A New Day Dawns
With nearly 300,000 visitors to date, five years of operation, 300 blog articles and over 1,000 photographs, this blog outgrew the capability of our web hosting company. Some of you know this already because, like me, you have often experienced very slow access to the blog and its content over the past few months.
After weeks of preparation, you are now viewing the blog which is run by a different web hosting company. After we complete the testing, the entire blog will be back in operation on April 1st. Until then, please enjoy our new home and be patient if you run into a page that displays incorrectly or a missing image. We are working to correcting any problems.
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
A great many of my backcountry photo assignments have come with moments, hours and even days of rain, fog, snow, lightning and occasionally, a tornado. Although some might call those conditions “bad weather” I consider them golden photo opportunities to add an element of mood or mystery to a photo. They also, however, pose specific lighting, shadow and color challenges that can enrich or ruin a photograph. As the season of Fall begins, I want to share some thoughts and tips on this subject.
With their standard Auto (automatic) exposure setting, most cameras produce great results in “normal” weather conditions but often disappointing results in fog, rain or snow. Extreme weather conditions confuse the camera’s light meter and the results are often dull, flat or too dark/bright. Changing just a few camera settings and/or using an inexpensive attachment can dramatically increase your success rate in those conditions. Here is the same subject photographed made with and without the ideas described below.
Take Advantage of Your Camera’s Flash
Besides indoor photography, your camera’s flash can help when photographing outdoors, especially on cloudy or overcast days. On an overcast day, turning on your camera’s flash can help brighten and saturate the colors in your subject up to the maximum range of the flash itself which is usually about 10-20 feet (3-7 m). A flash also produces directional lighting that can cast shadows which help add visual depth to the subject you’re photographing.
Changing the White Balance Setting
A heavily overcast sky blocks the sun’s rays which can cause the colors in subjects like flowers or leaves to look flat or dull when photographed. To correct for this, try changing the “white balance” setting on your camera to “Cloudy or Shade.” Most digital cameras have a menu selection or dial to specify unusual lighting situations. Choosing Cloudy or Shade, for example, helps the camera compensate for low light and flat colors. (NOTE: Even if you’ve never opened the manual that came with your camera, this is one great feature that can be extremely useful.)
Use a Circular Polarizer
One of the most useful and relatively inexpensive (on average, around $45-$80) camera accessories you can add for outdoor photography is a circular polarizer filter — a small glass filter like the one shown below which attaches to your lens. I have one for each of my lenses and a great many of my outdoor landscape images were made with a circular polarizer attached to the camera.
A Circular Polarizer
A circular polarizer has much the same effect on a camera as Polaroid sunglasses do on your eyes. They reduce the glare on bright days or the sheen on wet, moist of fog drenched vegetation and help the camera record truer and more saturated colors. They can also reduce haze or thick moisture in the atmosphere and even reduce glare on water or window glass. To use a polarizer you attach it to the front of your lens and then slowly rotate it to change the polarization effect while watching the results in the camera’s eye piece or LCD screen. As you rotate the polarizer, when the scene suddenly appears clearer or the colors are more saturated it will have the same effect when you make the photograph.
COMING UP NEXT: MORE TIPS ON FOG PHOTOGRAPHY
Recently I discussed how Leading Lines can help make some photos more compelling and help move the viewers eye through a scene. Because of the many comments and emails I’ve received about that post want to add some additional information and also introduce the topic of natural frames.
1. More on Leading Lines
To review, a leading line is anything within a photograph that helps lead the eye from one place to another within or out of the image. A few easily found elements that can be used as leading lines include roadways, biking paths, sidewalks or even railroad tracks. They can also be created from fences, social trails (paths worn into the ground by foot traffic) or even a series of telephone poles or mail boxes. Here are four examples.
Once your eyes become accustomed to finding them, you’ll notice how leading lines are found everywhere on the landscape. The shape of a meandering stream flowing through a field, a row of flowers growing in a straight or curved pattern or even a lengthy tree trunk lying on the ground are some other examples.
Light can also create leading lines. The first rays of daylight illuminating a series of trees or a shaft of sunlight pouring through an opening in the clouds can easily guide a viewers eye through an image. Here are two examples.
2. Using Natural Frames in a Photo
A natural frame is an opening through which you photograph a subject. Some examples of natural frames include an open barn door through which you photograph a horse in its stall or an opening in a rock formation through which you photograph a distant mountain or sunrise. Including at least part of that natural frame in the image helps to set off the main subject and adds a sense of depth to the image. The two photographs below each contain natural frames.
Finding leading lines and natural frames takes practice and experience. Start by including some easily found examples in your photos like a highway or door opening and study the results. Once you gain experience and understand their benefits in different situations your ability to identify to find other examples more easily will grow.