Category Archives: Blog

4 Tips for Capturing Holiday Lights

WITH TIPS FROM OLYMPUS VISIONARIES
 
During the festive holiday season decorative lights illuminate neighborhoods and cityscapes across the country. The lights are beautiful — sometimes breathtaking — but when you take a picture using your digital camera’s AUTO mode, the results are rarely as stunning as the real thing. Take a look at these tips to get a better hold on your holiday photo opportunities.
 

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME FOR PHOTOS

Although holiday lights appear best at night, the best time to photograph them is at twilight. This is because at twilight there is enough light in the sky to be able to define tree branches, the roof line of a home or other details. It is best to start shooting about 15 minutes after sunset and then take a shot every five minutes thereafter to get an ideal balance of skylight and the holiday lights. Since many lights today use LEDs, you may find that colored LEDs may photograph as white because they may overexposed.

Check out this pre-dawn image from Olympus Visionary, Mike Boening. Mike used the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s Live Composite mode at a .6 sec interval for about 1 minute to capture light trails without overexposing the Christmas lights in the shot. Inspired? Mike’s recommendation – “Use features like Live Composite either at night or just before sunrise during the ‘blue hour.’ Christmas lights make a great stable feature in Live Composite images – you have the vivid Christmas lights mixed in with the light streaks from the cars going by. Just make sure you are careful and stay out of the way of traffic! If you have a chance to get down low, give it a try. You’ll be surprised how a change in perspective changes the whole shot.”


Olympus Visionary Mike Boening. OM-D E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO. Aperture: f11 Shutter Speed: .6sec ISO: 200

 
IMAGE STABILIZATION

If you’re driving around and snapping shots of holiday lights, you probably won’t have a good way to stabilize the camera – so try using your camera’s Image Stabilization Mode. This allows you to hand hold the camera at lower shutter speeds. If you don’t have Image Stabilization, and camera shake is still an issue, use the “Auto” ISO setting or the Candle Scene mode (available on select models). Both will automatically raise the ISO in low light situations for a faster shutter speed. The result should let you capture the holiday lights. Depending on the brightness of your holiday lights scene, you may also need to adjust your camera’s exposure compensation. Colored LEDs in particular may photograph white if they are overexposed.
 
USING A TRIPOD?

If you’re using a tripod, Olympus Visionary Larry Price suggests turning off your camera’s Image Stabilization.
“Tripod stability can actually confuse your camera’s stabilization sensor. As the sensor ‘hunts’ to stabilize your camera, the micro vibrations imparted to the image plane can actually reduce resolution. While you’re at it, go ahead an set your camera to anti-shock mode. This will further enhance image resolution by reducing the vibration imparted when you press the shutter button.”

Larry also suggests weighing down your tripod. “Sometimes even the most stable tripod needs extra support. Wind is often the culprit and it’s important to take extra steps to insure your rig is rock solid. Most quality tripods have a hook that will extend from the bottom of the center shaft.”


Olympus Visionary Larry Price. PEN E-PL7, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO. Aperture: f22 Shutter Speed: 28sec ISO: 200

 
OH, HO, THE ISO

With most point and shoot cameras, using Candle Scene Mode will result in a lower megapixel image best suited for screen or print sizes up to 8×10. With camera models that do not have Candle Scene Mode, or if you need a higher resolution image, try manually adjusting the ISO setting. When using lower ISOs, you may need to stabilize the camera using a tripod or other method to avoid blur when taking pictures of holiday night scenes. With higher ISO sensitivities the resulting picture may have a grainy appearance.

For the highest quality shots you can get, start out by setting your ISO as low as you can. If you can’t get a decent shot at a low ISO setting, bump it up, and try again. Take many shots at a variety of settings until you get a result you like.

If your camera supports it, Olympus Visionary Alex McClure suggests shooting holiday lights using Manual Mode (M on the dial). “You will need a tripod to get a sharp image; it will let you shoot at a lower ISO and allow you to make a longer exposure. First, set your aperture to around f8 to widen your depth of field, this will allow more of the image to be in focus. Second, keep your ISO to 400 for the best image quality. Third, since you are using a tripod, please deactivate the IS (Image Stabilization). Last, I suggest using the self-timer option or a remote to minimize camera movement during shooting.”  If you have an OI.Share compatible camera, the OI.Share app makes a great remote.

If you’re shooting without a tripod, Alex advises using Hand-Held Starlight* in Scene Mode (SCN on your dial). “This is your best bet if you don’t have a tripod with you; it will adjust all your settings to help capture a sharp night-time Christmas light image. Just make sure to hold your camera very still by putting your arms on a bench or wall, or leaning up on something (like a building).” *Hand-Held Starlight is a scene mode found on newer Olympus PEN, OM-D and Tough cameras.


Olympus Visionary Alex McClure. OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO. Aperture: f2.8 Shutter Speed: 1/5 ISO: 100

 
NIGHT SCENE MODE

If you are unable to manually adjust your settings and your camera doesn’t feature Hand Held Starlight mode, try using Night Scene Mode for better quality images. In Night Scene Mode. a slower shutter speed is used and your results will reveal the unique details of the scene that accompany the holiday lights. Again, with slower shutter speeds, camera blur is more likely to occur. Use a tripod or set your camera on a flat, steady surface and enable the self timer to help reduce the camera shake that occurs when you press the shutter button. Compare the results of various capture methods below.


Images shot in cooperation with Huis Ten Bosch


 

 

8 Tips & Tricks For Making Your Halloween Photos Treats

By Larry Price, Olympus Visionary
 

1. RECORD THE PREGAME SHOW

Snap pictures as the kids are getting ready for trick-or-treating. Kids adore their Halloween costumes. They ooze with excitement. Their eyes and mouths come to life with exaggerated expressions. Watch for great faces.
 


 

2. SHOW YOUR COLORS

Halloween celebrations are rich with vibrant color. Capture background hues by using a slow shutter speed with your flash unit. If you use an Olympus point-and-shoot camera, consider setting the shooting mode to “Night.” This is foolproof way to slow down the shutter speed. Another approach with an Olympus interchangeable lens system camera or compact Stylus Premium series camera, is to set the flash sync on “Slow” and manually adjust the shutter speed. Try speeds as low as ½ a second to get interesting and spooky light trails punctuated by sharp details when the flash fires.
 


 

3. RAMP UP YOUR EXPOSURE INDEX

If you can, shoot with a higher exposure index (E.I.) or ISO value. I like to use 400 or even 800 with flash to help capture lots of ambient background light indoors and out—and add depth to your images.
 


