Some of the more fastidious gardeners I know sketch out little garden plans every spring or late winter. They know exactly what they’ve planted in the past and how well it went over. They know which plants got wilt, mold, or bug infestations in previous years, and when. They know where there was overcrowding or bald spots that need remedying, too.
Here in the Show-Me state, autumn turns our notoriously pretty forests into a photographer’s paradise. The fall colors begin to make their appearance in late September up north, inching their way southward over the weeks to follow. Statewide, the autumn splendor tends to peak by mid-October and fizzle out in November. That means now is the perfect time for photographers to plan our fall foliage drives!
What better way to know where and when to photograph than to be tipped off by other photographers? I recently discovered that the Missouri Department of Conservation has a Fall Colors app that provides a way for people around the state to share up-to-the-minute fall scenes from places around the state. When a user uploads a picture, the picture can be GPS-tagged so that others can pinpoint where to find those colors! The site is also updated with foliage forecasts for various regions of the state once the color-changes really begin.
Fall Photography Tips:
- Try a polarizing filter. Even in lighting situations where you might not expect it to help much, a polarizing filter can increase the saturation of fall colors. The polarizing filter is one of very few filters whose effects can’t be replicated in photo-editing software, so give it a whirl whenever shooting fall colors, no matter what the type of light.
- Capitalize on clouds and the golden hour. Color is the leading lady in fall foliage photography, but lighting is just as important. The best lighting for fall images is diffused, so you’ll get your best photographs when shooting under overcast skies or during the so-called golden hours—the first and last hour of sunlight on a given day.
- Be careful with white balance. White balance can make or break a foliage photo. Rather than using auto white balance, use a custom white balance to offset the blue cast of overcast skies, and a preset white balance (e.g., the daylight setting) when photographing during the golden hour.
- Think black and white. Colorful leaves alone do not a gorgeous photograph make. No matter how gorgeous those colors are, they are still a single ingredient in a larger recipe that requires other elements to make it work. If the image wouldn’t be strong in black and white, no amount of color is really going to make for a standout photograph.
- Pay extra attention to leading lines. Take a look at standout photography of fall colors. One thing that you’ll notice again and again are strong leading lines—a path or bridge leading away, a mountainside angle, the bared branch of a tree. Leading lines are always a good thing, but in autumn photography, they particularly help break up the homogeny of all those leaves and make the photograph pop.
In photography, light equals life. Sometimes it also equals lens flare. Flare refers to light scattered within the lens that reduces contrast and creates bright streaks on the image. Photographers used to think of it as an amateur mistake. These days, it’s earned its place as an artistic technique, but a lot of people are uncertain how to do it. Maybe that’s why, in our shop, we really don’t see a lot of flare photography. It’s a pleasant surprise when customers share it with us:
We’d love to help more people succeed at flare photography, so let’s talk about the type achieved using sunlight. Obviously, shooting with your camera pointed at the sun can lead to silhouetting, high contrast, blown-out highlights, or overly saturated colors. The workarounds aren’t all that complicated:
- Use manual mode so you can compensate for the backlight and avoid silhouettes. If a person is your subject, try setting the exposure for their skin.
- It’s easier on your back, knees, retinas, and camera if you shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is positioned lower in the sky and not at its most intense.
- If you do shoot mid-day, position yourself low to the ground and/or use a wide-angle lens and dial down the aperture to f/8. A lens hood is advisable.
- To better show off bursts of sun rays and spots, position the sun in a corner of the frame or coming in from the side instead of the center.
- Focusing is a big challenge when photographing into the sun. Try auto-focusing on your subject with them blocking the sun, locking that focus in, and then moving yourself until you have the shot composed to your liking before you take it. Another trick is to use a higher aperture, which gives you some latitude if your focus isn’t perfect.
