Posts Tagged ‘instruction’

IN THE FIELD: Autumn And Winter Atmospheres

December 29, 2013 19 comments


During the autumn and winter seasons, conditions are often favorable for brilliant and colorful sunrises and sunsets.

Ever wonder why the sunrises and sunsets are often very vibrant during the autumn and winter months? Well, it’s partly due to the light from the sun at sunrise and sunset must pass through more of the earth’s atmosphere before it reaches our eyes. That’s mostly due to the angle or tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. Because of this, the light comes in contact with more molecules in the air. Much of the blue light gets scattered or diffused away leaving behind the pinks, reds, oranges and yellows which become more pronounced. Another factor is the clear dry air that is present this time of year compared to the more humid air of spring and summer.

For sunset photos, be sure to stick around for 15 -20 minutes or so after the sun dips below the horizon. That’s when the color can really be intense. For sunrises, get in position about a 1/2 hour before the sun peeks over the horizon and you may just have some of the most beautiful color of the day.

If you would like to reward yourself with some fantastic images that are taken in the cooler seasons, grab some gloves, boots, a warm coat and hat, pick up your camera and tripod and go out and feast your eyes. Just remember…there is no such thing as bad weather…it’s bad clothing.



cloudy WB

ISO 200

Shot in RAW


IN THE FIELD: Best To Reset

November 22, 2013 14 comments


Digital cameras are so sophisticated and full of technology it can be hard to keep track of the multitude of settings available to create a good photograph. Especially since every situation or outing is different. So how does one obtain consistent results from day to day? Have no fear…there is an easy solution.

I have found the best way to insure predictable results is to reset my camera back to the settings I use the most, before I put the camera away for the night.

Here are a few examples of what I double-check after each photo shoot.

Exposure modes. I always shoot in full manual mode so that’s an easy one to keep track of. No need to fix that setting.

ISO is another setting I don’t change often since I primarily shoot outdoors. I normally have it set between 100 and 200. Occasionally I will shoot indoors and may need to bump up the ISO level if I’m not using a flash. This is the one setting that seems to elude my easy solution. I‘m not sure why, but it does. Bad David.

White Balance is another setting I double-check. Sometimes I’ll change it for different effects, but I always put it back to the cloudy setting. I like the warmth the cloudy setting provides.

Every so often I’ll use exposure compensation. This is another important selection to put back to zero after the day’s shoot. If not, every photo taken after will be either under or over exposed. Bummer.

There are times my on-camera flash will be put to use for a little fill light. I always check to be sure the output levels are reset to zero if they were changed…wouldn’t want to under or overexpose that next scene.

And then there are the focus modes. If I employ the use of manual focus, I double-check the camera and lens settings and change them back to auto focus.

By resetting the camera back to my most often used settings, I know that when I pick the camera up the next time, it’s ready to go…with no surprises.

f 8


ISO 100

cloudy WB

HOW TO: A Third Leg

August 5, 2013 10 comments


In my opinion, a monopod is the second most important tool for an outdoor photographer. The first would be a tripod. Outside of a camera, of course.

Even with the advent of super high ISO speeds, anti-shake lenses and camera bodies, tripods and monopods provide the essential support needed for blur-free photographs. The use of either of these tools also enables you to scrutinize your composition before pressing the shutter button all the way.

But as we all know, a tripod is not always the most convenient support system to use.

For instance, tripods are not usually permitted indoors in many museums, historic buildings or conservatories. A tripod can even get in your way at certain sporting events. Even architectural street photography could be bothersome to some folks with a three legged apparatus spread out across the sidewalk during rush hour.

So what is the intrepid photographer to do? Have faith…there is a solution. It’s not a fix-all, but I have found the simple, rarely-praised monopod often saves the day. These one legged support systems have plenty to offer.

Their conveniences are many. They are lightweight, easily carried, unobtrusive, quick to set up, and adjustable in height. Mount a ball head onto a monopod, and the camera positions available are almost limitless.