 

4. STEADY IT UP

Consider using a lightweight tripod when you tour the neighborhood haunted house. Set your camera in place, use an aperture of f5.6, and you’ll get pin-point sharpness in the dim light.
 


 

5. GET CLOSE

Improve those faraway scenes of kids walking down the sidewalk with parents in tow. Remember to stay within about five to 10 feet of the goblin group. You’ll also be within flash range so your results will be well-exposed.
 


 

6. GET LOW

Get in the habit of kneeling down to photograph children. Cuddle up to their bags of Halloween candy. This puts you on their level and results in an image with a more pleasing, realistic perspective.
 


 

7. DON’T FORGET THE DETAILS

To fill out your personal Halloween photo album, shoot lots of details and tell a story. Close-ups of the jack-o-lantern faces, the candy bowls, and tight shots of painted faces are ideas for starters.
 


 

8. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TWILIGHT

Use the time just before dark — the “magic hour” — to take portraits of your kids in costume out in the front yard or on the sidewalk. Try to include a little environment to add visual interest.
 

 

5 Tips to Motivate You Out of a Photography Rut

By Mike Boening, Olympus Visionary
 


 
It can happen to anyone at anytime, a creative rut. You love photography and shooting pictures everyday and than all of sudden it happens, you are in a rut. Maybe you have had a family tragedy or some changes in your life that precipitated it, but you have to be honest with yourself, something’s not right. So, what do you do? You want to get your creative juices flowing again and as soon as possible. Here are five tips that can help you get through this temporary issue and back on track with a new reinvigorated love for your craft.
 

1. LOOK AT THE WORK OF OTHER ARTISTS

Use other people’s work that you admire. Maybe there is someone you follow on Facebook or you have seen on Flickr. Spend some time on that person’s website looking at their images. Possibly there is a way to recharge your own work through their creations. Look at each image and think about how it was created. What direction was the lighting coming from? What focal length and shutter speed were used? On sites like Flickr and the Olympus User Gallery you can pick up this information from looking at the EXIF data, which is a great place to start. Start to take notes on those images and use them as your field guide when you go out and try to create on your own.
 


 

2. LOOK AT YOUR OWN WORK

Sit down and pull up some work from 4 or 5 years ago. What did you do right, what could you have improved on? Be honest with yourself when doing this. It’s a very reflective process. When you see some of your best work from the past it can build your confidence to go out and create something new.
 


 

3. TAKE A CLASS

Talking to others about photography can do wonders for you. Check out your local photo club or join the meetup.com where there are numerous Meetup groups for photography all over the world and likely in your own backyard. Maybe it’s taking a class at your local community college or a one-day workshop. By joining it gives you opportunities to discuss photography in a group setting. The back and forth conversations can be very enlightening when you are looking for motivation. Another added benefit would be the camaraderie you end up building with the others, which can last much longer than the class.
 


 

4. OFFER YOUR SERVICES

Helping others can always be motivating and may actually be the boost you need to recharge your batteries. Look for local volunteer opportunities where you can give time and skills to help others. Maybe it’s running a photo booth type operation at a local fundraiser or something like capturing images at a local 5K run for charity. These types of organizations love having their events documented and appreciate any help they get from someone with your skills.
 


 

5. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

How about looking at your surroundings from a different view? Do something as easy as getting up high on a ladder or a small structure. Maybe it’s the opposite and you want to look from much lower. Get down on your knees or even lie down in the grass and shoot up at objects. Maybe it’s even changing your shooting area all together. Take a drive one hour from your home and see what you can find. It’s amazing when you never venture out one way and then you change that area. A whole new world may open up for you.
 


 
Hopefully some of these tips can be put to use. From experience, this has happened a couple times to me over my career and I can tell you that I have used variations of these ideas and they do help. Be honest with yourself and dive in. The motivation is there, you just need to ignite the spark. Good luck and let me know if you find any new ways to get out of your photography rut.
 

 

ABOUT MIKE BOENING
 
Web: http://www.mikeboening.com

Blog: http://www.mirrorlessminutes.com

 
Mike commonly finds his inspiration on the streets of his hometown, Detroit, Michigan, specializing in street and urban photography. Over the last five years, he has worked with the Detroit Metro Convention Bureau, covering events and taking headshots for a Fortune 500 company, and shooting sports photography. Mike has shared his love of street photography by teaching and leading groups on urban photography in the Detroit area and beyond.

Requiem for a Dream


Ted Chin heads to the San Francisco shoreline for a surreal-portrait session.
Words by Jenn Gidman. Images by Ted Chin.

 


Ted Chin always knew he wanted to be an artist—he just struggled for a while on which kind to be. “I’d done photography, painting, drawing, and screenprinting, among other genres,” he says. When he moved to San Francisco three years ago to go to grad school for animation, he took that opportunity to enhance his Photoshop skills and combined them with his photographic knowledge, leading him to the artistic niche he’s now comfortably nestled in.

 

“Combining these two skill sets allowed me to evolve my own, surreal style,” he says. “This was important, because when I moved to San Francisco, I became more involved in the Instagram community and started seeing the work of many different photographers and artists. I knew I had to figure out what I could do to stand out more. My mission became to create images that almost looked like movie scenes, but at the same time as real as possible. My goal is to turn impossible concepts into realistic images.”

 

Thus was born “Ted’s Little Dream,” the unofficial name for his compilation of dreamlike images that has brought him more than 71,000 followers on Instagram. “These photos also let me wander off to places I can’t get to myself,” he says. “Grad school is really hands-on, so while other people traveled in real life, I traveled through my images. It’s all about exploring the world and offering my perspective on how I see things.”

 

His distinct, scaled style often involves a tiny subject set within a larger landscape. “Seeing how small we are in this world makes us appreciate our existence,” he says. “I enjoy taking portraits, but I want everyone to view my subjects in the context of that larger world. It’s like if you’re in a valley in Yosemite, feeling so small, or like if you’re watching a movie and seeing things through the character’s eyes as she walks through a door and suddenly witnesses a sweeping landscape in front of her.”

 

Ted recently had the chance to head to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach for a shoot, during an unseasonably warm weekend for that time of year (early June). “It was around 7pm, with that perfect lighting you get during golden hour,” Ted says. “In fact, the lighting was so soft that I didn’t want to use any reflectors or flash.”