- Preserve your retinas! To be on the safe side, try putting the camera on a tripod, pointing it in the general direction you want to shoot, taking a shot, and then viewing the results on your camera’s LCD screen—then make adjustments and keep snapping pictures this way until you get what you want. If you have a digital SLR camera, try using Live View to compose the shot.
In addition to worrying about their retinas, many people worry that shooting into the sun will ruin a camera’s sensor. The manuals that accompany many cameras do explicitly recommend not pointing your lens directly at a high-intensity light source, but the general consensus among photographers is that you have to work pretty hard to damage your sensor. And unless you are taking ridiculously long exposures directly into the sun, you should be fine. If you’re concerned about the risks, or if you just want a simple workaround, there are apps and software that can pretty decently simulate flare. Try LensFlare, an app for iPhone and iPad—not as satisfying as mastering the technique in real time, but they’ll do in a pinch.
So, what do you say? Ready to tame the sun to do your bidding? We hope you’ll share your results, as well as any additional insights that might help others master this technique!
It’s not for everyone, but Missouri’s official frogging season officially kicks off on June 30. If you’re not up to hunting them for your supper, why not hunt them for a photo session instead?
Our state is home to heaps of frogs, which can make beautiful—and sometimes comical—little subjects. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, we’ve got a whopping 26 species and subspecies of toads and frogs. Gray Tree Frogs, Peepers, and Plains Leopard Frogs are just a few of the froggies you can find all over Missouri.
Traditional froggers target the big bullfrogs, but if you want to snap the critters’ portraits instead of gobble their legs, you can expand your hunt to a much wider variety. Temperature dictates where you’ll find frogs in and around water. This time of year, you’ll want to look in shallow water where they call, breed, and lay eggs.
Tips for photographing frogs:
- Walk slowly, stop frequently, and keep your distance so as not to startle.
- Look for frogs scoping out prey out on the edges of ponds and lakes.
- Use a long-zoom lens.
- Set lens on smallest f-stop for maximum depth of field.
- Set ISO as high as possible.
I was reading a blog a little bit ago by a professional photographer about buying a camera and the blogger asked the right questions! I wanted to share them with you and expound on it a little more.
How often will you use the camera?
What type of photography will you do?
What is your budget?
With camera phones taking over and most people thinking that’s all they need, these questions will play a larger role for photographers who know that their camera phones are great for quick, everyday shots but not for creating lasting memories for themselves or for others.
If you are planning on using a camera everyday to just capture quick moments, your camera phone will be just fine. But, it’s important to remember that even with all those “cool” apps that have filters and such, you won’t be able to take a shot you love, blow it up and maybe make it into something bigger. While camera phones are getting larger pixel sizes, taking a photo like this and making it into a wall sized framed piece wouldn’t work.
Now, if you are going to attempt to take pictures like that one every day, you will want to consider a DSLR. This leads to the next question: what kinds of photography are you looking to do?
That picture of Sedona was taken with a Nikon D5100 by an amateur photographer who only uses her camera on vacations or special occasions; holidays, birthdays, etc. This isn’t an everyday use camera unless you are a professional photographer. I don’t know of many amateurs that are walking around daily with their camera and lenses and such. There may be. Let me know if you do!
A smaller point and shoot might be perfect for you if you want better photos than your camera phone and you plan on taking everyday photos as you go through your day. And, you can then work on those photos later on; if you want to use your camera software on your computer to enhance or change the shot, etc.
Now, how much do you want to spend? If you are seriously considering photography as more than just a hobby and want to learn more about the hundreds of features a DSLR offers, then you will be looking at spending more than a few hundred dollars…you might be in the thousands. Don’t get scared off by that price, though. The photos you see in travel magazines or the photos taken of your family by a professional photographer are not taken on cheap gear.
I mentioned the features of the DSLR. The worst part about buying one of these expensive cameras is that you buy it, probably online or at a big box tech store and you try to read the directions and get confused. We are proud here at Lawrence Camera to offer classes where we will show you how to use all those features properly, making sure your investment is used properly for the rest of its life.