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General Photography Tips

Planning Photo Day Tripsby Kenneth Hoffman

Summary: Don't leave your camera equipment hidden in the closet. Plan a photo day trip. Without going far from home, you can spend the day capturing images of interesting places and things.

ow many of you budding photographers own an expensive SLR camera or the latest digital camera with tripod and haven’t a clue how to get started using them? Raise your hand. Hmmmm.

What you need is a whole day out in the field taking beautiful pictures for your album, contests, your scanner and your walls. Here are some ideas for photo opportunities you can count on to produce a high percentage of winners.

City Skyline

The New York skyline or any famous city within travel distance are sure fire people pleasers when photographed in an unusual way. If you have access to a view of the city from a westerly point, try to arrive at the scenic point one hour before sunset. As long as the sun is out, the city buildings will be bathed in a warm light, while the clouds or sky will appear many shades bluer.

This color contrast highlights the importance of the buildings and provides a visual interest not available at other time of the day. Place the horizon one third from the bottom of the picture for a ‘sweeping sky’ look. If possible, scout around for a tree or other over hanging structures for framing and foreground interest. A secondary center of interest in the mid-ground helps the feeling of depth.

After the sun series, an hour wait for near dark presents another ‘magic’ time for an interesting shot. A clear dark sky will photograph royal blue when a short time exposure is used. The warm incandescent lights of the city are further enhanced by the comparison. A slow to medium speed ISO setting requires a shutter speed of two to three minutes at F5.6 or F8.

Antique Still Life

A visit to a local antique store is a gold mine of beautiful pictures. A kind word to the owner and a promise of a picture or two usually insures their cooperation. Set your camera on a tripod in order to take advantage of the natural light in the room.

An edge-darkening filter in front of the lens greatly improves the pictures. You can make your own by cutting a four by four inch piece of 2x neutral density plastic filter material. Cut a one inch by three-quarter inch oval hole in the middle. When placed in front of the lens, a natural fade-out is produced on the edges of the picture.

Look for interesting subjects to photograph like a sleeping doll, light coming through colored bottles, antique items on a dresser top, an old rocking chair with the old owner int, or an antique hobby horse. Try to stay away from straight lines and very dark objects. Window light is best, so you may find it necessary to relocate the item of interest nearer to a window. The owner surely knows many interesting stories about their antiques. Altogether a fun day!

Gardens, Parks and Water

Another fun spot laden with picture possibilities is the local arboretum or formal gardens. Depending on the time of year, spectacular photos can be made from the many unusual plant life. You can photograph tiny blooms from one inch away, discover patterns in strange leaves or capture the mood of a forest with a creative filter on your lens.

At certain times of the year, you can find a lake or local body of water blanketed by a transparent layer of fog. I know it’s hard to get up before dawn, but for this field trip it will be necessary. Bring along waders if you have them or rent a row boat or canoe.

Unless building are particularly photogenic, don’t use them in your composition. A horizon line one third from the top will place more importance on the water and fog. A super saturated film or setting on your digital camera will enhance the color of the scene.

Strong foreground interest and small apertures with long exposures are important features of the day. A small stone thrown into the still water simulates a hungry fish and a few handy large leaves floating past can help capture interest.

If there are no overhanging branches at the chosen location, a cut branch held over the lens a few feet away can substitute. The best photographs in the scenario will be before the sun comes up. If you can, include the rising sun in you composition for a different look.

For variety, shoot a few super close-ups of flowers, insects or leaves. Since the sun will give you a false exposure, a meter reading of the darkest portion of the scene can be set manually for a proper exposure. Work fast since one hour is the most time you can expect to have. Bring along a fishing pole and enjoy the rest of the day. Happy shooting.

About the Author Kenneth Hoffman is a retired portrait photograper. "I used to photograph only people. Now I photograph everything." Kenneth also enjoys writing short articles, poetry and fiction. Other hobbies include quartet singing, computer graphics and shop.