 

He used as his main lenses for this session the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC and the SP 85mm F/1.8 VC prime. “I love these two lenses,” he says. “The 24-70 allows me to control the distance between myself and my subject, and offers me the versatility I need so I can change my perspective without having to relocate. The 85mm, meanwhile, is a wonderful portrait lens that offers a more personal connection between subject and viewer.”

 

To direct his subject during this session, Ted chatted with her as he set up his camera and his beachfront stage. “I gave her a sense of the moves I wanted her to make and what direction I was going for,” he says. “Then, for each individual image as we were shooting, I’d tell her to go for a certain sensibility or vibe, using her own perspective, maybe doing something a little more or a little less with her movements, or moving her body so that it somehow matched up with her facial expression. It was a back-and-forth process.”

 

Ted prefers to take his time with each photo and be meticulous about every aspect of the image—and using the 24-70 offers him the flexibility to not only capture the scenery and environment surrounding his model, but also to zoom in and out on her without having to move and sacrifice the other aspects of the image he worked so hard to set up. “I want the light to be the same in my images, and the background to be similar,” he says. “But when you move around to get different perspectives, you can lose one or both of those things—and then something about the image just doesn’t look right. When you can zoom in and out, you keep what you want and easily change your perspective.”

 


52mm, F/2.8, 1/1000th sec., ISO 100

 


24mm, F/2.8, 1/500th sec., ISO 100

 

For the next two photos of this shoot, Ted wanted to zoom in for more intimate close-ups, so he switched over to the 85mm prime. “This lens is perfect for taking a portrait,” he says. “I love to have my f-stop wide open at the maximum aperture of F/1.8 in photos like this, because I want the viewer to focus on my subjects more than the background or surrounding area.” Using the 85mm allows him to still show the complementary scenery, but the focus remains on the person—her hand gestures, her facial expressions, and, by extension, her feelings.

 


85mm, F/2.8, 1/1600th sec., ISO 100

 


85mm, F/2.8, 1/2000th sec., ISO 100

 
Making composites is one of Ted’s favorite parts of the image-creating workflow. “Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea before the shoot—maybe I’ll have a stock photo that I’ll build off of—and sometimes it organically happens during the shoot,” he says. “For this image, my model was standing in the water with that rock behind her, and I thought it would be really cool to have another subject in back of her. That’s when I thought of the pirate ship. I wanted to create a story, or at least spur viewers to think of different stories on their own. Like a Pirates of the Caribbean scenario, or maybe her ship crashed and she’s stranded, or maybe she’s looking for treasure. It’s all up to the viewers: I offer the starting point, and they take it from there.”

 


52mm, F/2.8, 1/1000th sec., ISO 100

 

When it comes to post-production, whether he’s creating a straightforward portrait or a more surreal depiction, Ted draws upon his retouching experience working for a high-end fashion company. “I like to keep it as real as possible while enhancing the details,” he explains. “I’ll mainly bring out the highlights and the shadows. For the Pirate Ship photo, I smoothed her skin a little, but not too much, so you can still see some lines and the texture of her skin. The same with her hair: It looks like someone’s real, actual hair, not too perfect and not too distracting at the same time. I also made sure to strengthen the color contrast. With the red dress, the blue ocean, and the orange tint in the sky, I wanted to make sure it all blended naturally.” 

 

To see more of Ted Chin’s work, go to www.tedslittledream.com. 

Wildlife Photography Tips

Shot by Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman with an OM-D E-M5 + Zuiko ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD.


There are so many different worlds of interest in which the photographer can spend time: landscape, nature, sports, people, the list is extensive. One of many photographic areas in which I love to work is the world of wildlife. Above water or below, from your local zoo to the closest National Park, and all the way to the Serengeti, wildlife photography provides an exciting and visually rich world of possibilities.
 
COMPONENTS OF A POWERFUL WILDLIFE PHOTO
The components that make a successful photograph are found in wildlife: composition, action, sense of place, and moment are critical to the wildlife photographer. Let’s discuss these various requirements that can cumulatively combine to make a powerful wildlife photo.
 
COMPOSITION
This is a core requirement on good photography, whether wildlife of any of the other types of photography. A strongly composed photo is always more appealing, which can draw your viewer into your photograph.

In photo workshops, I strongly suggest the idea that the photographers crop when they shoot. I think this creates a better photographer, as it forces one to watch every square inch of the image. Of course, we all crop, especially in wildlife photography as you can’t always get to the exact spot from which you’d like to shoot. But I think it’s great discipline to try to crop when you shoot, this makes you assume ownership for that frame. 
 


Chiefs Island, Okavango Delta, Botswana. Olympus OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. ISO1600, f2.8, 1/250s

 

South Georgia, Southern Atlantic Ocean. Olympus OM-D EM-1 + M.ZUIKO ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO. ISO200, f9.0, 1/500s.

 
In art, in photography (which can be the same,) when something very powerful and fast occurs (often the hallmark of wildlife photography) we tend to put the subject in the dead center of the frame. Don’t overthink this: shoot the moment, but if time allows, think what you can do to improve the frame. Look around the edges of the viewfinder to make sure that nothing irrelevant to the photo is in that frame. Your photos can be significantly improved by staying with the situation, working it until you get that powerfully constructed image, and “Rules of thirds” is a classic compositional tool to improve your work. Using “Rules of Thirds” here, I constructed the photo of the adult penguin in the group of molting juveniles.
 


Bay of Iles, South Georgia. Shot taken with an OM-D E-M5 + Zuiko ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD. ISO400, f11, 1/200s.

 
 


Gold Harbour, South Georgia. Shot taken with an OM-D E-M1 + Zuiko ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD. ISO400, f3.2, 1/640s.

 

ACTION
Photographing wildlife reminds me of that old saw about flying: “hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.” Wildlife photography can fit this description well as the photographer can sit for hours, waiting for the animal to do something interesting, or simply appear. When the action does happen, the photographer needs to be ready as it is often a flurry of activity that can be over in moments. With wildlife, you always have that potential for good action photography.

I prefer shooting in RAW, as this gives me the greatest amount of data. If shooting jpegs, the Olympus cameras have a great setting that is ideal for the wildlife/action photographer. Found in the “Scene” modes, “Sports” is a setting the aspiring wildlife photographer can choose quickly, knowing the camera will “set” itself to the best settings for this world of photography. Sports mode will set the camera to a high shutter speed, adjusting the ISO accordingly as well as put the camera into a “burst” mode. This is ideal for action photography.
 
 


South Georgia, Southern Atlantic Ocean. Shot taken with an OM-D E-M1 + Zuiko ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD. ISO500, f3.5, 1/1000s.

