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Types of Photography

Spelunking with your camera

Filed in Lifestyle, Tips by on May 25, 2017 0 Comments
Spelunking with your camera

I love visiting caves. First of all, they’re great on hot days when the outside world is oppressive, because they’re usually a nice cool refrigerator temperature inside. But they’re also beautiful—caves are full of interesting structures and formations that you don’t see anywhere else in the world, and if you’re not taking photographs when you’re visiting one of these beautiful places, you are missing out. Keep reading for some tips on how to get amazing photos in commercial caves.

[Top image Cave Adventure by Flickr user darkday.]

It can be really tricky to take photographs inside of a cave. First of all, commercial caves may have a lot of restrictions placed on photographers, from a moratorium against tripods to outright banning flash. The good news is that modern camera technology gives us a lot of ways around these restrictions, so you just have to have a plan and a good understanding of how to capture fabulous photographs in low light.

##Protect your gear

The first thing to remember about commercial caves is that they are made out of rock. Your camera and solid rock aren’t friends. And quite often you are going to be walking down staircases, ducking through narrow walkways with low ceilings, and there is going to be rock sticking out at all angles pretty much everywhere you go. If your camera isn’t protected, that may be the end of your camera (and I won’t even mention the part where the park service will really not appreciate you bashing your camera against those fragile stalagmites). Make sure you’re carrying your camera on a strap around your neck so there’s no risk of dropping it, and carry it in front of your body so that there’s no chance of bashing it against a wall or staircase. It’s a good idea to put your camera in a padded sleeve instead of wearing it naked around your neck—that is going to help protect against unexpected happenings like if you stumble over a step or encounter a protrusion you didn’t see in the dark. And I probably don’t need to lecture you too much about your own personal safety—commercial caving operations aren’t going to let you in without a helmet, knee pads or other safety gear (depending on if you’re on a walking tour or are planning to repel into the cave). So follow all safety guidelines laid out by the operation, and don’t do anything or go anywhere that isn’t permitted on the tour.

##What to bring

It’s useful to ask in advance whether or not tripods are allowed—if you’re taking a tour, it’s probably going to be moving along pretty quickly, so it might be worth asking if it’s okay for you to hang back for a few minutes while you set up your tripod and take a photo. Be prepared, however, to be told that tripods simply aren’t allowed—most tours just prefer to not have to worry about someone who might spend too much time lagging behind the group or getting in the way. If you are told that tripods are OK, make sure you have a tripod with a quick release so you can set up and break down quickly and avoid inconveniencing anyone (the last thing you want is to be the guy that convinced them to adopt a “no tripod” policy). If the cave allows self-guided tours or private tours, that might be a better option—just be sure you’re not getting in the way of other groups of people.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/girl-camera-cave-627751568?src=xq_9qhmWJjLOGTk4MOv3tg-1-10

If tripods are allowed, make sure you also have some way to remotely release your shutter, because you don’t want to muck up that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with camera shake. If you have a remote shutter release bring one, if not, make sure you know how to use your camera’s self timer. Most commercial caves are well-lit enough that you won’t need to use shutter speeds in excess of 30 seconds, so your self-timer function should be enough. Just set it to countdown five seconds and that should be enough time for the vibration to cease before the shutter actually opens.

Most commercial caves allow flash photography, but some don’t. It’s always a good idea to find out what the policy is for the cave you’re planning to visit, since the answer will impact your decisions about what addtional gear you might need to bring with you. If the cave does allow flash, make sure you’re using an off-camera flash. On-camera flash really isn’t going to produce satisfying pictures—because it’s direct, you’re not going to get a lot of detail-defining shadow, and you’re probably also going to get unwanted anomalies such as glare, especially off of damp surfaces (which tend to be everywhere inside of caves). And because caves are often full of airborne moisture, you may end up with images that have a hazy appearance, which can happen when that direct light reflects off those airborne water particles and back towards the camera.

You can use your external flash with a synch cord or with a slave unit—the synch chord is a connected way of firing the flash at the same time as you make the exposure, while the slave unit is a remote trigger. But if you’re using a tripod you may find it simpler to just put your camera in bulb mode and then walk to wherever you need the light, and fire it manually. This is going to give you a lot of flexibility because it will allow you to add light to multiple parts of the scene in a single exposure. Remember also to adjust the strength of your flash if you’re getting light that seems too bright or overly harsh.

