With the holiday season here many of us will be taking more photos than we typically do throughout the year. Family dinners, Christmas mornings and, in many cases, the one time of the year that we spend time quality time with our friends and family. Photos of these times can be priceless treasures in the future. Just a little bit of thought and preparation can make sure that you get the shot and make an image that more beautiful or impactful. With this in mind there are a few easy to master techniques that will help you to do this.
Fill your frame – Either move closer or zoom in to fill the frame to exclude all that could clutter or distract from the image. With either a planned group photo or a close up of someone move or zoom in. If you are taking a photo of a child opening a gift, for instance, make sure that it’s a closeup to include their gift and their face to capture the whole context and emotion of the moment. A wide angle view of the room won’t be able to capture the moment in the same way.
Mind the background – Be aware of the background behind your subject. If there’s clutter or a group of people not meant to be in the frame, for instance, find a nicer background. Move your subject or subjects in front of some holiday lights, Christmas tree or decorations. You can also blur the background. One way to do that, if you have a camera that you can adjust manually, is to open up the aperture, set to a smaller number, which will make the depth of field shallower which will soften the background or stand back from your subject and zoom in. Most of the time this should give you a similar effect.
Use fill flash, or not – A general rule with digital cameras is to use flash if your subject is standing in front of a bright background such as a window. Unless the room is very dark try to get the shot without a fill flash. This will give you a more even tone and natural looking photograph.
Use the timer and a tripod – You should be in the photo too. It’s most always been the case that, when sharing your photos, you will need to explain that you were there but was taking the photo. Why not be in the shot? Learn how to use the timer on your camera. You can usually set it for anything from 10 seconds to 30 seconds or more to allow you to click the shutter button and casually walk around into the shot with time to smile. It’s usually very simple to set the camera quickly to Self Timer and then back again. Set your camera on a tripod if you have one, otherwise find something sturdy that you can set the camera on while the shot is taken.
Video – You can be a videographer. Most digital cameras these days will allow you to create videos simply. Most cases all you need to do is flip a switch and press a button. Once you are videoing you can zoom in and out. Once you have made your videos you can easily download them to your computer and edit them in various programs that come with most all personal computers. Apple products can use iMovie while Windows users can use Windows Movie Maker and either brands can use many aftermarket programs as well. Both programs are easy to use and have many tutorials videos available online.
I hope that these tips will help you to get the shot that may have gotten away. The most important tip of all is to get the camera out, charge the batteries, learn to use your settings prior to your event and make sure that it’s handy so you can grab it when the opportunity to save a moment for posterity is provided. Time is fleeting, memories are treasures. Take more pictures this holiday season.
Gateway to Cold Spring Creek
I love Denali. This last trip in August was my second trip into the park and this trip was the best. The skies were clear which allowed for a great view of Denali the mountain as well as the animals roaming the early Autumn tundra.
For those unaware, when you explore within the park you use a shuttle bus. You make reservations, buy a ticket and off you go. You can choose your destination, the two most popular being Eielson visitor center and Wonder Lake. As you drive through the park you are able to get on or off as you wish and catch a ride on another that will, in time, pass by. I really enjoy riding the bus. It can be a bit crowded at times, and a little dusty on a dry day, but it’s a good and practical way to get around inside of the park. The best part is that the bus drivers are all experts on the park and its wildlife and are great at interpreting everything from the history to geography as well as information on the animals that call Denali their home.
As we were travelling along on the bus the driver stopped at the sight of a brown bear and her two cubs. They were on an opposing ridge about 500 yards away. Far enough for us to easily observe their behavior. On this morning they were traversing the ridge eating blueberries. They acted as if they had no care in the world. It was an amazing experience.
At first we saw the sow and only one of her cubs but within a few minutes we observed another little bear behind a bush and working it’s way up the ridge and toward the others. At the same time the mamma and her cub roamed to another area of fresh berry bushes. In time the adventurous little bear made its way to the top of the ridge and started to make his way toward his mamma and his sibling. It was fun to watch. The mamma bear and the first little cub paid the other cub no mind and kept eating berries.