 

Vigur Island, Iceland. Shot taken with an OM-D E-M1 + Zuiko ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO + MC-14 Teleconverter. ISO400, f5.6, 1/800s.

 

YOUR VIEWFINDER IS YOUR CANVAS
In photo workshops, I emphasize to our participants the idea that they are responsible for everything in the viewfinder, it’s your world. When framing a photo, I’ll see that newer photographer tend to center everything when a great moment is occurring. Don’t miss that moment, shoot what you are seeing, but stay with the scene, don’t drop your camera down. One thing I love about photography is it is all about problem solving. You shoot that great moment, simply not to miss it…but then give it time to see what else develops. Think about off-centering the subject. Intellectually and visually, we like asymmetry. So after grabbing that moment, keep the camera to your eye, play with composition and structure. Often in photography, it takes time to allow the moment to build then fall off.
 
SENSE OF PLACE
This is an important component of your slideshow or narrative, creating that photo that puts your subject into the landscape. I often see the aspiring photographer zoom in to the subject, ignoring the environment that can provide important information as to where the animal is.

 


Palmwag Concession, Namibia. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. ISO200, f3.2, 1/800s.

  


Elsehul Island, South Georgia, Southern Ocean. Olympus OM-D E-M5, M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ, ISO800, f11, 1/160s.

 

By adding information in the background, the photographer can create an environmental portrait. This tells our audience that the giraffe is probably not in Kansas, but in the high desert of Namibia. Shoot a tight portrait, enjoying the sharpness of your M.Zuiko lens, but then go wider with that 12-100mm f4, incorporating background along with the subject.

 


Wide-Shot, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. OM-D EM-1 Mark II, M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO, ISO200, f7.1, 1/200s.

 


Close-Shot, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. OM-D EM-1 Mark II, M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO, ISO3200, f4, 1/100s.

 

Not only do you want to capture the wide and close photos, but consider photographing the incredible close-up detail of the minutiae of detail that makes up the environment. This does two things: presents a way of seeing that the viewer may not have considered, and allows the photographer to take the viewer by the eyes, telling them where to look.
 


Etosha National Park, Namibia. OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO, ISO200, f10, 1/220s.

 


Niue Island, South Pacific. OM-D E-M1 in Olympus PT-EP08 housing & PTLH-E01 dome port, M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO. ISO1000, f14, 1/500s.

 
 
MOMENT
In photography, moment rules all. The function of the still image is to freeze time forever, the more powerful that frozen moment, the more that photograph has the potential to captivate the audience.

One old rule of thumb I learned while photographing NFL Football (a subject I photographed for more than 16 years): when photographing action/wildlife, set the shutter speed to a minimum 1/500th of a second if wanting to stop action. This shutter speed is about the minimum for “freezing” action, but that is also a relative speed. If photographing people running, this 1/500th will freeze feet moving, general movement. If photographing birds, and you want to really stop the motion of wings flapping, you really need to go up to 1/2000th or more. If photographing a hummingbird, going to the maximum 1/8000th of a second, found of the E-M1 Mark II will be the preferred setting. The photographer can also use a slow shutter speed, panning action to impart a feeling of motion. I’ve found that 1/30th to 1/60th of a second works well for animals and humans in motion.


Otjiwarongo, Namibia. Olympus camera, 300mm f2.8 lens. ISO200, f22, 1/30s.

  


Brown Bluff, Antarctic Peninsula. OM-D EM-5, Zuiko Lens ED 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD. ISO200, f5.6, 1/1000s.

 
CAMERA SETTINGS
 
PRO CAPTURE
A fantastic “built for wildlife” setting in your E-M1 Mark II is “Pro Capture.” When set in this mode, and when pressing the shutter button half-way down, the camera is capturing 14 frames constantly, constantly filling and dumping the buffer. Then, when the action happens and you fully press the shutter, those 14 frames that were buffered are written to the card. Pro Capture is a setting that gives you more of a chance of capturing a powerful moment, as it constantly records and dumps those 14 images until you decide to shoot. Your chances of getting a great image of that bald eagle taking off from a tree are enhanced. Accessible via either the “Super Control Panel” (SCP) or on the top of camera buttons, far left, “burst/self time/HDR” by pressing this button, your back camera dial the allows you to choose Pro Capture. Two choices are available on this setting: ProCapH or ProCapL. The “H” setting, when shutter pressed half-way down, captures 60 fps. Within the high setting, you can choose 15, 20, 30 or 60fps. The “L” setting is capturing 18fps. This takes a little getting used to, as the high capture rate of the High setting can fill your buffer. Also, as this is a silent setting, watch in the viewfinder or on the LCD monitor for the flashing card icon in the top left. This indicates images are being captured.
 

CM Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming. OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO, ISO200, f5.0, 1/500s.

 
BACK-BUTTON AF
This is a setting that many wildlife photographers like. However, I strongly suggest that you practice with this as it’s kind of like rubbing your head and patting your stomach-it takes practice. Go to your local zoo, to the park, to your kid’s soccer game and try this out. The benefit of this is it allows you to choose focus only through the AEL/AFL button on the back of the camera, and the shutter button becomes shutter ONLY release.
To find this, go to your Olympus menu setting, choose the “Gear” symbol (5th option down) > A1 AF Mode > scroll down to second icon, “A2 AEL/AFL > S-AF or C-AF (choose which one you want to enable this setting, based on your AF preference) > go to “mode 3” and select. Now your Olympus camera will focus with the AEL/AFL back button, the shutter release will only fire the shutter. This can be a great setup for wildlife. You can save this as a Custom Mode in the Camera 1 “Shooting menu” screen.
 
AF SETTINGS
The Olympus E-M1 Mark II, as well as other interchangeable Olympus OM-D cameras give you several autofocus settings (AF). My initial settings for wildlife will utilize the back-button AF in many situations. Often when using this, I will set my Mark II to S-AFM mode, in “Burst” mode. This sets the camera to a high-speed burst, with a manual override.
 
FOCUS POINTS
My focus points set to either “single” center or the 4-point center weighted mode. Subject matter will dictate which of these I use: if photographing large animals that come close to filling the frame, I’ll use the single point. If photographing birds in flight, I’ll choose the multi-point, as trying to keep a bird centered in flight is difficult. The manual override allows me to make my adjustments accordingly if the subject falls out of that focus zone.
I also set my Fn1 button to reset the focus points. This is found in your camera menu > “Gear” > A2 > “Set Home” and choose the desired default focus point, based on that AF zone I want the camera to go back to by pressing the Fn1 button.
 
