Falling into the Season

Autumn fall.The fall season is the ideal time for exploring local sights with camera in hand. Nature shares an explosion of color in her changing leaves and cooler temperatures, and if you’re looking for a way to fill your Instagram or Facebook feeds with stunning imagery, now is the time. In order to increase the saturation of fall foliage or to showcase the texture of the trees, try underexposing your images slightly. This technique will help you intensify color saturation. You can then play with image editing software to increase contrast to create warmer hues. A second strategy is even simpler – try using a polarizing filter, which will create a fun effect and increase the contrast.

Advertisements

Composition 101

Composition is probably the most important area you should master with your photography. Much of an image’s visual impact results from the way in which the subject or subjects are arranged. Although we each may have different opinions when we view photographs, following some simple guidelines may mean the difference between a “snapshot” and an award-winning image! You will notice I referred to them as guidelines. These are simply suggestions, rather than rules, which give you more leeway for creativity. Here are a few for you to consider:

Niagara Falls/Maid of the Mist - Notice how the crest of the falls and boat in the distance are each located at the intersections of the "thirds" (Canon 30d w/18-55mm @ 28mm, 1/1250th  sec @ f/4., ISO200)

Niagara Falls/Maid of the Mist – Notice how the crest of the falls and boat in the distance are each located at the intersections of the “thirds” (Canon 30d w/18-55mm @ 28mm, 1/1250th sec @ f/4., ISO200)

Bulls Eye! - This may be one instance where a "bulls-eye" shot actually works! (Canon 50d w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/5.6, ISO 400)

Bulls Eye! – This may be one instance where a “bulls-eye” shot actually works! (Canon 50d w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/5.6, ISO 400)

Practice the “Rule of Thirds” – Don’t become so focused on your subject that you place it dead-center in your viewfinder (“bulls-eye” effect). Imagine that your viewfinder is divided equally into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. By placing your subject at any of the points where those imaginary lines intersect, you will dramatically improve your pictures. If your subject is in motion, give it room to move “into” rather than “out of” the image. Being conscious of these imaginary lines will also help you keep any horizon lines level. Some cameras even have a grid or level on the screen to help with alignment.

Check the “Edges” – We’ve all seen the pictures of Uncle Joe with a tree growing out of his head. Be aware of all the elements lurking in your pictures. Look around all the edges of your viewfinder and watch for stray branches, power lines, and other visual “clutter” that might detract from your intended picture. If you include people in your shot, make sure you don’t cut anyone in half, or inadvertently cut off something you want in the picture. At the same time, don’t be afraid to incorporate foliage or elements around the edge to frame your subject.

White Sands V  - These two images illustrate how the same image might be better  if rotated 90 degrees to better suit the subject. The horizontal image gives a better sense of scale and better balance. (Canon Digital Rebel w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/8, ISO 100)

White Sands V – These two images illustrate how the same image might be better if rotated 90 degrees to better suit the subject. The horizontal image gives a better sense of scale and better balance. (Canon Digital Rebel w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/8, ISO 100)

White Sands H - These two images illustrate how the same image might be better  if rotated 90 degrees to better suit the subject. The horizontal image gives a better sense of scale and better balance. (Canon Digital Rebel w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/8, ISO 100)

White Sands H – These two images illustrate how the same image might be better if rotated 90 degrees to better suit the subject. The horizontal image gives a better sense of scale and better balance. (Canon Digital Rebel w/400mm f/5.6L, 1/640th sec @ f/8, ISO 100)

Vertical or Horizontal? – Try to match the orientation of your framing to the shape of your intended subject. If the object is tall and slender, try rotating your camera to a vertical format. If your subject is wide, or spread out like a landscape vista, perhaps a horizontal format would be better. With the recent popularity of smart phone cameras and Instagram, the square format has become a new option. Keep these different formats in mind when you shoot an image, so that it fits the proportion of the final framed print, card or book you might want to design in the future.

Fall Fence and Shadows - In this Vermont scene, the fence and shadows invites and draws the viewer into the image. (Canon 50d w/18-135mm, 1/250th sec @ f/10, ISO 200)

Fall Fence and Shadows – In this Vermont scene, the fence and shadows invites and draws the viewer into the image. (Canon 50d w/18-135mm, 1/250th sec @ f/10, ISO 200)

Leading the Way - It's hard to ignore where this canoe wants you to go. The bright colors and breaks in the pond lilies are pointing you straight into the Canadian wilderness. Would this have worked as well as a horizontal shot? (Canon PowerShot G3, 7mm, 1/640th sec @ f/4, ISO 200)

Leading the Way – It’s hard to ignore where this canoe wants you to go. The bright colors and breaks in the pond lilies are pointing you straight into the Canadian wilderness. Would this have worked as well as a horizontal shot? (Canon PowerShot G3, 7mm, 1/640th sec @ f/4, ISO 200)

Lead Me On! – Make good use of existing curved lines or elements in your foreground to “lead” your viewer into your photo. An “S”curve works especially well, and can be a stream, a road, a fence, a distant valley, a mountain pass, railroad tracks, or a simple trail through the woods. Diagonal lines in your composition can also create a strong image.

