that come packaged with most cameras are typically a one-size-fits-all. Aftermarket straps can be found in many configurations, styles and colors. And most are designed with a higher level of comfort and ease of use. Long straps, short straps, wrist straps, and heavily padded straps are just a few of the choices.

The strap I am using now is super comfortable and easy to attach to the camera. It can be made into a small handle by removing the shoulder pad and reattaching the quick disconnects. So I actually get two straps in one.

When you need to take your equipment in the field, comfort and flexibility will make your outings more productive and enjoyable.


October 5, 2011 12 comments

I’ve touched on viewpoint in previous posts, and for me, it is an important part of my process and how I approach my photography. By viewpoint, I am not only talking about my personal perspective, but how I use the camera to share my experiences through my images.

When I get to a location, the first thing I do is take a moment to get my first impressions. Even if I have been there before, or am returning to shoot a specific subject, I want to get a sense of that place at that moment.

I walk around with my camera in hand and start looking for the first scenes that capture my attention. I look for vignettes and the subtleties…light, shadows, texture and pattern. I move around. I look up. I look down.

And I look through the camera. Because what you see with your two eyes will be captured in a different way with the camera lens. Sometimes I pull out the polarizing filter, and without attaching it to the lens, rotate it and see how affects a potential subject with the light at that moment.

By this time, I have identified those subjects I know I want to shoot during this session. If I end up shooting additional scenes, or explore others as I go along, that is fine too. But at least I have selected my must-haves. Then I set up my shots, using the tripod, if needed.

Why is viewpoint so important? As a photographer, one of my goals is to share my experience of a location, or subject in a specific moment in time, with my viewer. I want to have a sense of the place I am shooting, so I take time to do that. And it is reflected in my photographs. Because when I do not follow this part of the process, my images become snapshots and not photographs.

And there is nothing wrong with snapshots. We all take them. However, if I am inspired by a scene and I believe my goal is to share that experience with you, why wouldn’t I do everything I can to make it my best?

INSPIRATION: Mission Architecture

October 3, 2011 6 comments

I always have a long-term personal commission running while working on my regular photographic assignments. My current mission is to photograph the architecture and old structures in the area where I live. This region is heavily wooded with rolling hills creating valleys rich for farming. The older buildings and farmhouses built of fieldstone and wood appear to merge seamlessly into the landscape.

Photographing older structures is a special interest of mine. They document how things were done long ago and provide all of us with the opportunity to learn about the time when they were built. Along with various historic properties in the area, many of the old buildings have been restored and are now used as a place of business or a private residence, preserving them for future generations. And the textures of stone and wood yield many possibilities for interesting subjects and compositions.

I like to shoot at various times of the day, since the direction of the light and the color temperature changes, giving a different look throughout the day. Using a wide angle lens can alter the way the building appears and offer a surreal look, or can encompass the building and its surroundings. Using a zoom lens may help eliminate distracting elements in a composition or isolate a particular aspect of the architecture. I look for leading or intersecting lines along with colors or patterns to add interest.

Photographing architecture at night can produce stunning photos. You tend to see more dramatic shadows and highlights cast across the face of the building from spot lights or streetlights.

As an alternative to my current quest, you may be interested in photographing modern buildings. I have found that subject to be just as fascinating. By getting up close to exaggerate perspective or changing your position from the typical viewpoint can add drama. Or even the sensation that the building is imposing itself on its surroundings. The glass and various metals used in contemporary structures can offer interesting reflections and patterns, sourced from streetlights or the sun.

So, find your personal quest and make it a long-term project. Explore those subjects that have a special interest to you. Whether they are man-made or built in nature, as long as they speak to you, the images you create will reflect your mission.