The stronger ones can be used as a walking staff, and most importantly, monopods provide a good bit of stability. When braced against an immoveable object or even yourself, a respectable steady platform is the result. And they are usually allowed where tripods are not. That benefit alone opens up all kinds of possibilities. Plus, monopods are fairly inexpensive.

A monopod certainly will not replace the stability offered by a tripod, but they sure do work well in a pinch. If you know someone who owns one, give it a try for a day. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised…and you may even add one to your cache of photographic tools. I keep mine in the car at all times.


IN THE FIELD: Night Photography

June 21, 2013 18 comments


For me, night photography in the digital age is really enjoyable due in part to the instant feedback available. For instance, when I’m photographing headlight and taillight trails, I can instantly see whether the exposure is where I want it, and if the composition is working. In the days of film, experimentation, experience, and a good bit of luck, played a major role in creating successful light trail photos.

I took this photo a few weeks ago around 8:30 pm. and it was actually quite dark outside. I was hoping to create an image resembling an evening at dusk with headlight and tail light trails.

Not having a benchmark where to start, I experimented with many different shutter speeds ranging from five seconds up to 25 seconds. As the shutter speeds got progressively longer, the camera’s sensor gathered more light, and each photo resulted in a lighter scene with light trails.

Shutter speeds below 10 seconds still produced the light trails, but the scene looked like it was late at night…completely black except for the points of light and the trails. Shutter speeds beyond the 10 second setting were getting closer to the look I was after. And on this particular evening, the 20 second mark produced the best results. Any more than 25 seconds and the photo was over-exposed.

Digital sensors can be pushed pretty far before the heat generated by the sensor produces digital noise in the image. After taking long exposures of 20 seconds or more, it’s best to let the sensor cool for a minute or two before taking the next shot. And of course, a tripod or other sturdy support should be used to keep the camera steady during such long exposures. Also, a cable release or the camera’s self timer will assist in avoiding movement from tripping the shutter.

Have fun and experiment…the results can be quite rewarding.


20 sec

ISO 200

cloudy WB

IN THE FIELD: Skywards

May 22, 2013 29 comments


On the morning I took this shot, the air was cool, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining brightly. With skies this blue, I couldn’t resist using the vivid color as a backdrop for these bright orange and yellow tulips.

To set this photo up, I adjusted the tripod to go as low to the ground as possible. I was able to then lay down in the grass behind the tripod to compose the shot.

I know I’m always promoting the use of a tripod, but if you don’t have one handy, here is an option. It’s much easier to lie on your back and look up for this kind of shot versus lying on your stomach and straining your neck and back. You’ll have to experiment with the position of your arms in order to steady the camera…but it works.

Besides, using this technique gives passersby something to talk about. Their conversation typically goes like this: “Did you see that person lying on their back looking up with a camera? What an odd position to take a photograph. They must really want that shot.”



cloudy WB

ISO 200

IN THE FIELD: Immerse Yourself In Your Subject

May 19, 2013 21 comments


Over the years I’ve heard a variety of humorous sayings regarding outdoor photographers.

“If you’re not sitting on the ground, you’re not a photographer.”

“You can always tell a good photographer. Their clothes are always dirty.”

Uhhh yup…folks often do look at me a little funny as I sit or lie down on the ground with camera in hand. And that’s okay because I’m creating an image that is uniquely mine. By changing my perspective or viewing angle, I feel I’m likely to create a more compelling image. And of course, there are times when I may get my pants dirty. But who cares about a little dirt anyway. Soap was invented a long time ago.

I took this photo at Longwood Gardens two weeks ago during the Celebration Of Spring Blooms.



cloudy WB

ISO 200

IN THE FIELD: Revisiting Familiar Places 3

May 16, 2013 14 comments


Bracketing exposures:

Whenever I am in the field, I like to bracket my exposures, if time and the situation permits. One reason is to see how adjusting the amount of light the camera records affects the subject or scene. And as good as camera meters are at predicting what settings to use for a “proper” exposure, sometimes an adjustment from the recommended setting may be needed to get a preferred exposure.

