Friday, March 31, 2017

10 Tips to Consider When Taking Your Vacation Photos

Well, it's a momentous time of year. Calendar pages have been flipped and perused, decisions made and vacation days booked.

Typically, I tend to take my time off throughout the year as I see fit or as need dictates. This year, however, my husband and I have a different plan in mind. With an eye to a specific place we are focussing the majority of our holiday planning between the months of May and September.  Our decision is based on a need to hang out in an old haunt. To return to a stomping ground that shaped some of our best memories.

Because of my enjoyment of photography, we have revisited those memories over the years and often felt a strong draw to the place that created them. The pictures I took encapsulated a golden time in our lives — summers spent with our young family at a lakeside getaway. Friendships were made that have endured. Stories were written that we come back to with laughter when we meet those friends again.  And a resort town became our second home.

So, now it is time to write a new chapter. It's time to create new memories and to enjoy a little pre-retirement lakeside.  And since we're decades older than when we experienced extended sojourns there before, we're definitely going to need that camera in my hand again to help us remember every good moment.

As well as taking pictures of  friends and families, of our gatherings and parties, though, we can't ignore that we will be holidaying in one of the most picturesque places on earth. This is an area where sunsets are renowned.  The silhouettes of moored yachts rock and sway before the brilliant hues of pink and crimson. During the day butterflies dance in dunes, while gulls dip and dive from sand to surf. Boats cruise the water, kites dot the sky.

It's all just about as picture perfect as you can get. Yet, it can be challenging to do justice to even the most beautiful landscape when you're trying to capture it in a picture.  Knowing and understanding your camera is important for success, of course. But there are many other factors that I've discovered over the years, which are equally essential to consider.  Here are just a few of them:


1. Look with fresh eyes. One of the first lessons I learned about photography when working for a newspaper many years ago, was to try and find a way to see my subject differently than the rest of the world.  Sometimes that meant getting down on the ground. Other times the right shot came because I climbed on a ladder.  Ultimately, play with the angles and try to find unique ones that will change the way you see your subject.

2. Use the zoom. Getting up close and personal puts the focus on what's important.  Again in the newspaper business, it was desired when taking a picture that we fill the frame  and get rid of any extraneous details.  It's a lesson that's shaped a preference in my photography to this day.  No point in taking Uncle Bob's picture on the hill if we can't see it's him.


3. Don't miss the beautiful start or end of a day. No matter where you vacation, sunrises and sunsets will always be the perfect way to highlight your destination. Finding points of interest, such as a sailboat gliding by the setting sun, or early-morning runners moving towards the dawn, will make your photos even more visually interesting.

4.  Everything is worth the time. When taking vacation photos overlook nothing. When it comes to remembering that special vacation, everything is worth a shot — from the food on your plate to the twinkle lights on the patio.  Move in close to highlight something significant,  or zoom out to capture an environment in its entirety.


5.  Catch them by surprise. Candid shots are always a favourite. They capture the magic in a mood or moment.  It's wonderful to look back and see your loved ones happy faces of people who were blissfully unaware they'd been caught on camera.

6. Don't get caught unaware.  Keep your camera close in order to seize every possible opportunity for a great vacation picture.  While you can have a few situations or locations in mind that you know you want to photograph, never forget that there will be ones that your hadn't planned on. For these you'll want to be ready.

7. Patience as always is a virtue.  Find a place and wait. You never know when a story will unfold in front of you. How much more lovely a picture will your streetscape be when it includes the soft gentle kiss on the cheek of an elderly man by his sweet granddaughter.  Which will also take us to the next tip.


8. People. My husband was always a big fan of photographing the scenery of the places we visited. Pretty those pictures might have been, but it's the ones that include people in them that we return to time and again. Highlights of the landscapes we've seen are nice, but it's the faces of loved ones, some who might no longer be with us, that will be cherished through the years. Even strangers, as mentioned above, will make your photo more interesting.


9. Go for action. Sometimes you can't avoid those stiff, posed, formal shots. But since this is vacation photography it's so much better if you can opt for a little more fun and action in your picture. Don't just stand in front of the Trevi Fountain; toss a coin or indulge in a little tomfoolery in front of it.


10. Flip it. Don't just take horizontal pictures. Turn that camera on its side and zoom in for a nice, tight, vertical shot.  Some scenes demand it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Conversation in the Age of Social Media and the Safe Use of Digital Images

A comment was made in a business meeting recently that really struck me. There was nothing particularly deep or profoundly insightful about it. It was, though, a few simple words put into question form that brought home the reality of today's world.

"Who would ever have thought that we would be using images to express feelings and emotions?"

The query was prompted by discussion regarding  the emojis, animations and stickers that accompany iMessages, Facebook statuses and even emails.  Without tone to convey sentiment or reaction, we incorporate emoticons bearing every imaginable countenance. Hearts, broken and otherwise, reveal deep feelings of love and passion.  Those playful emojis, animations and colourful static images lighten chats and add an element of whimsy to our messages. It's a new way to communicate in the era of smartphones and the death of conversation.

The use of visual elements, however, is also in play in a big way in blogs.  The importance of adding a photo or illustration to the words one writes is well documented. There are many social media experts who speak to those benefits, which include the recommendation that a minimum of one image be included in a post to highlight the message or support it.  Pictures will make the blog more visually interesting and will help the author reach the target audience.

The addition of visuals will also improve Search Engine Optimization.  Be sure when using them, therefore that they are keyworded and titled.

Since digital media now plays such a large part in our communications, it's imperative that people understand the need to find a safe source from which to acquire it.  Searching for images on the internet is not the best route.  The ones that are found are quite likely not free to use and may contain a virus. It's often easy to miss the fine print that explains the image could be protected by copyright and including it in a blog or other social media posts could get the blogger into a whole lot of trouble. Maybe even sued.

The first step in protecting yourself is to accept that accessing quality digital media content which will be virus free and legally safe to use is going to cost  a bit of money. This is true whether you are CEO of a large corporation or owner of a mom and pop shop. It is true whether you are a teacher or a student. It is true whether you are a graphic designer or scrapbooker.

The good news, however, is that there are many very affordable options. Online subscription graphics services such as iCLIPART.com, iPHOTOS.com and Clipart.com offer a variety of plans to meet any budget or need. The content is royalty-free, meaning that once you have signed up you can use the images over and over without any hidden fees or extra charges.

These sites and other similar ones will have terms of use that explain what usages are permitted. In the case of the aforementioned, if blogging is your thing, a subscription to any of them means you can add the photos and illustrations to your posts provided they are there as decoration only.

If you just want to enhance your iMessages  there are fantastic sticker packs available for purchase. Vital Imagery Ltd., for example has several for sale on iTunes.

The important message here  is that no matter what you have to say and how you choose to say it, you better have legally obtained the right to tack that super happy face on to the end of it.