It’s a very good idea to shoot in RAW since it’s going to be difficult to predict the color of the light. In commercial caves, the light is likely to be incandescent, but if you’re adding flash then you’re going to have more of a mixed-lighting situation. Because it’s extremely simple to adjust white balance after the fact when you’re shooting in RAW, it’s a very good idea to put your camera in that mode so that you can adjust the white balance later if you didn’t get it right in camera. And because you run the risk of over under-exposing in certain areas especially in those dimly lit caves, shooting in RAW will capture the most detail that your camera is capable of capturing, which means that you’ll be able to make exposure corrections as well.

This is also an excellent argument for lowering your ISO. Your photos are going to have some dark areas, and higher ISOs will increase the chance of noise appearing in those places. Try not to deliberately underexpose photos with the idea of lightening them later in post-processing because that can actually exacerbate the noise problem. If you’re going to be hand-holding your your camera (which may be necessary if you’re taking a guided tour), err on the side of overexposing at higher ISOs rather than underexposing at lower ISOs. If you’re lucky enough to be allowed a tripod, keep your ISO low and opt for longer shutter speeds.

Warm glow

Ideally, you want to shoot at larger apertures instead of higher ISOs, so bring a 50mm prime lens if you have one. A 50mm prime lens has a maximum available aperture of at least f/1.8, which will allow you to shoot in those darker underground conditions. If you are on a group tour, you can take a few photos with your off-camera flash but remember to be courteous—most people are going to find it really annoying to have that flash going off repeatedly over the course of the tour, so save your flash for only the most photo-worthy rooms in the cave.

##Use a wide-angle lens

Most of the caverns in a cave are quite spectacular in scale, depending of course on the individual cave. It does pay to have a zoom lens with a wide end, say 17 to 35. Without that wide angle it’s difficult to capture the scale and structure of acavern, so it’s nice to have a wide end as well as a somewhat narrower end for shooting details. You can bring multiple lenses but remember that there’s a lot of moisture in the air inside a cave, and moisture could lead to condensation inside your camera if you’re switching lenses. It’s best to avoid too much lens-switching while you’re inside the cave, and avoid it altogether if possible.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/postojna-sloveniamay-17-2015-beautiful-stalactites-580475509?irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Eezy%20Inc&utm_source=38919

Another thing that can help create a sense of scale in your photographs is to add a person—place your subject at the mouth of the cave, for example, then stand back a little and use a wide angle lens to capture the scene (remember that you’ll need to expose for the cave itself or your camera may default to exposing for those elements outside the mouth of the cave). The diminutive size of the person compared to the mouth of the cave and the cavern itself will create a sense of enormity in your image, which can help communicate three dimensions to your viewer.

##Conclusion

It’s worth noting that the presence of your camera may cut back somewhat on the adventurous parts of your cave visit—don’t expect to be doing a whole lot of repelling or crawling around on your belly with your expensive DSLR in tow, unless of course you promise not to blame me for the destruction of your gear. While it certainly is possible to spelunk in an extreme sort of way with your gear, you do so at your own risk. And even if you don’t plan to do anything claustrophobic, remember that not only are caves full of potential camera-destroying hazards, but a camera whacked hard against a feature of the cave can also cause damage to the cave as well. So exercise great caution and if you’re at all concerned, consider buying a military style case to protect your gear from bumps and moisture. And don’t forget courtesy, too, the last thing you want is to be banished from a commercial cave because you didn’t follow the rules. Above all, make sure you take as much time as is allowed to think through your photos, and take lots of them. Consider your cave visit to be a once-in-a-great while opportunity, so make the best of it.

##Summary

1. Protect your gear
– Carry your camera in front of you
– Choose a soft body case
– Don’t change lenses while in the cave
2. What to bring
– Ask if tripod or flash is allowed
– If tripods are permitted, bring a remote release
– Use an external flash
3. Shoot in RAW
4. Keep your ISO low
5. Shoot at larger apertures
6. Use a wide-angle lens
7. Include a person to give the image a sense of scale

Shoot where you live, or, how to photograph life in your community

Filed in Lifestyle, Tips by on April 15, 2017 0 Comments
Shoot where you live, or, how to photograph life in your community

Sometimes the hardest photos to take are the ones of the places we are most familiar with. When was the last time you took a walk through your own neighborhood and found interesting things to photograph? If you’re like many people, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time doing that at all. Usually, when we decide to go out in search of photographs, we leave the places that are familiar behind in favor of unfamiliar, new, and therefore interesting things to take pictures out. But if you ignore the photographic potential of your own neighborhood, you are actually doing yourself a disservice. Not only are you missing out on photographs that will be important to you personally in the years to come, you are also missing out on photographic opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

