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IN THE FIELD: Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

As photographers, whenever we are out and about, either going for a walk in the park or driving down the road, it pays to be aware of what’s around us.

When we take the time to “participate in the landscape” as the late Galen Rowell said, photo opportunities present themselves. Spend some time in the park before getting the camera out. Walk the streets of the towns we live in and take a hard look around before putting the viewfinder up to our eye. Before we know it, this habit becomes second nature and we see things we may have missed had we not taken the time.

I live in a wooded area, and the scenery changes from day to day. Especially this year with the accelerated spring season we are experiencing. Wildflowers are beginning to bloom and brighten up the forest floor, trees and shrubs are flowering and putting out new leaves for the season. When we walk the pups in the morning, not only are we watching what they are getting into, but we also keep an eye out for photo opportunities.

I have found walking the dogs and carrying a tripod and camera is not an easy task. Our pups are terriers and are the determined sort. And yes, they do talk to us through facial expressions and body language.

“I want to go over here and stick my face in this tall clump of stuff and see what’s in it. That metal thing with three legs you’re carrying is getting in my way, David. Why can’t you leave that darn thing at home? Besides, If we want to chase a turkey or a chipmunk, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping up.”

Well, the pups make a good point. Except for the fact the early morning light changes quickly here and is different by the time we get home from our walk. Which means I have to go back out and try to make do with exposures in brighter harsher light. I know I advocate using a tripod whenever possible, but there are times when it just isn’t practical.

So instead of bringing the tripod or monopod, I put the camera strap back on, put the camera over my neck and also use a device called a stabilizer strap made by Optech. http://optechusa.com/stabilizer-strap.html. This simple strap allows me to go anywhere the dogs are determined to go, within reason, and not have the camera swing to and fro and bang into trees or myself. With no tripod or monopod, another issue comes into play. Low light and hand-holding a camera.

Fortunately, digital cameras allow for situations like this. You can adjust the ISO to a higher setting and still get acceptable exposures when hand-holding a camera in low light situations. It’s not always the best method, but it sure beats missing a good photo-op, especially when you cannot make a return visit. Or when your puppy sees a turkey.

  1. April 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

    A great and informative post, David.

    • April 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks Bob, Just thought I would share my morning routine!

  2. April 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Wonderful… and also made me smile too… your dogs are so lovely and so adorable…How beautiful these flowers… My lilacs don’t blossom yet.. Every year I feel excited as if I would see them at first time… Thank you dear David, wonderful informations as always, especially for us, who are not a real photographer… And wonderful photograph… I can imagine your wood area should be so beautiful. Have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

    • April 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you Nia, you are so sweet. Someday I will have to post some photos of the dogs. They need a haircut first since they still have their winter coats. Those lilac bushes smelled heavenly!!

      • April 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

        You are welcome dear David, I can imagine how beautifully they smell… Blessing to your lovely dogs, Thanks and Love, nia

  3. April 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for sharing this David! I am going to order one when I’m done with this comment. (hopefully, you get kick-back royalties! LOL) It will be perfect for biking and hiking, and all the lugging I do. And for $18, what a bargain! AND it’s made in the USA….

    Let’s see some pups’ nature exploration from one of your next hikes! I’m sure they’d love to pose for us! 🙂

    • April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Donna, you will, like I did, wish you thought of this. These guys are great…I have a couple of straps and covers and the folks there are super!!! Sorry no kickbacks. I’ll see if I can convince Sharon to let me post some pics of the doggies. We have 2 Cairn Terriers.

  4. April 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

    That’s a very good phrase “participate in the landscape”! Actually, that’s what I do, and my photography is second to that.

    • April 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

      And it shows!!! Your photos truly bring out the essences of the western landscape!

  5. Nandini
    April 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Beautiful flowers, and I loved the drops on the green leaves. 🙂 Awesome work!

    • April 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks Nandini, we had a light shower overnight…first bit of rain in weeks but big storms should be here in 2 hrs or so. What a relief it will be!

  6. April 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Great information here. I can imagine your dogs, like my kid, not being too patient concerning photographs they don’t really see the value of

    • April 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Whenever I get the camera out they look at me and seem to say “you’re getting that thing out again…at least you will be in the back yard this time!”

  7. April 22, 2012 at 8:05 am

    What a clever idea – I think I need one of these. I love the scent of lilacs. Looking forward to that treat still to come! Also looking forward to rain here this weekend. We need it badlly.

    • April 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      These straps work really well…I know you will find it useful! It’s raining, it’s raining!!! Finally!!!
      Could you give me a friendly reminder what the treat is?? I think my brain is fogged from to much garden center soil exposure…

  8. April 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Your comment that “we see things we may have missed had we not taken the time” reminds me of something I’ve observed: if I go out photographing and return along the same path I followed when I went out, I often notice things that completely escaped me on the outward-bound segment, even things that must have been in plain sight the first time. I guess it’s a question of where our attention is directed at any moment. If I plan not to return by the same route, sometimes I stop and turn around once in a while, just because things can look so different when seen from the opposite side.

    Steve Schwartzman

  9. April 24, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Ditto Steve…I guess when we are concentrating/focused on the task at hand we miss things that are right under our noses. I know it happens to me. I often turn around on the way back to get a second look for the exact reason you stated!

  10. April 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Great lilac shot, David, and much good advice here.

    • April 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Thanks John, glad you found it helpful!

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