Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Photograph a Night Sky

There is nothing quite like a beautiful starry night in the country. The display of twinkling lights against a pitch black backdrop is a gentle spectacle, one enjoyed on many a quiet evening at the cottage, around a campfire or by a tent.

Living in a small town in a rural community,  while I've always appreciated the stars, I have taken their presence for granted.  I know, that on any clear summer evening, if I like I can lie back on my lounger and gaze up to the universe and see a bevy of stars, like suspended diamonds sparkling in a sea of black.  What I didn't know, until a visit from a guest some years ago, is that not everyone is so blessed.

It was one of those calm evenings when our daughter came home from the big city, bringing her then boyfriend, a slicker born and raised, who had never before ventured beyond the cosmopolitan limits.  Sitting in our backyard by the campfire, while others conversed, he sat, head back and staring, quite literally starstuck.   I couldn't help teasing him  about this fixation with the sky. When he told he, however, that it was the first time he'd ever seen stars it was my turn to be surprised. I had never thought about what it would be like living in a huge city, with the glare of unnatural light deadening the glow from above.

Given this unique gift to country life, I've wondered how to photograph it and whether it would be worth it. Finding these great sites has made me realize I can and it would.

DPS How to Photograph Stars

ImprovePhotography Photograph the Milky Way

Photos of the Night Sky and How to Take Your Own

An Indepth Star Photography Tutorial

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tips for Taking Better Campfire Pictures

Besides being the nicest season for living in, as far as I'm concerned, summer undoubtedly presents some great subjects for photography.  Rather than the stark, monochromatic palette of winter, the world teems with colour as flowers bloom and life emerges.

Fluorescent hummingbirds hover while sipping nectar from gorgeous blossoms. Ruby-red cardinals and brilliant orioles stand out against a background of verdant leaves.  Rippling streams bubble over stones, waterfalls cascade between lush greenery. Forests are a cornucopia of  flora and fauna.

While nature can always be counted on to provide fodder for photographers, one can find a snowdrop or blue jay in winter, after all, summer also provides many unique opportunities for getting fun summer pictures.  Fireworks,  building sandcastles on the beach or hanging out at a baseball game are most definitely camera-worthy events.

There is one other social summer ritual, however, that can be a bit of a challenge to capture.  The neighbourhood in which I live is one of backyard campfires. These weekend gatherings are a highlight of the season, though usually impromptu. When someone decides a night is right, they get a blaze going. Then like moths, others are drawn towards the light, armed with lawn chairs and coolers to  partake of an evening of relaxing and visiting.

Since summers at the lake years ago, campfires have been a favourite pastime for our family, too.  These nights are among the memories to look back on in times to come. Preserving them in photographs for posterity isn't that simple however. If you are interested in getting some great campfire pictures you can find tips on these sites:

DPS 5 Tips for Creating Fun Campfire Photos

How to Photograph the Perfect Campfire Scene

How to Take Better Pictures Around a Campfire

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Take Great Fireworks Photos

Two of the biggest celebrations of the summer for North American people are over. Canadians celebrated the anniversary of Confederation on July 1 and the Americans marked their independence from Great Britain on July 4. Neither of these occasions would be complete without fireworks, whether they happened in public parks or private backyards.

These brilliant displays of light and colour aren't exclusive to those holidays, however. Really no other excuse is required than the fact that it's summer. Warm evenings encourage outdoor fun, including impromptu gatherings where campfires burn and socializing begins.  Throwing fireworks into the mix makes any of these nights celebratory.

When our daughter married up north several years ago, friends surprised them with a fireworks display. Gliding out across the glorious French River on a pontoon boat they lit up the sky, while guests back at the lodge grabbed cameras to try and photograph the impressive spectacle. Not surprisingly, the only one to really do it justice was the professional hired for the event. Because, let's be realistic here, taking pictures of fireworks involves a little more than pointing a camera and shooting.