SHUTTER RELEASE PRIORITY
I set my release priority to On, otherwise the camera will not release the shutter until it determines focus is achieved. Menu > “Gear” > C1 > Rls Priority S > On.
 
INSTANT REVIEW
I turn off the instant review of images, so if I want to see an image, I press the “playback” button (back of camera, lower right button with green triangle in rectangle) Menu > Wrench > Rec View > Off.
  

Isla Sombrero Chino, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Olympus PT-EP08 housing & PTLH-E01 dome port, M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO, ISO400, f7.1, 1/125s.

 
Many people generally spend less than a half-second looking at a photo, whether viewing the image in National Geographic or your own slide show. The photographer’s job is to create an image that “pulls” your audience into the photograph: engaging and informing the viewer. So, whatever visual tools the photographer can use in creating a photo will help make an image the viewer will spend time with.

Photographing wildlife is a wonderful passion to follow. Grab your Olympus, your lenses and just, as they say, do it! See you in the outdoors.
 
 
ABOUT JAY DICKMAN
 
Web: http://www.jaydickman.net 
Blog:http://www.firstlightworkshop.com/wheres-jay 
 
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and National Geographic photographer, Jay Dickman is one of the most traveled, experienced and celebrated photographers in the program.

Travel Photography Tech Talk

By Jay Dickman, Olympus Visionary. Source: GetOlympus.com
 

In my work, select images end up with National Geographic Image Collection. Their requirements are extremely high for those images selected. My Olympus equipment meets those requirements. I often print up to 50” on the long side, and the prints are spectacular. Try pushing the envelope with your camera. Getting out of your comfort zone can often open new visual doors for you: 

 
1. EXPOSURE IS CRITICAL

I often hear the expression, “I’ll fix it in post,” which is like hearing fingernails on a blackboard. You may be able to “fix” an image that suffers from extreme over or underexposure, but you pay a price.  On your histogram, which displays important exposure details, the photo should be slightly towards the right or bright side, of the histogram.
Many think that under-exposed image will give them more exposure information. What you sacrifice with this can be accentuated noise. Photos are made of three channels: Red (R) Green (G) and Blue (B). When underexposing an image, the photographer actually exacerbates noise issues as noise comes from that B channel, and brightening a dramatically underexposed image really can enhance the “grain” of noise. 

Photographed on the grounds of the Taj Mahal, fog had rolled in from the Yamuna River, pretty much obscuring everything. Finally, it started lifting, exposing this beautiful scene of the sun shining on top of the western mosque, the foreground still in the fog. This created an exposure difference in foreground/background. I used a “Neutral density graduated filter” to darken the sky while allowing the exposure on the foreground to stay the same. The more you shoot, the more you understand exposure and its potential, the more you’ll know when to use filters such as this.


Photographed on the grounds of the Taj Mahal, fog had rolled in from the Yamuna River, pretty much obscuring everything. Finally, it started lifting,
exposing this beautiful scene of the sun shining on top of the western mosque, the foreground still in the fog. This created an exposure difference in foreground/background. I used a “Neutral density graduated filter” to darken the sky while allowing the exposure on the foreground to stay the same.
The more you shoot, the more you understand exposure and its potential, the more you’ll know when to use filters such as this.

 
2. AUTO ISO

I use Auto ISO a lot. The trinity of exposure is shutter, aperture, and ISO. By going to Auto ISO, you allow the camera to do the “heavy lifting” of determining ISO. The Auto ISO setting will default to the lowest ISO for your preferred aperture or shutter speed, allowing you to shoot more successfully. This also eliminates the frustration of walking into a dark environment with the camera set on a low ISO, and you see a great moment, but the shutter speed is so low your file is unusable due to shake.
Plus, today’s Olympus camera handles noise really well, so why not let the camera deal with that component of exposure? I’d rather have a great moment of a scene with higher ISO than no photo at all. This craft of photography is all about moment. 


Shot with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko ED 17mm F1.2 PRO Lens. F1.2, 1/80 sec. ISO-1000

 
3. RAW IS YOUR FRIEND

I’ll often see the aspiring photographer shoot jpeg as their file of choice. Your Olympus does a fantastic job of applying those elements of White Balance, sharpness, and contrast in the jpeg. But, I want all the data the camera can provide so when I work on final image, I have all that information to draw upon. A RAW file gives you almost two stops more dynamic range (that ability of the camera to capture the range from light to dark).
A lot of photographers early in their digital career also are a bit scared off of RAW as they’ve heard that the file takes an extensive amount of work. When one sees an image in Olympus Viewer, Photoshop, or Lightroom, they are usually amazed in seeing how user friendly those RAW converters are. Plus, if you “tweak” your jpegs regularly, come on over to the RAW side, as you’ll see very little difference in the interface. 


Shot with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO Lens. 1/500 sec, F9, ISO-200, Shutter Priority

 
4. FREEZING MOTION

Shutter speed is a powerful creative tool for the photographer, allowing huge amounts of control to impact the final image. I shot NFL football for over 15 years in my newspaper days, and I learned an important rule in sports photography which translates to the world of wildlife photography and other areas where you are capturing a moving subject: when trying to “freeze” motion, it usually takes a shutter setting of 1/500th of a second to really start to stop motion. 1/500th of a second is great for photographing someone running.

If trying to stop the wings of a bird in flight, try ramping up that shutter speed 3 to 5 times higher – i.e.1/2500th of a second is a good shutter speed to stop the wings of an eagle. Conversely, you can use a slow shutter speed to enhance the feeling of motion.


Shot with an E-M1 and M.Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO Lens. 1/2000 sec, F6.3, ISO-640, Shutter Priority

 

Another example of freezing motion. Shot in Mongolia with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens. 1/640 sec, F7.1, ISO-200, Shutter Priority

 
5. PANNING

If trying “panning” (shooting a slow shutter speed to impart the feeling of motion), start at 1/50th of a second, and if photographing people walking by, use a focus point in the viewfinder to “hold” on the subject that is moving. This enhances the chances of getting some sharpness on the subject, while the background blurs from that slow shutter speed.


Shot with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO Lens. 1/25 sec, F14, ISO-200, Shutter Priority

 
6. SLOW EXPOSURE

Try Slow Exposures in situations in which you thought it wouldn’t be applicable. This can add an energy to your photographs, producing a photograph that can further engage your viewer. 