##Exploring your neighborhood

Whether you live in the suburbs, in a rural community or in a city center, start by walking around your own neighborhood. Spend some time looking at the details. Try to see the place you live through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live there. Try to view your neighbor’s fence or that row of mailboxes in a different way. Are there any interesting textures or patterns that you might be able to capture? What about color? Are there any places that you’ve never explored in your own neighborhood? Let’s say you never really gone into the local mom-and-pop market, or you’ve never stood at the top of the hill at the end of your street. It could be that you’ve never really spent a lot of time walking around your neighborhood at all—if you make an effort to explore the once-unseen corners of your community, you’ll almost certainly find details that surprise you. And if you traverse your neighborhood on foot, you’ll also notice that things look really different from the sidewalk than they do from the driver’s seat of your car.

The Old Neighborhood

##Try to capture a sense of life where you live

Your neighborhood, like any neighborhood in the world, has its own unique qualities and personality. Things happen in your neighborhood roughly the same way they happen all over the world, but with a certain unique tempo. For example, it could be that your neighbor three doors down always begins his morning by retrieving the newspaper off of his driveway (yes, it’s true, some people do still subscribe to the morning paper). It could be that your other neighbor always goes for a jog or walks the dog. As the day progresses, neighbors get in cars, take their kids to school, or send older kids off to the bus stop. Shops open for business, people pick up coffee, people go to work, have lunch and come home again—and those routines change only as people move in and out of the neighborhood.

If you know your neighbors very well, start by informing them that you plan to spend a day photographing life in your neighborhood. If they know what you’re up to, they’re going to be less surprised (and possibly annoyed) when they see you out there first thing in the morning snapping pictures of them as they get to their cars to go to work. And if you don’t know your neighbors very well, try to focus on the less personal details, or use this project as an excuse to knock on doors and introduce yourself. Being open about what you’re doing is going to help avoid the perception that you’re a weird stalker with a camera—that’s the last thing you want said about you, especially in your own neighborhood. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that you should always get permission to photograph someone else’s child—even if it’s somebody you know.

Now when you’re working on this project, don’t just hang back and shoot everything as it happens. Think about how you can capture life where you live in an interesting and unusual way—even if there isn’t much that happens in your neighborhood that could be classified as interesting or unusual. Try to get some close shots. Look at the details. For example, instead of just zooming in on your neighbor as she embarks on her morning walk with her dog, try to capture the expression on the dog’s face. Try to capture that moment when she first puts the leash on her dog’s collar. Zoom in, and capture those moments that transpire between people and animals, or between two people, or between people and whatever it is that happen to be doing.

Jogger, the Green

##Street photography (even in the suburbs)

Neighborhoods and their personalities can vary a lot. You may live in an area that mostly has houses and not a lot of services—if that’s the case you may have to spread out a little and find the places where people congregate. Parks make good locations for this type of work, or you can go a little further and take photographs at cafés or corner stores. Even if you’re in the suburbs, this is still a form of street photography, so you’ll need to gather your courage. A lot of people find it exceedingly difficult to photograph strangers, and if that’s you, you’ll have to adopt a new strategy. For example, you can try stealth photography—a smart phone is great for that because you can pretend to be doing something else on it while you are secretly photographing suburbanites in their natural environment. You can also shoot from the hip, which is a technique that involves selecting a narrow aperture to assist with blind focusing, and taking pictures while your camera is hanging on a strap around your neck or literally at your hip. When you’re not looking through your viewfinder, people aren’t usually going to suspect that you’re taking photographs, and that will help you feel bolder. Shooting from the hip is fun but it does take some time to master, so if you’re not getting great results right away, keep trying. That one magical shot out of dozens that maybe didn’t work so well will really help get you hooked on this technique.

If you’re not planning to be stealthy, you can take one of a few different approaches. First, you can shoot first and not ask any questions later. A lot of street photographers just walk straight up to the person they want to photograph, take the picture, and walk away. Most of the time your subject is going to be so surprised that they won’t be able to think of anything to say to you before you disappear. Your next approach could be to simply strike up a conversation with your potential subject and then ask him whether or not you can take his picture. I think you’ll be surprised by how many people are flattered and perfectly willing to be your subject. Just keep in mind that you may get less natural photos, because your subject is naturally going to be attempting to pose for the camera. So once you’ve obtained permission, try to carry on the conversation so you can capture some natural expressions of the person laughing, or thinking seriously about serious questions. The less posed the photo will looks, the better.

