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Continued from Part 2: Digital Cameras On The Go

Lighting affects camera speed

Fast / Slow Shutter Speed

While we're talking about lighting and early morning or late afternoon shots, we'll have to mention exposure. Under those conditions you'll experience a lower level of light entering the lens. This forces the camera to compensate with slower shutter speeds.

Camera movement becomes a real issue with these slower speeds and longer exposures. So it's best to have the camera mounted on a tripod or braced against or on something solid like walls, car roofs, wooden chairs, and countertops. Bracing the camera vertically against a post or column will also help keep it steady.

Reducing the shutter speed requires the camera to use a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number -- "aperture" - the adjustable opening in the camera or telescope, that limits the amount of light passing through a lens), which creates greater overall depth of field. This makes for the sharpest possible picture. However it also increases the probability of problematic camera movement.

Some photographers use this to their advantage... like shooting moving objects, water falls or fountains. With the slower speed the movement element in the shot will become blurred. The effect can be quite handsome. So dig into your camera book and make sure you know how to set up for longer exposures.

Take advantage of cloudy skies. Thick, billowy clouds give more visual interest than a plain, washed out blue sky. I will sometimes go out and shoot just skies on those days when the clouds are spectacular. I'll shoot lots of sky and almost no ground. Then later when I'm strapped with a dull monochromatic sky, I can Photoshop in one of my cloud shots. Watch for days when the humidity is low, the clouds and billowy and the sky is deep blue

In the event you're hit with a dull, empty sky, compose the image so that is has minimal empty sky at the top of the frame -- concentrate on the subjects on the ground. Or, leave room for Photoshop and one of your 'perfect' skies.

Tripod Alternatives

I know I mentioned this last time, but here are some new ideas you may like. Remember, you can substitute a lot of things for a camera tripod. A classic support many photographers rely on (particularly for bigger cameras or long lenses) is a beanbag. Select one from the most basic home-made beanbag or splurge for one of those specially designed for photography. You'll be surprised how nicely it nests your camera and holds it in position on a wall or car roof.

This extravagant photographer's beanbag ends all bean bags and costs thirty bucks not filled. See www.kinesisgear.com for more. (Read: James Moerschel's column in the Photographic Classroom series: Traveling Without a Tripod for lots more tips.)

clampYou can buy an assortment of clamps ranging from a pocket-sized C-clamp device for just a few bucks up to huge professional clamping systems. The basic C-clamp style will do nicely for the point-n-shoot camera bug. A number of clamp-like devices will be coupled with a 1/4-inch screw that's necessary to attach them to your camera's tripod socket. You then clamp the camera to a tree limb, fence post, or other solid object, and voila! - instant tripod. More can be found at www.clamperpod.com

mini tripodThe industry also offers a huge selection of mini tripods from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. I bought the AMBICO V-0615 Extendable Mini Tripod for just seven bucks at Crutchfield's. (You can pick it up at Amazon.) It has never let me, or the camera, down.

sonyThe Vanguard Tourist-2 Compact Travel Tripod is a bit higher quality and features a Ball head and 8-section, 16mm tubular legs so you can go up to to 39" high -- yet folds down to 10" to fit the included zippered carrying bag.

The Sony Mini Tripod Portable kit is even more ambitious for just a few dollars more, and comes with a compact tripod, cleaning cloth and an nice travel pouch for just $18. The tripod's height is adjustable in two steps.

clampBest of both worlds is a tripod clamp... The Adorama Clamp-Pod - Table Top Tripod w/Clamp-Large -- but it's a bit pricy at $39.95. Larger version of Model 1 TPCPS with a sturdy C clamp which opens to 1-1/2", this may be used as a clamp, or as a table tripod. Two legs, recessed into the base, simply screw in to provide stable support. Height: 6" Purchase it direct from Adorama.com

Further Reading

You'll find a great selection of additional "Classroom" topics from James Moerschel:

Article Continues: Sharing Photos Online

Previously: Digital Camera On The Go and Digital Vacations

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