Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring is upon us! What are your spring/summer plans?

This winter has felt long, uneventful and...gray.  Sure, there are tons of things that you can do in the winter, and some folks just love this season.  Personally, I like feeling the heat of the sun and always look forward to the warm weather, day trips, hiking or finding new places to photograph.  We have caught up on tons of tv shows, movies and eaten a lot of warm meals, but now it's time to plan a fun spring and summer season!  I'll also add some tips on getting some great images while you are out having fun and exploring!

What are you guys looking forward to this spring and summer?  

Here are a few things that come to mind when I think of past summers.
  • We love hiking, and seeing our happy little dog Max running up and climbing on rocks, running forward and backward on nature trails and wagging that little tail for hours.  
  • We absolutely love laying on the beach, reading a good book and taking a dip in the ocean.  I personally really like chasing crabs or whatever little creatures are swimming or crawling around.  I pretty much turn into a little kid when I get on a beach.  Katrina feels rejuvenated at the beach and just connects with nature in a way that no other place can do.
  • Bike rides, walks at sunset, hanging out in a pool and discovering new towns and places are some other things that we really enjoy.  
A couple of tips to keep in mind to help you document these little adventures!

  • Use natural patterns to guide your viewer's eyes.

Nature is full of patterns, shapes, and curves.  Taking advantages of these things and working them into your shot can help you create a stunning image.  In this shot, I stood at the end of a rock ledge and used the natural curve of the shore to help draw the viewers eyes and create contrast in the different natural elements. My goal was to have my viewer's eyes start on the beautiful color of the water, and then from right to left, follow the tree line, and end on the mountains and clouds above.  This is the type of image that folks will stop to examine and appreciate for a few seconds.  People (hopefully) won't just scroll past it but appreciate nature's elements and see all the different areas that you are trying to portray as they come together: water, trees/rocks, mountains, and sky.  All mixed together but in a very organized and pleasing way.  This kind of use of curves, leading lines, and contrast will really draw in the viewer and leave them wanting to be in this spot in person. 

  • Try to capture yet balance all the interesting elements to paint a complete picture.

Finding cool places like this in Acadia National Park  while hiking make for some amazing memories of enjoying nature and it's amazing beauty.  This is why it's great to carry a camera with you since this was not a scene next to a parking lot.  It wasn't a long hike either, but I am surely grateful that I had my camera and monopod with me.  There are a couple of interesting things in this image.  We have the Bubbles mountains in the back that draw interest due to their unique shape, water that is reflecting the trees, rocks and mountains all around it, and these two chairs.  This is just an inviting image that makes you wish you were sitting there, with a nice warm drink, maybe a blanket and enjoying the beauty of it all.  Images like this make us feel like we want to escape to that place in nature where no problems exist and we can get lost outside ourselves and our lives.  Not only does taking an image at a place like this help you remember what you were feeling, but it helps others take part in that feeling with you.  So go ahead, sit in those chairs and enjoy the moment, but don't forget to take your camera out, find a good angle, and capture the feeling.  Watch out not too take the image from too high an angle and lose the sky, or too low and lose out on the beach, or foliage around the chairs to really remind you that you are surrounded in nature.

  • Use creative modes, like Panorama.

A lot of folks forget that your camera or phone can do a variety of effects and some are really easy to use and master.  Panorama images for instance used to be very difficult to create and required a tripod, careful framing, and some Photoshop work.  Now, you can change a dial or swipe to the side on your phone and create beautiful long images to help capture an entire scene.  In this case below, we wanted to capture the color of the water but also the treeline and landscape around the water.  I decided to focus on the sky on this one instead of the beach due to the slope of the beach and I wanted the simplicity of 3 layers - water, land, sky.  I didn't want land, water, land, sky.

Panorama's are relatively easy to do in-camera or in-phone and I would suggest holding the device with both hands, holding your breath and keeping your arms and shoulders/elbows as locked in place as possible.  Position your feet ahead of time and use only your waist to twist in a 180 degree fashion.  This will help lock in the movement and create a consistent motion that will allow your camera to produce the best panorama it can.  Some editing may be needed but for the best results, I suggest to lock your exposure on a spot that is not the brightest or the darkest.  If you lock your exposure or start on the sky, then the land will be too dark, and if you start on the dark land, then the sky will come up almost white and you won't see the blue or clouds and your water will also lose it's color.  Cameras have an AE button to help you lock exposure and your iPhone allows you to tap and hold for 3 seconds where you want to start focusing and you can lock the focus and exposure down.  You will see a little sun icon come up next to the focus square. Use that to adjust the lighting up or down.  Once you are happy with the settings, you are ready to go.  Now twist that waist!

This is a quick example of what this looks like - I don't have it set to panorama, just regular photos but you can do it on any setting in your iPhone!

  • Capture the moment, but then get out from behind the camera!  A remote trigger can help here.
Moments such as sunsets, or sunrises like the one below are beautiful and we often wait around a bit for them to happen.  While we wait, I set up my camera on a tripod, or balance it on a rock or even my camera bag. I select the right exposure and settings and then wait for that moment to happen.  Once it does, it goes by quickly and I used to often find that I didn't really stop to enjoy the moment.  I got the shot I wanted but I was so involved with setting things up, getting my settings right and capturing the moment that when it was done, Katrina would often ask, "Did you even stop to actually look at the beautiful colors?  Or appreciate how amazing this place is?"

I would realize that I hadn't, not really.  My thoughts were scattered with things like, "Is my ISO, f/stop, shutter speed, exposure correct?  Do I like my composition?  Am I following the rule of thirds or have leading lines?"  There are a plethora of things that photographers think about as they set up their shots and tons that we have to know.  It gets a lot easier and faster with time and becomes second nature.  So now what I try to do is take an image, lower the camera a bit and take a deep breath.  Think about where I am and what is around me. Soak in the beauty.  Some things that have helped me do this when time is short like a sunset or sunrise is to set up early, get to my spot 15 minutes earlier than I need so I can get things set up and be able to sit and enjoy the moment for a bit too.  I use a remote trigger on my camera so that once I have everything framed right and settings are all where I want them to be, I don't need to be right behind the viewfinder or screen, but I can sit back and enjoy the scenery while pressing my trigger to take the shot.  I am still focused and watching my camera closely, adjusting the settings as the light changes, but I am no stuck behind the little tiny viewfinder and instead, am looking out on the majestic world around me. 

Nature is nothing short of amazing and being outside while we can, truly connects us to our gorgeous planet, fills our souls with life and the spirit of adventure!  So, plan a fun trip for the upcoming months, or two, or ten!

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