Shot with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko ED 12-100 F4.0 IS PRO Lens. 1/4 sec, F13, ISO-200, Shutter Priority

 
7. AVOIDING STAR TRAILS

A good rule-of-thumb: when photographing the night sky, the “500 rule” comes in handy. Take the length of your lens, divide it into 500, and the resulting number is the maximum number of seconds you can effectively use, with that lens, before you start noticing star trails.
If I want star trails, it’s usually a full sweep of them, not an abbreviated version. It’s kind of either or: a full circle or stars, or a sky full of points of light, with sharpness of the stars being a driving consideration. So, if using my M.Zuiko ED 8mm F1.8 FISHEYE PRO lens for a starscape, I’ll divide that 8 into 500, with the resulting 62+ seconds being the maximum exposure length, in seconds, I can use before I start to see a bit of star trail.

Digital has a wonderful ability to “open up” exposure by utilizing long exposures. This photo of Deadvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park in Namibia is a great example of that. Shot at 30 seconds, ISO 640 at F2.8, allowing the slight amount of moonlight available (about a 40% waxing moon) to capture this ethereal scene.


Shot with an E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO Lens.

 
BONUS

Not really a tip, this is more of a statement of “wow,” in terms of Olympus’ images stabilization, especially in the M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO and M.Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO lenses. The Internal Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) works almost surrealistically. Enabling the IBIS by pressing half-way down on the shutter dampens movement so well on the camera, it almost looks fake! 
 
MORE FROM JAY DICKMAN:

Web: jaydickman.net

Blog: firstlightworkshop.com/wheres-jay/

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and National Geographic photographer, Jay Dickman is one of the most traveled, experienced and celebrated photographers in the program.

How to Photograph Fireworks


Source: Canon
 
With the 4th of July just around the corner, there are lots of opportunities to capture fireworks, and this article from Canon will show you how to capture them. And, if your camera has “Bulb Mode,” your photos can be even more impressive. For terrific fireworks photographs, consider the quick tips below:
 

 
1) Turn your Flash off

The first key thing to do, whichever device you’re using, is to turn your flash off.
 

2) Use a mode that allows control

If possible, change your camera or smartphone to a mode that allows you some control over settings.
 

3) Underexpose

As the scene in front of you is dark, you will need to tell the camera to underexpose, otherwise you’ll get a photo that is too bright for a night-time scene. To do this apply ‘negative exposure compensation’. This option can appear as a -/+ on the screen and you need to set around -1 to -2 to begin experimenting with under exposure.
 

4) Use continuous shooting mode

Try using continuous shooting mode as it will help you get the right shot, even if the fireworks go off a moment before or after you expect.
 

5) Experiment with Manual Mode

If you own a camera which makes it possible to take full control, you can experiment with the Manual Mode.
 

6) Shutter speed, aperture and focus

Using Manual Mode, select a shutter speed of around 1/10th of a second and an aperture of f/8. Manually set your focus at the distance the fireworks are at.
 

7) Set a low ISO

Set your ISO low to begin with by finding the ISO setting in the menu and selecting ISO 200.
 

8) Keep it steady and use Image Stabilizer

It is best to use a tripod to keep the camera steady, but if you are holding the camera without one make sure you have turned on the Image Stabilizer on your lens if you have it – this will help to steady your shots.
 

9) Check your results and adjust

Take photos as the fireworks begin and check whether the results are bright enough. If they are too dark you can increase your ISO setting and if you want to capture longer light trails make your shutter speed longer but beware that this increases the risk of camera shake entering your photos. If the photos are too bright you can either decrease your ISO to 100 or set your lens aperture to f/11.
 

10) Get your fireworks pictures looking really impressive –using the bulb mode

Bulb mode enables you to control exactly when the shutter opens and closes, so you can create a long exposure that captures in detail events like firework displays or lightning strikes. To find “bulb” mode make sure you are in manual mode, then adjust the shutter speed – after the 30 second setting you will see “bulb”- other cameras have the bulb mode available on the mode dial. Watch the video about Fireworks- Bulb photography below.
 

 
For long exposures you will need to keep the camera very still, so a tripod is required. Using a cable release or a remote control is very helpful too, as it helps remove extra camera shake. Instead of a cable release or remote control, if you have a Wi-Fi enabled camera you can also try our Camera Connect App which enables you to take the picture from your phone.

With a long exposure try an aperture of f/8 to f/16. Then set the lens to manual focus and focus according to how far the fireworks are away from you.

Try to capture either one or several bursts of fireworks in one shot and compare the difference.

How To Plan For Summer Travel Photography

All Photos and Words by Sony Artisan Me Ra Koh. (source: https://alphauniverse.com/)
 

To come home from a trip with great photos, plan ahead. This goes for everything from landscape and nature photography to street and general travel photography. We spend a lot of time and energy scouting for our workshops because that’s our business. Before we lead a group to a new destination, Brian and I spend several months doing research. A lot of what we’ve learned about photography scouting can also apply to a casual or family traveler who wants to come back with meaningful images that are more than just snapshots.

Scouting locations for beautiful photography is like working on a puzzle. There are a number of different ways to do a puzzle. Some people like finding all the border pieces first. Others like to focus on a specific object. There is no right or wrong way to start. The key is to have a plan and do as much location scouting research before you even leave while allowing time for unexpected left turns when you’re there.
 
RESEARCH
Our research happens in two stages. First, we do pre-research before leaving. This can take a few months. We create Pinterest boards of images that stick out to us. Then we dialogue about why certain images draw us in. For example, when researching areas for our Portrait of a Winter Wonderland workshop in Sundance, Utah, we created a Pinterest board of beautiful winter landscapes from all over the world. Then we started to look for consistencies in what draws us in to certain images. Brian and I found that we like images with repetitive patterns like an aspen grove or an element in the midst of landscape; barn, winding path, ski lights at night, lake with reflection, etc. These elements act like a visual anchor to the landscape. Creating the Pinterest board helped us narrow our location scouting down to specific areas that had these elements.
 


Utah. Sony α7R III, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. 2.5-sec, f/16, ISO 100

 
Websites like Flickr are great for finding the exact location of shots by their longitude and latitude. We research time of day and year certain shots were taken. Photo Pills is an amazing app that Sony Artisan, Chris Burkhard, told us about. The app shows you where the sun, moon and stars will be when you’re there and when to expect golden and blue hour.
 

Sunrise in Greece. Sony α7R II, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. 1/80-sec., f/6.3, ISO 400

 
Community is key to pre-research. I’ve been a Sony Artisan of Imagery since 2007, and I continue to learn from my colleagues. If one of them has photographed an area we’re researching, I’ll ask them for advice on what they learned. Sometimes I email professional photographers that live in the area we’re going to visit and ask them for advice. Some never respond but others do and even become friends or guides for when we arrive. Being able to help each other save time and money is one of the many benefits to having a creative community.
 
