Taking Better Pictures of Nature, August 2

Guide/workshop teacher Patricia Pennell

Guide/workshop teacher Patricia Pennell

We had another surprisingly large crowd for this walk, many of whom seemed pretty enthusiastic to hear tips from professional photographer, Patricia Pennell.  Patricia has guided several of our White Lake area nature walks in her role as an expert botanist and she provided a similar “workshop” on phototaking a few years ago, for those with “point and shoot” digital cameras.

This year I asked if she could provide tips for taking nature photos with digital cameras AND smartphones, iPads and tablets.  She delivered, and more, as usual!

Umbrellas used as "light filters."

Umbrellas used as “light filters.”

Patricia went over the basics, like using the rule of thirds and a grid to compose interesting pictures. Patricia said to think of the view as divided by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, creating nine boxes.  Placing key images along these lines or at their intersections makes the photographs more interesting.

She showed us how to find the grid on our cameras and phones and also pointed out that most also had an HDR setting which creates better photos by taking the best elements of three photos in sequence.  Patricia also told us that YouTube is our friend — and it has many good tutorials on digital photography available for free viewing.

We learned how to use “light modifiers” to filter out bright sunlight, which also incidentally can create more flattering photographs of people’s faces!

After our “mini-workshop,” we branched out to the trails to try out our new knowledge and skills!  An educational and fun time, once again!

Getting some practice!

Getting close ups!

Getting close ups!









Patricia was kind enough to share her “tip sheet” in this blog. See more details below.

Patricia and her equipment

Patricia with her photography equipment

Hot Tips for Better Pictures RIGHT NOW
Patricia Pennell, Riverhouse Photography

Hot tip: You are (probably) smarter than your camera. Learn to use more than “program.”

Hot tip: Your camera manual is probably online in PDF. Download it and become an expert on your camera.

Hot tip: YouTube tutorials! on how to do EVERYTHING with your camera. If you want to do something particular, just Google it. If you would rather read, there will be an article somewhere online.

Hot tip: The size of your sensor matters. The size of your sensor has everything to do with the size of your actual image. Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. Digital zoom is just cropping the picture. If you have digital zoom only, it is better to simply get closer.

Hot tip: Light really matters. The angle, source and the amount. Even time of day makes a difference. Grainy pictures? Not enough light.

Hot tip: Carry “light modifiers.”  Light source and direction make a difference. Front vs. side vs. back light; diffused light. Bright sunlight is not a good thing for pictures! Block it off, filter it, or bounce some fill light.

Hot tip: Turn your flash on to fill in shadows in bright light.

Hot tip:  Blurry pictures; shutter is too slow. Prefocus your camera to speed up shutter lag. Hold shutter button down halfway to lock settings, then it will be fast. Shutter lag happens while your camera is thinking.

Hot tip: Use the rule of thirds (and your camera may have a grid in it). Learn composition, leading lines. Learn to see. I see what I want to shoot before I pick up the camera, in thirds, with backgrounds, etc. Use the lines to position subjects on one of the lines, or to straighten horizons.

Hot tip: Carry extra charged batteries and use huge, fast cards. Rechargeable batteries last longer in your camera than disposables. Format your card in camera for longer life. Do not format your card unless you have downloaded your images to somewhere else first!!!!! And check to make sure they are really there.

IPad tips:
Tap to focus on what you want.
Pinch or spread to zoom.
You can do HDR photos (3 combined photos).
Grid turn on: settings/photos and camera/grid.
Continuous shooting: hold down the shutter button.

Smartphone tips: There are likely tools and settings you have never explored. Take a look!
You have a flash. You can use it to fill in details. It only will work well within a few feet—don’t expect it to light up, for instance, a whole car. You can use it to fill in shadows in sunlight, but light modifiers will work much better for you. Flash pictures at night are going to suck. Pretty much.

LIGHT MODIFIERS>>> are good for you.

Touch screen to prefocus before you take your picture, just as on the IPad.

Editing images:
You can put all kinds of filters on your image, which can be great fun. However, you can do that off your device, too. If you shoot a picture in sepia, you can never make it go back to normal. So I recommend getting the shot normally and editing it later, on a computer or other device.

Adobe Lightroom is fantastic and great for editing and keeping track of digital images—nondestructive. I highly recommend it if you want to get serious.

Hot tip: Back up your files in at least two places. You should have three copies of everything. Don’t delete your pictures from your device until you copy it to your computer AND back it up!

Hot tip: Make some paper prints. Remember 8 track tapes? Can you play one now? If you have created a wonderful image, print it. Frame it. Put it into a book. Your children’s children’s children will be able to see paper prints, but probably not your digital files.

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