Brace for Impact! – Make sure your viewer easily recognizes your intended subject of interest. Use of bright colors, filling the frame, isolating it from a distracting background and utilizing different angles of view can improve your image. Placing a brightly colored object in a landscape (like a little kid with a red sweatshirt on a country road, or a red canoe on a mountain lake) can add interest and a sense of scale to an image.

Back-lit Yucca - Often a great image combines several different compositional guidelines. Here, the yucca flower is directly back-lit by the sun at the intersection of the "thirds" while the shadows create a great lead-in line. (Canon Digital Rebel w/ 18-55mm @ 18mm, 1/100th sec @ f/9, ISO 100)

Back-lit Yucca – Often a great image combines several different compositional guidelines. Here, the yucca flower is directly back-lit by the sun at the intersection of the “thirds” while the shadows create a great lead-in line. (Canon Digital Rebel w/ 18-55mm @ 18mm, 1/100th sec @ f/9, ISO 100)

EXPERIMENT! – The most important tip is to experiment. Try different settings, different angles and perspectives, different lighting directions. Digital images are “cheap” to shoot, and if you goof, delete them and try again!

Want to learn more about composition or other aspect of photography? Check out our classes at http://www.haroldsphoto.com

By Guest Blogger Marty DeWitt

Photographing Night Street Traffic

  1. Make sure battery is at full (or close to full) charge
  2. Set camera exposure mode to “M”
  3. Set shutter speed to “bulb”
  4. Set f/stop to 22
  5. Set ISO to 200
  6. Attach camera to tripod, or other support, so camera is perfectly still
  7. Start with 20 second test exposure
  8. Review test exposure and if necessary, adjust f/stop for better exposure (lower f/stop for lighter image, higher f/stop for darker image)
  9. If highest possible f/stop still results in too much brightness, either shorten shutter time, or attach a polarizer or neutral density filter to lens

download

Picture Perfect Parades

shutterstock_143343703The Fourth of July holiday and local parades go hand in hand. Gathering together with our community and veterans to celebrate the founding of our country and appreciating all who protect our liberties is a personal and moving experience. It’s also a wonderful photo opportunity and a chance to experiment with perspective and viewpoint. Here are a few of our favorite pointers for the parade shooters:

Claim Your Shooting Spot Early: Positioning is key when it comes to photographing parades. You don’t want be stuck behind a group of people crowding your shot or, worse yet, blocking it entirely. If possible, set up on a corner as that location will give you a variety of angles of parade floats, the band and the marchers. It will also provide additional mobility as opposed to being wedged in the middle of a crowd. If you can find a location that elevates you above the group a bit, that’s another plus, but some of the most intimate shots can be created at ground level. The key is to claim a small space that isn’t obstructed by other people. Setting up a tripod can help you establish a compact working area and keep people from crowding you as you shoot.

Consider the Sun: Another factor to take into account is the sun’s location in relation to your shooting space. Photographing directly into the sun can pose a myriad of problems from hot spots in an image to general overexposure. Evaluate the area to see how you can best use the available light as an asset; for example, if the parade starts in the morning, the lighting may be considerably softer and ‘warmer’ in tone than at high noon. Also, you might find your photographs benefit from a lens hood. The ProMaster Universal Lens Hood is designed to minimize glare while combating unwanted stray streams of light, protecting the integrity of your image. You can pick up one at any of our Harold’s locations.

Flash Outdoors? Absolutely!: Even though you’ll be shooting in bright daylight, your flash can still come in handy when using it as a fill light. When photographing kids or other subjects, the harsh overhead sun can create shadows on the face; the flash works as a ‘fill’ and brightens under the eyes, evening the overall skin tone from forehead to chin.

Small Details Give Grand Results: Parades are packed with action, so it’s important to decide how you want to tell the story of this particular event. Go beyond the basic ‘long view’ shots of the crowd and zoom in on the details such as the child perched on his father’s shoulder, a couple smiling at the delight of a parade float, or a single small flag displayed in honor. With an event such at this, we often feel compelled to try to take in the entire scene at once. This approach isn’t always necessary. It is often the small and expressive details that can best convey the overall sentiment and help others experience the parade in a more connected manner.