TAP INTO LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
The second half of research happens when we arrive. Dialoguing with locals is our favorite way to start this next step of location scouting. Upon arrival, we’ll buy a handful of iconic postcards from local vendors. Postcards are a great tool if there is a communication barrier. We’ll walk through a village holding up the postcard in one hand and camera in the other. That gesture often does the trick, and locals will either give us advice on where to go or find a friend who can help us. The unexpected friendships we’ve developed through this process is one of my favorite parts of travel.
 

Local guide in Egypt. Sony α99, Sony 85mm f/1.4 ZA lens. 1/800-sec., f/1.4, ISO 160

 
The one thing you must always keep in mind is that unless the local is a photographer, they’re not thinking like a professional photographer. They may give you advice on where to go, what time to be there, but they’re coming from the mindset of someone who will take the photo with their phone. If they’re taking you, they will often expect you to get out of the car, take the shot and be on your way. It’s important to let them know how much time you’ll want to spend at a location and to tip them well or offer to buy them dinner after.

This happened when we were in Greece. A friend in Italy introduced us to her friend in Greece, an enthusiastic local who offered to show us around. The first two days, Nicolas showed us several off-the-beaten path locations on the island he grew up on. Even though the spots were beautiful, they weren’t what we were looking for. On day three, our family decided to rent our own jeep and off-road the island to explore. We ended up finding several spots we had envisioned from our research.
 


Scouting in Greece. Sony α7R II, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. 1/60-sec., f/10, ISO 50

 
Do we regret those first two days with Nicolas? No way. Nicolas is a character that our family will never forget. But it was also important to keep our own expectations in check. When you have limited time to scout an area, you can easily get stressed about finding the best spots and lose sight of the people.
 

Sunrise in Greece. Sony α7R II, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. 1/160-sec., f/9, ISO 100

 
YOU MADE A PLAN…DON’T BE AFRAID TO DITCH IT
Any time you travel with a camera, try not to be too wrapped up in getting a perfect shot. Planning and preparation helps stack the odds in your favor, but sometimes things just don’t work out like you planned. We’ve found that by keeping an open mind and not being too focused on our original plan, incredible unforeseen opportunities can come up. If your anticipation is to learn something new, make new friends, and take a few left turns that may lead to somewhere even better, you’ll never be disappointed.
 

Sony α7R III, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens. 1/100-sec., f/4, ISO 500.

 
There is always an element of risk involved because no matter how much you prep, you never know if the time and finances you’ve invested are going to pay off. This is one of the reasons why people love our Portrait of the World workshops; we’ve already done the work of making sure each spot is amazing for both adventure and photography.
 
You can see more from Me Ra Koh and sign up for her workshops at her website.

Find Leading Lines

SOURCE: GetOlympus.com


Have you ever noticed that roads, paths, and trails tend to grab your attention while you shoot? These natural and man-made elements, known as leading lines, add depth and dimension to your photos. They’re one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your composition. Here are some cool ways to use them to your advantage.
 
WHAT ARE LEADING LINES?

Leading lines are features that guide your viewers’ eyes. They also create structure, balance, and movement.
Check out some of the most common uses of leading lines:

  • To lead a viewer into your photo
  • To guide a viewer to the main subject
  • To draw a connection from one part of your photo to another
  • To tie the foreground and background together
  • To create specific perspective 






Shot by John LaGuardia with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Camera | M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Lens | 1/125 sec | F8.0 | ISO200

 
FINDING LEADING LINES

Anything that creates a definitive path is a leading line. This can be in both nature and in cities. A photographer’s job is to locate them. Hard, straight lines are easy to spot, but leading lines can also be curved, winding, or even incomplete. They can go any direction and be narrow, thick, or changing in size throughout the image. Some of the most effective lines are implied, like a sightline.


Olympus User Gallery Contributor, David Booth | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera |M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO Lens

 
Leading lines to look out for in nature are anything from rivers, cliffs, and waterfalls to sun rays and rows of trees.


Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Lara Andra | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera |M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Lens

 
And don’t forget about man-made structures. Roads, bridges, and train tracks make great leading lines, as do smaller structures such as window panes and doorways.

Shooting a pattern from the right angle or capturing multiple of the same item in a row can also create leading lines. Once you spot them, they’re hard to ignore.
 


Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Michael Radcliffe | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Lens

 
HOW TO USE LEADING LINES CORRECTLY

After you’ve found the strongest lines in your scene, you’ll need to decide how to use them for maximum impact. When framing your shot, ask yourself, “Where are the leading lines taking me?” Usually, the answer is a point of interest or tension but sometimes, the line can be a subject itself. Just make sure they don’t accidentally lead viewers out of the frame or away from core elements in your scene.

The most dynamic images usually combine leading lines with the rule of thirds. They often start at the bottom of the frame and bring a viewer upwards and inwards, from the foreground of an image to the subject. This immerses viewers in a three-dimensional scene. The further the lines go and the smaller they get, the greater depth you can add. Don’t be afraid to lead your viewers to a vanishing point.
 


Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Nam Ing | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Lens

 
MAKE LEADING LINES WORK FOR YOU

Stay loose while you’re shooting. If your leading lines aren’t aligning with your subject, move yourself or adjust the camera angle. For example, if a line is leading out of frame toward the left but you want your viewer to notice something on the right, move to the other side of the line so the subject is properly framed.

Don’t feel limited by a single leading line. If there are multiple sources of tension in a scene, take advantage. You can place your subject at the intersection of several lines or create a cyclical composition if your lines are different shapes. Just don’t overcomplicate things to the point where a viewer can’t locate focal points.
 


Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Tom Robert Strande | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO Lens

 
For something different, try an interchangeable lens camera so you can play around with different lenses. To capture width and depth, add a wide-angle lens. This can exaggerate the length and shape of the leading lines, placing viewers directly into the frame. Also shoot in a narrow aperture to get a deeper depth of field so the line is in focus right to the back of the frame.

Of course, not every image has or needs leading lines. Sometimes, you’ll find a leading line actually detracts from the statement you want to make. If you can’t find any natural or man-made lines, let your creative eye be your guide.
 


