Archive for July, 2008

I had the pleasure of organizing a photowalk recently. After reading about the growing number of photo-oriented walks across the country and seeing some great photowalk photos on Flickr and photoblogs, I thought I’d throw out the idea and try to organize one at a local park/wildlife area.

Ducks in the late afternoon at Newport News Park

A late afternoon silhouette at Newport News Park (C) 2008 Dennis Tennant

Pulling together a diverse group of photographers from all skill levels wasn’t hard to do. I just invited some of the regular contributors to the HRTownsquare.com photo galleries and made a place for them to upload their work to afterward. In no time at all everything was ready.

Photographers enjoying a target-rich environment

Photowalkers enjoying a target-rich environment

I was truly surprised when over 25 photographers showed up for the event. We gathered, shared tips (as well as lenses) and enjoyed nature for over three hours. The result: a surprising number of awesome photos made by newbies as well as pro-level shooters. The best part of it all was meeting others who share my love of photography. It was a truly invigorating experience. Try hosting one, you won’t regret it.

Oh, if you joined in the fun, please share your experience here! Post a comment below.

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Reality check here. The more time and effort you put into making an image better before the shoot by lighting the subject properly and setting the exposure and color balance correctly, the better your end result will be. Although shooting in the RAW format gives you the ability to correct most of these mistakes in post processing, getting things right at the moment of exposure is still the way of the pro. 

I hear more and more photographers say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” whenever they’re confronted with a difficult lighting situation. Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out and pray that software can save you — you’ll find that correcting the error before the shoot is faster than fixing it later. 

So, take the time to light your subject, cover blemishes, take a meter reading and/or use the right color balance from the git-go. This “old school” approach is still your best bet for success. A RAW image well shot always trumps a RAW image made without thought.

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Planning to be out and about for a day of shooting? Unless you’re doing this in the Sahara, plan for rain. Nothing ruins a day quicker than a sudden downpour. Rain and digital cameras don’t mix. Where film cameras could shrug off a shower with little, if any, negative consequences, the electronics in today’s digital cameras will short out when exposed to moisture. 

So, to preserve your investment, keep your camera DRY!

There are a lot of protective rain covers on the market that cost hundreds of dollars. My solution is a bit cheaper. I use a plastic trash bag! 

Don’t get me wrong, those expensive camera rain coats are worth the money when you have to shoot an event in bad weather. What I’m talking about here is bringing along a kitchen trash bag to throw over your gear if you’re caught outdoors and exposed to the elements. 

It’s cheap insurance that takes up little space in your bag and weighs, well, nothing. I squeeze my “emergency” cover in a pocket on the inside of my backpack. The trash bag is so inconspicuous that I forget I’m carrying it… unless it starts to rain!

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Looking for a new way to see things? Try shooting from a low angle. I found this patch of gigantic mushrooms perfectly lit by a shaft of late afternoon sunlight. From my normal, standing perspective, the photo wasn’t much to look at. Bending my knees and shooting up from ground level, however, made a big difference.

Keep in the back of your mind “would my shot be improved by going lower?” the next time you’re out with your camera. It can transform the ordinary photo to something extraordinary.

Oh, and purchase a gardener’s knee pad, they make getting low more comfortable and less messy on the knees!


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I’ve done quite a bit of posting lately. Now it’s your turn. How do you keep your camera steady when you don’t have a tripod handy? To get the ball rolling, I’ll share what I use for those times when I don’t have three carbon fiber legs handy….the lowly beanbag.

Yep, I dragooned one of my kid’s toys years ago and converted it into a quick and easy camera-steadying device. I just line up my shot, find a suitable, stationary spot and plop down the bag, then the camera. After checking the viewfinder to finetune my composition and make sure none of the beanbag is in the shot, I get to work. My beanbag measures about 6 inches in diameter, by the way, so it’s easily stowed in my “go” bag. 

Okay, I shared, what works for you?

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Part of my job is editing photos submitted by readers who aren’t necessarily photographers. The main flaw I see in their work is photos blurred due to camera motion. A tip I picked up early on in my career can help eliminate a lot of this camera shake. It’s a simple solution, just shoot as you exhale

The theory here is that the body is more relaxed and less tense when exhaling a breath. A body that’s in a relaxed state will shake less than one that’s all tensed up. It’s a trick taught to snipers and can apply to shooters with a camera too. Try it for yourself the next time you’re out with your camera. Adjust your exposure to 1/30th of a second or so and shoot a series of photos with your breath held during the exposure and some shot during a slow exhale. Squeeze off your shots while doing both, of course — don’t stab at the shutter release!

I think you’ll see a big difference. 

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I’m constantly surprised at how many people are content to download images to their computers via the camera’s USB connection. Sure, it’s a cheaper alternative to a $30 card reader (since the cables are usually included with every camera purchased), but doing it that way has a couple downsides you should know about.

First and most important, using a camera as the transfer device is S-L-O-W! It takes at least twice as long to download a memory card using the camera compared to a standard USB 2.0 memory card reader. That means a full card that takes 2 minutes to download images will do the same task in only one minute using a card reader. Of course, the higher the capacity of the card (and more images on it), the more time saved.

Second, downloading directly from the camera uses camera power and will run down a camera’s battery quicker. This is a bad thing if you’re out in the field, far away from your battery recharger.

There are many card readers on the market. They range from $20 to over $100. Some even read multiple card formats. I’ve used all kinds and currently use the Lexar CF card reader pictured. The differences between various brands, however, is minimal and a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a faster reader.

So, save yourself some time, purchase a card reader and toss it in your laptop bag. Use it and speed up the boring part of your post-shoot routine.

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