If you don’t think photographing strangers (or even your neighbors) is necessarily for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still capture images of your neighborhood. Focus more on the non-animate elements of life where you live, such as fallen leaves on the sidewalk, or squirrels in the trees. If you live in a more rural area, try taking photographs of livestock or interesting outbuildings like barns and sheds. You could also shoot fences—weathered fences in particular make for interesting photos.

##Patterns

Suburban neighborhoods have occasionally been criticized for being a little cookie cutter. If your neighborhood fits into that mold, try to capture the repetitiveness of the houses and yards as a pattern. If there are any identical houses in your neighborhood, consider taking pictures of all of the similarities. For example, you can stand on the sidewalk and try to capture two or more identical homes in the same frame. You can do the same with similar mailboxes, similar cars, or similar people. Don’t forget those perfect, manicured lawns—the truth is that some people in suburban neighborhoods like to create a pretense that everything is perfect when it may not be, so if you can find the one flaw in that otherwise perfect landscape, capture it for a photo that contains some irony.

##Conclusion

I won’t lie—photographing your own neighborhood can be a little bit of a challenge. It can be hard to find inspiration in ordinary places, and the place where you live can, on the surface, seem pretty ordinary. But the truth is that you can find something interesting to photograph no matter where you go, so if you’re not feeling inspired right away don’t worry, just keep looking around and eventually a subject will reveal itself to you.

##Summary:

1. Explore your neighborhood
2. Capture a sense of life where you live
– Photograph your neighbors (with permission)
– Try to find a unique perspective
3. Suburban street photography
– Use stealth techniques (smartphones, shooting from the hip)
– Shoot without asking, or
– Get to know your subject first, then ask permission
4. Look for patterns
– Photograph cookie-cutter houses or mailboxes
– Look for flaws

How to photograph theme parks

Filed in Holiday, Tips by on March 2, 2017 0 Comments
How to photograph theme parks

Ah, the family vacation. If you have small children, you’ve long ago left behind the idea of a romantic holiday in Paris, visiting The Louvre or backpacking in the high country. Your holiday destinations no longer include wine trains, fancy restaurants, and nightlife. These days your vacations are all about the kids.

Of course, I think it’s pretty safe to say that all but the snobbiest of parents love Disneyland. Even if you don’t much like the crowds and the long lines, you have to love the looks on your kids’ faces when they get to meet Elsa, Captain Jack, or The Mouse himself in person. But theme parks can be hazardous, too, both for your sanity and for your camera. What are some of the best (and safest) ways to capture those theme park adventures? Keep reading to find out.
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How to photograph cooking

Filed in Food, Tips by 0 Comments
How to photograph cooking

Confession: I love cooking shows. I love cooking blogs, too. And it’s not just because I hope to one day be able to re-create all those recipes for my own family table, it’s also because I just think there is something magical about the process of taking raw ingredients and transforming them into something delicious. And there’s something even more wonderful about beautiful photos that chronicle the process.

The very best food blogs have this down to a science. They know exactly how to light and shoot the process of preparing a recipe in order to make it as enticing as possible to an audience. You can do the same thing, too, and you don’t even need a food blog. Here’s how.
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How to photograph food in poorly-lit restaurants

Filed in Food, Tips by 0 Comments
How to photograph food in poorly-lit restaurants

The other day, while surfing around the Internet in search of inspiration, I noticed a banner entitled “delicious Instagram food pictures.” And, I did not click on it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love looking at delicious food pictures, and I am, in general, a fan of Instagram. But this particular food photo that was used for this particular banner did not make me suspicious that there would be any actual delicious food photographs behind that link if I clicked on it. Why? Because whoever shot and/or chose that particular photograph clearly lacked some basic knowledge about what exactly a delicious Instagram food photo should look like. Do you know what makes a photo look delicious? Read on to find out. Continue Reading »

How to Capture Moody Photographs

How to Capture Moody Photographs

Photographers spend a pretty large part of the learning stages trying to master the art of the perfectly exposed photo. A perfectly exposed photo, as they would have you believe, has a classic bell curve-shaped histogram that rises in the middle and tapers off gradually towards the highlight side and the shadow side. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way disparaging that classic histogram or the perfect exposure that goes along with it. But we should be questioning that word “perfect,” because perfect is nearly always in the eye of the beholder. And while there is a lot to be said for mastering that classically “perfect” exposure, you should not underestimate the power of also mastering the moody exposure. Read on to find out how. Continue Reading »

Photo Effects: Distortion

Photo Effects: Distortion

We tend to think of our cameras as tools for capturing reality. When you take a photo, it’s like a two dimensional copy of the real world, with everything reproduced more or less accurately. But if you’ve spent any time really studying the photos you take and comparing them to the real world, you’ll see that this is not always the case. Variations in focal length, camera angle and in your lenses themselves can produce subtle—and not so subtle—distortions of the reality you thought you were accurately reproducing. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Read on to find out why. Continue Reading »

Photographing Thanks

Photographing Thanks

It’s true that Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday, but there’s no reason why you need to live in America to photograph the things you are thankful for. The sentiment of Thanksgiving is a universal one – we all have things in our lives that we’re grateful for, whether we celebrate them with a formal occasion or not. So what better month than November to express thanks through photography? Keep reading for some great ideas.
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Should I Travel With My DSLR, or Bring a Point and Shoot Instead?

