Toddlers are terrible creatures. When they decide they are finished, there’s not much you can do except throw them as high in the sky as you can. Just don’t forget to catch them when they come down.
Sunset Shots Made Easy
My favorite time of day has always been when the sun starts heading towards the horizon. Especially when there are swirling clouds in the sky to add some color and drama. You can make the scene more dramatic by making a few simple adjustments in your camera. The next time you’re enjoying a sunset take a few shots with different exposure settings. We’ve all taken pictures of sunsets, and I’d wager you were disappointed with the results from time to time. If you let the camera do the work for you, your image may look flat and uninspiring. That’s because the camera did what it’s suppose to, which is to get as close to an even exposure as possible, resulting in dull, unsaturated colors. Take control of the situation, and rescue your next image. I’m not saying you need to go to full manual mode, here is a much simpler solution. Turn your camera dial to aperture priority mode. The meter in the viewfinder or LCD will usually show a little graph ranging from -2 to +2 in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 stops depending on the camera and its current settings. Zero is considered (by the camera) to be the best, or correct exposure. Now find the exposure adjustment dial, and flick it a click or two so it reads a negative value. This is Exposure Compensation, you’re telling the camera you don’t want to have it decide what a good exposure is. Take the shot, you should see a difference between the shot set at zero, and your new adjustment. The colors in the sky are more saturated, but watch out, if you adjust too far, the image will become too dark, especially below the horizon. Land features like hills, trees, buildings will begin to silhouette below around -1. Sunsets where there is water like a beach or lake are a little more forgiving because light will reflect off the surface. That’s it, now go out there and capture some great sunset shots, but first, take a look at a few examples.
Every time I pick up the camera to fire off a few shots of Kaleb, at some point he always reaches out to touch the lens, so I figured I’d let him get his hands dirty by handing him a camera to play with. It certainly stopped him in his tracks, and gave me a few seconds to shoot him while he sat still.
I even had time to set up my flash on a stand while he fiddled with the various buttons, knobs, and dials. While the concept of looking through the viewfinder or pointing the lens at something is still beyond his grasp, I figure it’s never too early to let him explore. I hope that he and I will be able to make images together, and with a little luck, his talents and skills will far surpass my own. At least he will be comfortable both in front of, and behind the camera.
Developing Your Ability to ‘See’
Nature preserves are great places to explore and photograph. The variety of subjects to be discovered can provide tons of photographic opportunities, all one needs to do is slow down and ‘see’ what surrounds you.
I say ‘see’ because it is one thing to just walk around and scanning your environment, but it is another to actually take the environment in visually, examining different angles. Becoming in tune with your visual senses allows you to find details that remain hidden if you were to just glance around.
The single most effective way to develop your seeing ability is to simply slow down and take your time. Whether you’re in the middle of a bustling city, or taking an afternoon stroll through a nature preserve, let your eyes and your mind take in the details. Take notice of textures, shadows, and reflections. When something really grabs your attention, explore it further from different angles and perspectives.
When you’re ready to compose your shot in the view finder, pre-visualize how you want your final image to look like, make the necessary adjustments to your camera, and fire away.
The image featured below was a result of using the above exercise. The barren trees seemed too busy when looking at them straight on, however, looking down at the creek presented some possibilities. I found the angle I wanted only after fumbling around trying to balance myself on the slick rocks along the shore. Only after I was confident everything was just right, I deliberately pressed the shutter button.
If you find yourself unable to slow down, the second most important thing that will help you is bring (and use) a tripod. The act of setting up the tripod for a shot inherently forces you to slow down your shooting process; hopefully enough to allow your brain to fully engage in composing your images.
I hope this little tip helps you with your own photographic adventures. What techniques do you employ while in the act of creating your own works of art? Sound off and leave a comment or two.