Finally, remember to enjoy this important celebration in our nation’s history. While a parade can be a photographer’s dream, it is the sacrifice of so many that came before us that allow our dreams to now become reality.

Happy Fourth of July!

Our Favorite Tips for Fabulous Fireworks Photos

ExpertNewsletter_2015-7_6052246_xxl

Stake Your Claim (Early)
Working photographers understand the importance of arriving early to scout the best location. This strategy can help you position yourself away from the crowd of spectator heads creeping into your frame – as well as other obstructions that might block your shot. Look for open areas clear of trees and other potential obstacles.

ExpertNewsletter_2015-7_7998

Try a Tripod
A tripod is an important photography tool and provides numerous benefits. The added stability will be key in helping you capture a sharp fireworks burst. Although we try to keep our hands steady, it’s inevitable that we will introduce a bit of camera shake. A tripod will eliminate this issue and put you in position to capture clearer shots. A tripod can also provide an added bonus of ‘saving your place’ if you stage it (without your camera) in your chosen shooting location.

ExpertNewsletter_2015-7_7613

Go Remote
A remote trigger release is a perfect complement to your tripod because they work hand-in-hand to give you stability and flexibility in shooting. A remote will allow you to focus your attention more directly on your subject so that your timing is spot on. Remote triggers are often used in timed exposure photography.

Shoot Slow (Shutter Speed)
Part of capturing the perfect fireworks shot is understanding a fireworks burst takes time to unfold and expand, so your shutter speed needs to be slower to accommodate that time lapse. You can select timing from one to several seconds on a DSLR. Ideally, you want the shutter to open at the beginning of the burst and then close at the peak of the burst. This takes a bit of practice and anticipating timing but you’ll find you improve quickly.

When it Pays to Polarize

ExpertNewsletter_2015-6_polarize_comparison

June is the ideal month for outdoor photography as temperatures are warming up and storms are calming down. Now is the time to venture out and capture the majesty of Mother Nature. It’s also the perfect time to use a polarizing filter.

A polarizing filter, under the right conditions, can help you enhance your landscape and architecture photography by increasing contrast, particularly between blue sky and white clouds. The result will be a darker blue sky, creating a larger pop against the clouds. This type of filter is also useful when photographing natural bodies of water such as rivers, waterfalls and streams because it will largely eliminate reflections. This same feature is ideal when photographing office buildings or architectural structures because the glare from the building’s windows will be effectively eliminated.

A polarizing filter provides these benefits by reducing the amount of light that hits your camera’s sensor– an equivalent of about two full stops. This reduction in light may make getting sharp results more challenging, so using a tripod in these situations will be key. Learning to use a polarizing filter can do wonders for your landscape and architectural projects. You can find your filter at haroldsphoto.com or stop by any of our 4 locations.

Recording Your Road Trip

shutterstock_116996062

Road trips are a favorite American summer pastime – and with good reason. The idea of packing up the car for an impromptu weekend adventure or a two week traipse across the country is appealing and exciting, especially to those with a love of photography. The promise of new and spectacular scenery compels us to grab our gear and get going. Here are few tips to help you capture the magic as you take the trail:

Check Your Gear: Make sure everything is in order (you can use our travel checklist in this issue) before hitting the road. Adding an extra camera card and battery pack is also an excellent idea to make sure your gear is fully functional during the entire trip.

Stock Your Car: Comfort is key when hitting the road so remember to pack water bottles, snacks and a travel journal, along with sunscreen, a blanket or towels and your set of jumper cables.

Look for Landmarks: Photographing popular landmarks in your destination may be a common activity but your viewpoint will make the images unique. Play with perspective, play with poses and have some fun. It’s fine to start with a traditional group photo but branch out and get silly – you’ll love the end result and so will your Facebook friends!
 
Keep it Local: If you’re a foodie that loves to share dinner photos, make sure you choose a fun and local establishment to add authenticity. The waiters and staff will often gladly pose for photos and even take one or two for you. Local people and eateries make great road travel photography so keep your eyes open for the unfolding of what will surely be that perfect picture.

Picture a Photo Map: When the trip is over, have some fun with your photos by placing them a top of a map of your travels. Select a few of your favorite and superimpose them on top of the map, print it and display it as a reminder of your adventure. You can then bring the entire media card and we’ll create a photo book or other memento of your trip. Stop by and see what we can do!