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The Design Center / DT&G / Photography Department / Digital Photo Vacation Part 2  

Continued from "Digital Photo Vacation"...
      The ever increasing popularity of digital cameras is making picture-taking easier and easier. Since the pictures no longer 'cost' to be processed and printed, the digital-shutter-bug can shoot away and have a ball. If you don't like a shot, simply delete it.

Digital Cameras On The Go

Commentary by Fred Showker

The last time I talked about vacation photography I hit many of the essential high points. We talked about the "story line" and looking carefully at the scene. Now let's look at some more tips and dig deeper into several issues that directly relate to shooting on the road...

Taking your time

You'll seldom get a real prize winning shot if you grab it on the run. Take your time.

1) Be inquisitive: If you can avoid it, don't stop with just one shot. If you liked that building or fountain or scene enough to shoot it the first time, chances are it may even look better from another angle or side. Move to a new location or angle and shoot again.
2) Different perspective: Look around the scene and ask if a different position or angle will improve it.
3) Be aware: Watch carefully for changing conditions. Shooting in urban environments pose the greatest challenges. Shooting between traffic or walking people may take a dozen shots before you get the right one. Be careful of the dreaded digital delay too. You'll be shooting a subject and just as you snap, some stranger will walk into the scene and be captured.
4) Beware of Barriers: Look carefully and ask if there are any distracting barriers -- telephone poles, fuel tanks, water hydrants, or other things that distract. See if you can shift in one direction or the other for a better look. I've been known to get out of the car and start walking, while concentrating on the scene I want to capture. Don't be bashfull.
5) Wait: While many times if you wait too long you miss the shot. However, if you snap and run you might miss another good opportunity. Many times I'll snap to make sure I got the shot -- then wait a wile watching the scene.

Use lighting to tell your story...

Last time I talked about telling a story with your photographs. Lighting and time of day can go a long way to support that goal. While scenic shots and landscapes are the most popular shots on most vacations, they can also be the most boring. Timing is very important -- the scenic view you thought was spectacular at the time will look just ordinary or ho-hum by the time you print it or show it on the screen.

Take a cue from most professional photographers who utilize favorite times to shoot scenic shots or landscapes -- the best light of the day occurs when the sun is low in the sky. Recognize the lighting changes and use the lighting to reinforce what you're trying to show about that particular scene.

Early morning and late evening sunlight produce dramatic shadows and rich warm colors, because the sun's light is lower in the sky. It has to travel through more atmosphere so it's color spectrum shifts more toward the red/orange scale than any other time during the day. During these low sun angles you'll also find a lot more shadows -- long, lazy ones -- so terrain will have a more dramatic and sculptured look. Shadows from trees and other objects in the scene will project a complicated tapestry across the landscape. But is that what you want?

Get up early and watch as the scenic lighting increases. Once the sun peeks over the horizon you won't have much time to capture the scenes. Then watch as it progresses across the landscape. There are really spectacular shots waiting there.

On the other hand, let's say you're in the parched Southwestern landscape and you want to illustrate heat and brightness. In that case noon will be the best time to shoot. Many photo journalists will intentionally lighten or burn out shots just to reinforce a visual sense of heat, dryness or desolation.

But watch out: the contrast between dark shadows and sun-drenched, light colored sand on the desert or at the beach will cause the darks to be too dark and the lights to be too light. If there are people or other objects at close range these shadows should be brightened a touch. Turn on the camera's Fill Flash feature.

And how about the absence of sunlight? Shots in pouring-down-rain or heavy fog can also be stunning, so take the camera even if weather is threatening. My camera 'fanny-pack' always includes a travel umbrella for just such occasions. You want to get the shot, but you also want to keep that camera dry.

I found an excellent umbrella at the local Walmart for just six dollars -- which is only six inches long and about an inch in diameter when folded. It fits nicely at the bottom of the pack and even offers a bit of padding for the camera. If you have a choice, pick a light neutral tan or very light gray color for the umbrella. In very high lighting situations it can be used to partially 'shade' the subject becoming quite a nice light diffuser to soften the light falling directly on the subject while the background remains vivid. It's also handy to shade yourself if standing in direct, hot sun for any length of time.

Article Continues: Fast/Slow Shutter Speeds


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