If your results have been less than you've hoped for, these sites offer helpful tips:

National Geographic Photographing Fireworks

DPS How to Photograph Fireworks

wikiHow Photographing Fireworks

Nikon Taking Pictures of Fireworks

Canon Quick Tips: Photographing Fireworks

Fireworks Photography Tips

11 Tips for Fireworks Photography

Fireworks Photography Tips

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tips for Taking Photos in Low Light

If there is an interest for me beyond home and family, it would be photography. That said, I've never pretended to know a lot about it. Getting a great picture is usually  a result of a bit of a good eye and a lot of good luck.

It's not like I had someone lay the groundwork for a passion in photography either. The first camera from my earliest childhood was Mom and Dad's old Brownie. They rarely had time to use it; photos were generally limited to special occasions and vacations when we'd be lined up before the tree or on the beach, and with a quick snap the moment was saved for posterity. Looking back at those nostalgic treasures it's easy to see that technique and detail were not given much, if any, consideration. It was all about capturing a memory.

Given that I grew up in the age of Polaroids and little Instamatics, grainy black and whites and poor colour, it's a wonder I even know what a good picture is.  But when my future brother-in-law arrived on the scene  I started to realize photography can be much more. Working in the identification section of the provincial police force, he enjoyed stepping away from his version of 'still' life photography to exercise his creative side. Seeing the time he took to set up a portrait, the interest in getting the right lighting, etc., fascinated me.

That helped me when I went into the community newspaper business and became a writer with a camera. Then, I enjoyed learning a  bit more about shutter speeds and f-stops too. On the job, however, didn't allow a lot of time to delve too deeply and experiment with different settings. In this deadline-driven environment, one took the knowledge one had to get the best shot possible. No more, no less.

Away from work, I did take the opportunity with my own 35 mm to try a few different things. But when the digital camera came along I got lazy. The manual settings generally worked too well.

One area, however, where I have been challenged is low-light photography.  It has re-sparked an interest  in giving my camera an opportunity to show what it's capable of.  To that end, as always, I have taken a quick look online, and found a wealth of advice from a variety of sources. Here's a random selection:

DPS Get Better Photos in Low Light Without a Flash

Shoot in the Dark Without Flash and Image Blur

How to Take Sharp Photos in Low Light Without a Flash

YouTube Taking Photos in Low Light

PictureCorrect Low Light Photography TIps

Low-Light Photography Tips

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tips for Taking Photos in the Rain

I'm not sure when I started feeling this way,  but when the skies are dull and grey, when they threaten to shed a few tears, I become a bit of princess. There's nothing like a downpour to make me run and hide.

I wasn't always this way. I used to love a stroll in the rain.  Even getting caught in a deluge was kind of fun.  Obviously as a child, there was no greater adventure than standing stranded as the rain clouds opened up,  bathing me in warm sprinkles, and laying a playground of puddles at my feet.  Reaching my teens, though less likely to see that playful potential in a rainfall,  I nonetheless sensed something carefree about standing in it. 

And then I grew up I guess, when having clothes soaked and carefully-coiffed tresses ruined stopped being amusing. Despite this recent aversion, though,  I do still recall times as an adult when I felt how refreshing it was to stand under nature's shower, how cleansing and hedonistic it was.

Rain can also provide some excellent fodder for nature photographers, putting an entirely different perspective on the world. There is a diverse group of new subjects to be uncovered. Besides that, though are unique challenges in trying to take pictures in the rain. Here then, if you're not the kind to run and hide,  are some tips on how to get the best photos when the sun is gone and the sky is crying:

National Geographic Taking Photos in the Rain

Capture Rain in Photography

Taking Photos of Rain

A Photographer's Guide to Shooting in the Rain

DPS Keeping Your Gear Safe While Shooting in the Rain

Photography in the Rain

Tips for Rainy Day Photography for Dummies

School of Digital Photography How to Photograph Raindrops