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Once - Seneca (Roman Philosopher)

Photography Tips and Tricks For The Amateur

Outdoor Photo Taking Tips

No talent required! But you do require a few things:

1. Lots of Patience (and definitely Time)

I recently went to Yosemite just when all that snow was melting and flooding the valley. I stopped, took out my Canon A85 (digital camera) and spent 10 min. looking through the viewfinder. My wife says that the subject usually is tired before I take a photo. But, fortunately, the subject was going nowhere.

Then, I took a photo in the "Auto" mode. Viewed it. It was ok. But you cannot really make out much with the glare on the LCD screen. Anyway, I messed with the settings, waited for all the people to clear, and then took another one. Viewed the LCD screen. Looked ok.

But when I loaded the photographs on my computer, I was dumbfounded. The photograph looked stunning, almost a masterpiece. Even though the image below is scaled down, I think it is still awesome.

Yosemite May 19, 2005

So, let me get back. You need time, patience and a little imagination. Ask yourself the following:

What is the angle of sun right now? What will happen to my subject when the sun moves to a different position? Can I go to another location to get a better view?

Play with the zoom button (also called Telephoto) on your camera. Bring the image nearer to see whether there is a difference. Pan your camera slightly. And of course, when you take the shot, don't take just one. Take at least three shots. With a digital camera, it is a no-brainer. With a film camera, yes, unless you are bent upon gettting the best shot, you will cringe at the development costs.

This is how I take shots. Note the settings (shutter speed and aperture) your camera displays. Change one setting (say shutter speed) to above and below the auto setting and take two more photos. The experts call this "bracketing." Usually, one of them will comes out good.

All this takes time. Make sure you are not rushed.

2. Love for Outdoors

If you don't like the outdoors, then most probably your photos are not going to be good. You need to have your heart in it, else why do it?

If going to Yosemite (or some place like it) is an expensive proposition, go to your local park, arboretum, a high viewpoint near the city downtown — whatever interests you. Explore the different angles of view. As a travel photographer says, you have got to settle in and observe your environs. Then, you will spot images you want to capture.

3. Let there be light!

If you understand how light affects your subject or landscape, you have got it made. Light (or control of it) is the single most important ingredient to great photos. Two settings in your camera affect how much light hits your film (or CCD sensor) — the aperture and the shutter speed. The larger the aperture and the slower the shutter speed, the more light enters your camera. Buy a book or an ebook (see below under related products) if you are really interested in understanding how to take good photos. Most of the cameras these days have a basic "M" mode (for Manual). Use and abuse it. That is the only way to learn. Here is an interesting shot around sunset I took near Interstate 280 near San Francisco.

Sunset Colors

As you read earlier, vary the amount of light that enters your camera to capture interesting effects. Sunrise and sunset photos are popular mainly because the color of light is so beautiful at those times. Simply pack a snack and take the family to a spot with your camera. Spend some time photographing. You will love it.

4. Must-Have Accessories

Please please take your tripod no matter what anyone says. Simply put it into your car's trunk. If you want to take a nature photo, a tripod is a must. No matter how steady you think your hands are, a tripod will do the job better.

Don't forget extra rolls of film, or memory. Load up on batteries too. If you are the recharging type, keep them recharged, and take the (car) charger.

Even though I am not a professional, I have tons of lenses. A fixed, one mass-market zoom, one NASA designed telephoto, most of these are fast lenses. My camera bag + tripod probably weighs more than a carry-on baggage. But, I don't care. It sits in my car. It goes wherever I go. I suggest you do the same.

The rule is this. If you don't take them with you and you need them (the accessories), you cannot get them. You lose the opportunity for great shots. But, if you take them and you don't need them, you didn't lose anything.

Digital Camera Tips
Film Camera Tips