Shot by John LaGuardia with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Camera | M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Lens | 1/60 sec | F4 | ISO500

11 Tips for Photographing Spring

By Olympus Visionary Larry Price. (source: GetOlympus.com)
 


With spring officially upon us, it’s time to get the cameras out and explore the beauty of the changing season. Unlike the stark contrasts that winter landscapes present, burgeoning new life is more subtle and challenging to capture, particularly if you’re in a northern clime where spring comes slowly in fits and starts.

 
Whether you’re going for that perfect panorama of mountain dogwoods or a close-up of a single crocus struggling to bloom through the snow, a few tips can help you get the most from your spring photo shoots.

 
ASSEMBLE YOUR SPRING GEAR

For me, the shapes and splashes of color of the early spring flowers are irresistible, so I think about close ups of flowers and animals as they begin to come out into the warmth. Before you go out to shoot close up shots of flowers find out how close your camera will focus. To make sure you don’t get too close simply cut a piece of string to the close focus length and hold it at the front of your camera to the subject.

If you want to explore the abundance of animal life that emerges after the long, dark days of winter, you’ll need to use the long telephoto end of your zoom lens.

If your camera takes a flash, a small flash with an extension cord is good in case I need a touch of fill flash. But honestly, the flash usually stays in the bag. If you enjoy the vibrant look of fill-in flash with close-ups, a tiny handheld unit will often make the difference between getting the shot or not.

Since many of the point and shoot cameras are f 3.5 to f8 apertures a tripod will come in handy for sharper images as shutter speeds may be slower. Don’t forget to use the image stabilization of your camera to prevent camera blur. If I’m traveling by air, I’ll pack only a tiny tabletop tripod unit which adds minimal weight to my outfit.

OM-D E-M5 Mark II, M.Zuiko ED 8mm F1.8 FISHEYE PRO. F20, 1/125 sec, ISO 200

 
WORK THE LIGHT

For spring photography the light is especially important — and beguiling. With the lengthening days, you’ll have more magic hours in the morning and evening, as the sun lingers low on the horizon. In March and early April, the light is gentle light throughout most of the day, particularly in the northern latitudes. How you use this light is key. If you’re photographing blossoms, particularly the pale dogwoods or frothy lilacs, you’ll want to use backlight to illuminate the petals, rather than reflected light. In reflected light, your flowers will look flat and one-dimensional whereas with the right backlighting, the petals, young leaves and bursting buds will be bright and vibrant. You’ll also want to use a lens shade to avoid glare with a backlit subject. While light sculpts every photograph, during the spring it also makes a wonderful subject itself. Pay attention to the way the light moves. Watch the ebb and flow of exotic light against the surface of a pond or a rippling stream. In the desert southwest, a rising sun on a crystalline morning transforms red rock formations into otherworldly monuments.


F2.0, 1/180 sec, ISO 400

 
THINK NEW LIFE

The animals, like us, are throwing off their winter blues. Playful and frisky, squirrels are busy now from sunup to sundown. Chipmunks, moles and voles scurry from their winter bunkers. Watch quietly and you’ll see foxes and deer in the hours near sunrise or sunset. Break out the long lenses to focus on birds and mammals. They’re curious too and you’ll be surprised how approachable many urban animals are.

 
GET THE LOW DOWN

Put yourself at plant level on the ground to shoot crocuses bursting through black earth. Use the macro or close-up setting of your camera and you’ll see new and unique angles. A single green shoot becomes an obelisk, a cluster of daffodil leaves a dense forest. Think architecture and modern art. From this bug’s eye view, you’ll also see insects at work — always good subjects.


F4.5, 1/180 sec, ISO 200

 
LOOK UP

The shapes and forms of forest trees change subtly as new growth tints the branches and bud coats expand and burst. Take advantage of a blue sky or interesting cloud patterns to work in among the shapes the tree limbs present. Capture these scenes early though — once trees leaf out, these images are harder to find.

 
WALK IN THE RAIN

Use the reflections from a puddle of fresh water to accentuate color and texture. Get really close to capture tiny rain droplets clinging to new leaves, flowers and vines.


F4.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400

 
CONTROL THE CHAOS

The best springs are a riot of color, scents and sounds. A few years ago, we had a late spring in Ohio when everything bloomed at once — forsythia next to lilacs, roses in bud while the daffodils were still waiving their yellow heads. It was amazing. One of my amateur photographer friends went out with her digital camera to capture glorious streetscapes but came home disappointed. Her pictures were cluttered and flat, a common problem. In a park or arboretum surrounded by beauty, our eyes move from sky to blossom to ground while our other senses are registering the bird songs and perfume of the flowers. Our brain puts it all together and we perceive the brilliant bits as a whole. The camera is more discriminating. So, to bring that magnificent medium view to life, you’ll want to use foreground-background composition techniques. Put a big splash of color near the camera and then use receding color in the background to re-create the sensation your brain perceives in nature. Concentrate on crisp compositions with a specific focal point in the foreground, even when you’re going for the big picture.


f4.0, 1/400 sec, ISO 200

 
USE WIDE APERTURES

Always, always, simplify your background. I don’t use a tripod so much because I often shoot at a wide aperture with my Olympus macro lens. I can use a reasonable Exposure Index of 200 or 400 and still have a shutter speed that will allow me to shoot handheld. Enable your camera’s image stabilization mode and you’ll be set. Of course, for a once in a lifetime shot or if I’m in no particular hurry, I’ll use a tripod.

 
HOLD ON

If you don’t have a tripod or the light is too low to use a high shutter speed, experiment with using long shutter speeds hand held. You don’t always have to shoot with a high shutter speed to have sharp images. Consider also experimenting with motion blur in low light. With a little controlled movement, you can interject an element of mystery.


F11, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

 
PACK FOR THE ROAD

You’ll get your best shots on foot, so whatever you assemble, you’ll have to carry. I use a shoulder bag to carry one body and two lenses, my flash, cord and extra batteries. That’s it. If I can’t walk a mile in comfort with all my gear, I’ll remove items until I can.

 
DRESS FOR THE SEASON
And I don’t mean shorts and flip-flops. Early spring mornings and late evenings are still very cool if not downright cold. You’ll want to layer (I like polypro long johns under sturdy wind-resistant pants and a fleece top). You’ll also want waterproof boots or shoes for squishing through boggy patches or walking the streams.

And remember, spring is fleeting, so get going now to get those great pictures.


F4.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400

 
ABOUT LARRY C. PRICE

Blog: http://www.larrycprice.com/category/blog

Over his storied career, Larry has worked for some of North America’s largest newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Denver Post. He is currently at work on a longterm project about global pollution with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C.