To illustrate what a slight adjustment to the shutter speed can make, here are two photos of the same scene taken at the Hopewell Furnace. The photos were taken within seconds of each other, yet they are different. Neither is an incorrect or an improper exposure. As the photographer, or the viewer, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

In this series about revisiting familiar places, all of the photos were taken with ambient  light. I wanted to capture the mood as it was occurring naturally, rather than adding an artificial light source.

These two shots were taken with identical settings except for the shutter speed. It was slowed by half (one full stop) which doubled the amount of light between the two shots.

Left Photo

aperture 7.1

shutter 1/50th

cloudy WB

ISO 200

Right Photo

aperture 7.1

shutter 1/25th

cloudy WB

ISO 200

IN THE FIELD: Stop, Look, See

April 18, 2013 24 comments


I know I have mentioned this in the past, but garden centers, farmers markets and other local outdoor venues can provide a wealth of photographic opportunities. This time of year in the area where I live, garden centers are my personal favorite.

Whether I am shooting indoors in a greenhouse or outdoors in the nursery, I like to wander around a bit before I get out the camera. By really looking at the displays, I see things I may have missed had I not taken the extra time to snoop around.

This is what I would like to illustrate here. The first photo is a close up of the spring flower blossoms from an Echeveria plant. The second shot is an overall view of the whole plant as I first saw it in the greenhouse. Clearly, the first photo is more dramatic. Had I not scouted the location first, I may have passed by this beautiful plant due to the uninteresting setting and distracting background.

Spending a little more time in your surroundings before picking up the camera is worth the effort.


Photo of the flowers


ISO 200


35mm lens

Photo of the overall plant


ISO 200


35mm lens

IN THE FIELD: A Different Perspective

August 20, 2012 24 comments

What’s the most natural way to hold the camera when taking photos? Many folks would agree it’s in the horizontal format. Probably 90 percent of the shots we all take are in the horizontal format. There is nothing wrong with shooting this way, after all, it’s how we see naturally.

Although, there is another way to hold the camera when taking photos, and that’s in the vertical format. In many cases, a composition will work better as a vertical as compared to a horizontal format. Just by changing from one view to the other, the dynamics of a photo can be subtle or significant.

Sure, you can crop a horizontal image and make it a vertical, and sometimes that’s the only option, especially if you didn’t take a vertical shot. But, by cropping, you can only capture a portion of the original image.

When should you take a vertical shot? In my opinion, right after taking a horizontal shot.

Try it and see what a different perspective will do for your photographs.

Neither of these two photos have been cropped. They are straight out of the camera to illustrate the difference between a horizontal and vertical composition.

IN THE FIELD: Patience and Body Position

August 17, 2012 24 comments

Here is another shot I had taken at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum at the WWll Weekend Event. There were numerous brightly painted Stearman Bi-planes lined up on the tarmac where folks could get up close to the antique airplanes. I was walking around taking detail shots of the aircraft, when I noticed an interesting perspective of these three tail sections. I liked the color and shapes they formed when lined up in this manner.

Well, I couldn’t resist capturing this view, so I positioned my camera and tripod for the best angle. Which meant shortening the tripod legs and kneeling on the pavement.

I used my zoom lens to compress the scene somewhat and adjusted my exposure settings for the shot. I also set the focus point to be somewhere between the first two vertical stabilizers rather than on the closest one. This way, everything in the scene would go soft…somewhere in between in and out of focus…and hopefully it would have a more vintage feel. Then I had to wait a few minutes for folks to clear out of viewfinder range.

I did get some funny looks from many of the visitors to the museum that day. I was the only one kneeling or lying on my back to get photos of the airplanes.

But I think taking the time to find the non-traditional viewpoint and wait for an unobstructed shot paid off in this case.