Should I Travel With My DSLR, or Bring a Point and Shoot Instead?

This is a question I hear from photographers at all learning stages, and unfortunately I can’t give you a black and white answer. Travelling with or without your DSLR is a very personal choice, and you might make a different decision than I would. What I can do for you, however, is give you a list of questions that you’ll want to answer before you decide whether to pack up your DSLR or leave it at home. Continue Reading »

How to Photograph Night Life

Filed in Night, Tips by 2 Comments
How to Photograph Night Life

Photographing strangers while out in public is one of the biggest challenges that any photographer has to face, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a professional. It can be really scary to walk up to someone you don’t know and ask for a photo—and it can be even scarier to get that photo without that person’s permission.

Now, photographing people (or anything, really) at night is a different kind of challenge. Put those two things together and that you got a pretty big hurdle to overcome. Today, we’re going to talk about how to get over that hurdle.
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How to Take Beautiful Black and White Photos

How to Take Beautiful Black and White Photos

If you started your photographic life during the digital era, you may not have a whole lot of familiarity with black and white photography. But back in the old days, anyone taking photography classes always learned first in black and white. Black and white film was easy to develop and print, and it did a very good job of teaching students about things like light, contrast, form and texture. So can you still get great black and white photos with a digital camera? Absolutely! Keep reading to find out how.
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Photographing Indoor Celebrations

Photographing Indoor Celebrations

Sometimes it seems like the weather is constantly driving us inside. It’s either too cold to have that outdoor party, or it’s too hot. It’s raining, or it’s snowing, or it’s too humid. There are definitely more reasons to cancel an outdoor party then there are to keep it where it is. So what do you do when it’s your job to take pictures of that outdoor event, but the venue suddenly changes to an indoor one? Keep reading to find out. Continue Reading »

Out of Ideas? Try These Five Things to Photograph

Out of Ideas? Try These Five Things to Photograph

Sometimes there really doesn’t seem to be anything to take pictures of.

Your house is boring. Your backyard is boring. Your kids are playing video games so, you know, right now they’re pretty boring too. You’re tired of the same old, same old, and you need some inspiration.

Fortunately, despite how you may feel at this particular moment, there really is no such thing as boring when it comes to photography. If you look hard enough, you can always find some new way to feel inspired or some new trick to try. One of the first things I suggest is to just page through my list of tips and tricks – there’s almost certainly something here you’ve never tried before. But if that seems like a daunting task, have a quick read through these ideas instead.
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How to Photograph the Zombie Apocalypse

How to Photograph the Zombie Apocalypse

You know it’s true. You are a human being, and that means you love a good zombie apocalypse.

OK, so maybe I exaggerate, maybe not everyone loves zombies. But there’s no question that as the Halloween season approaches, ghouls and goblins are on everyone’s mind. And for some reason, zombies are at the top of everyone’s list of favorite monsters. People love zombies, zombie movies, and seasonal zombie paraphernalia. I even have some friends who had a zombie wedding. So let’s have a little fun this month and take some pictures not just of those cute little trick-or-treaters, but of those decidedly less-cute zombies that are going to start wandering the streets in the days to come. Does that sound like a challenge? I hope so!
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How to Shoot Landscapes at Night

Filed in Night, Tips by 1 Comment
How to Shoot Landscapes at Night

Landscape photography has a few basic rules that most people learn pretty early on. First, when you shoot a landscape, you need to use a small aperture. That small aperture makes it possible for you to keep the entire scene in focus, from foreground to background.

Another landscape photography rule you probably learned early on has to do with your ISO. Low ISOs, you’ve been told, are critical for landscape photography because your ultimate goal is to capture as much detail as possible. When you use higher ISOs, you can get problems like excess noise, limited total range, and muddy colors. So landscapes need to be shot at ISO 100 or, if your camera gives you the option, at ISOs even lower than that.

So what is a conscientious landscape photographer to do after the sun goes down?
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