As we watched them I noticed adventure cub moving in on his sibling and a moment later he attacked. They both started tumbling down the hill in a ball of fur and legs.
At the end of the day we saw a variety of animals. Everything from bears to caribou, moose, sheep and even a wolf, but the two little bear cubs was the highlight of the trip.
Alvord Desert Sunset – I had a great time shooting these amazing mud tiles at the Alvord Desert with my friends Jason Brownlee and Matthew Grimes.
I had an excellent time visiting with about 40 of the Pacific Northwest’s best photographers this last weekend. It was an honor to have been invited to your get together folks!! I’m sorry that I left a bit early. I couldn’t fathom enduring the heat any longer without some sort of acceptable shelter… like a travel trailer. I think I need one of them. 😀 Does that make me old? Sleeping in the back of the PPV seems to be getting harder and harder lately. lol
If I could have handled the heat better the photo ops at the Alvord would have been incredible. There was a reflection in the last of the standing water lake on the playa. There were amazing cracked mud tiles. The stars are completely unencumbered by light pollution. They are some of the most amazing star filled skies in the state. The nearest town with a light bulb is 200 miles away. We’re talking remote. And completely awesome.
After this trip I am more motivated to save up for a 500mm lens to take wildlife photos, especially birds. The incredible variety of birds that I saw non the drive there blew me away. And I have lived among millions of birds while living at Midway Island. I got to see a pair of Sandhill Cranes. I think that I saw some great egrets but they could have been white herons. I saw blue herons too. I saw yellow headed blackbirds and red wing blackbirds. I saw kerlews and sandpipers and pipits. I saw pigeons and mourning doves. I saw vulchers and some hawks and crows of course. I also saw antelope and wild horses and various rabbits and rodents.
It really is one of my favorite places, but I like it when it’s not over 100 degrees fahrenheit. 😀
The Aurora over the East Fork of the Hood River on the east side of Mount Hood, Oregon.
Some people enjoy a nice Sunday drive. One that’s warm and sunny where you can just relax, roll the window down, put your elbow on the door sill, crank the music up and hit the open road, destination not required… worries be damned.
I enjoy that too, probably more than the average person, and thankfully so does Darlene, but we do it in the middle of the night a lot of the time. Last night was one of those nights. Darlene came and picked me up at 10:30 pm to go look at the night sky.
My Jeep has been at the Jeep Whisperer being attended to and so I have had no wheels for the last couple of weeks. Thankfully I get it back today, but in the meantime I have missed a few things that I would have liked to have been a part of, including the amazing aurora show the night before last. I think Darlene could sense my anguish and felt sympathy for me. 😀
It was a beautiful night. We were in communication with another night owl photographer, Erika Eve Plummer. who got some incredible aurora photos the night before. Darlene and I decided to get out from under the clouds that were over us here on the rainy side of Mount Hood and go east where we ended up standing in hurricane force gorge winds at Rowena Crest, near The Dalles.
We set up and took a few test shots and the aurora was faint at best, so we took off and headed back toward Mount Hood, not hoping for much as we headed back toward the clouds, but as we approached Mount Hood we stopped at a little spot that we like to go to pee in the woods, and decided to take a photo or two to see what kind of color aht we could see in the sky.
This this photo. The time stamp is 1:17am. The aurora was glowing again, although not near as strong as the night before, but it still set a nice mood for this simple photo.
We drove back home on deserted highways, after visiting beautiful places, with no people. I can’t understand why more people don’t take their Sunday drives at Midnight. 😀
#oregon #randallpics #aurora
Silver City Idaho – Where time stands still.
I had the opportunity to visit Silver City Idaho this last June for a day. I’m still in a bit of disbelief that this kind of place still exists in today’s modern world.
