Thursday, June 11, 2009

Better Landscape Photos on your Rocky Mtn. Vacation

Here are 3 ideas that can help you make better landscape images on your Rocky Mountain Middle Fork Salmon River Trip this summer:

1.  Bring a Tripod
2.  Go Manual
3.  Cut the Sky, Emphasize the Foreground

1.  Bring a Tripod.
Tripods conjure up visions of wild-haired photographers buried deep under the black cloth of a view camera, and with image stabilizing and vibration reduction lenses, a tripod might seem silly.  For most people who shoot compact digital cameras something as simple as the $6 Carson HandiPod Mini Tabletop Tripod might be all you need. 

Not only do tripods allow you to take group pictures on your Big Creek hike or shoot those uber cool campfire images at dusk, more importantly tripods force you to slow down and think about composition.  

One of the major advantages of digital is also a major drawback.  With no film to develop it is too easy to get snap happy and tell yourself that you will edit the rejects at home on the computer.  Wouldn't it be better to go home with fewer "throw aways" and more keepers?

Take your time, slow down, use a tripod, and compose an image that you would be proud to show your 10th grade design teacher.   

2.  Go Manual.  
Remember when you learned how to drive a stick shift vehicle?  You, the driver, were in complete control.  You decided when to up-shift as you merged onto the freeway, and when to downshift on a winter snow floor.

Take the control back with your images as well.  Put the camera in Manual mode and have complete control over depth of field and shutter speed decisions.  Dial in a shutter speeds of 1/10 of a second or less and reveal an abstract representation of the passage of time as the Middle Fork rushes past your campsite.

Dagger Falls on June 3, 2009:
Image Info: Canon 20D, 24mm t/s lens, ISO 100, 1/2 second at f22

3.  Cut the Sky, Emphasize the Foreground
For better landscapes cut out unnecessary empty sky space and find something interesting to place in the foreground, especially when shooting with a wide angle lens.

In the images below I limited the sky and emphasized the foreground:
The boulder and green grasses in the foreground keep the viewer's eyes moving around the image:

Stitch the two images together with photo editing software to get a more interesting panoramic image:

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