My friend Bruce and I packed our gear and headed to southeastern Oregon where we explored several places that we’ve been curious about, so on this trip we drove past the familiar scene of the amazing Alvord desert, after a burger and a shake at Fields Station, and headed north in to the Jordan Valley area including The Pillars of Rome and Leslie Gulch. After a side trip in toe Nampa Idaho to get a tire repaired, we made the side trip through the beautiful southern Idaho area to Silver City.
Once we arrived in the little town hidden back in the hills we knew we were some place special. After traveling over an hour on back country, single lane dirt roads of varying condition, we arrived to a large sign stating, “Welcome to Silver City Idaho. All property is privately owned. Please do not destroy or trespass. Violators will be prosecuted. Signed the Owyhee County Sheriff”. Fair warning I thought. 🙂
We traversed the dirt streets past old well kept 19th century buildings, daring not to exceed the 5 MPH posted speed limit, and pulled up to the Idaho Hotel as if we were riding up to the hitching post on our horses after a long ride on the dusty trail. We walked inside and found the proprietor busying himself inside. We were glad to see that he was open for business and sold cold beer. Bruce and I each ordered a cold one and proceeded to engage the keeper in interesting conversation concerning the history of Silver City. Established in 1863 the hotel has changed little in character through the years. The old building showed obvious wear from an untold number of foot falls and activity through it’s 150 year history.
Once we finished our refreshment and a series of interior photos, we left the building to roam the streets, guided for a time by our new found friend. As we explored the town I photographed a few of the details in the quaint little city. There are so many different views and details to be noticed and creatively photographed.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Silver City and feel adventurous enough to travel the old back road to the little town, take a day and go take a visit. Remember that this is a real town and not an amusement park. People live there. They enjoy showing a stranger around but appreciate their privacy.
Below are a few of the variety of black and white photos that I made while exploring the beautiful little “ghost town” of Silver City Idaho.
Oregon Aurora – The Northern Lights in the Pacific Northwest – There once was a day when I was asked, “What would be your dream shot?” I replied that my dream shot or the impossible shot would be the aurora over Mount Hood, Oregon.
Since then Earth has passed into the peak of the solar cycle known as solar maximum and camera sensors have become much more sensitive to light allowing myself and many other photographers to be able to photograph the event when it happens, and it has happened quite a bit the last three years. The first time that I photographed the aurora I had no idea that I had captured it in the shots that I had made the night when I went to photograph Trillium Lake, but when I looked at the photos when I had returned home I noticed a green glow on the horizon. Granted, it wasn’t columns and ribbons of light, but a soft green glow. That was October 24th, 2011. Four years ago.
Since then I have been able to catch the Northern Lights in the area and snap a few photos. It’s not as easy as just taking a chance and going and to get a photo. They only come after a solar storm and typically happen from a day or three afterward. I use an application for my phone called Aurora Notifier that signals me when the Kp level, the strength, of the aurora rises above 4Kp. Once that happens, if it’s a dark night, I grab my gear and go.
Once out in the dark one must realize that at this latitude the light is dim and difficult to see with your eyes, but if it’s a strong enough display you can see the light pillars dance on the horizon once your eyes are adjusted. You must get away from any sky whose darkness is diluted by any affect from town or city light. Even the light from the moon can wash out the northern lights. Choose a dark sky with a view toward the northern horizon. Set your camera on a tripod and set your aperture wide open to allow as much light in as possible. Then set your ISO high, it will vary depending on how dark the sky is or how bright the aurora is. Then set your shutter speed for at least 20 seconds. This long exposure is only for the aurora at this latitude. When photographing the aurora in the northern latitudes where the aurora is much brighter a much shorter exposure is called for.
Once you have your camera set take a shot and see how it looks on your preview screen. If it’s too dark raise your ISO or extend your shutter time, from 20 sec to 25 sec for instance. If it’s too bright lower your ISO. That should get you started. There are challenges that you will run into but in time you will get some northern light shots for your own.
Below is a collection of some of my Oregon Aurora photos. I hope that you enjoy them.
No color was added to any of these photos.