Articles from: April 2011

“Shhh. Hey! What’s that Sound?”

This week’s guest blogger is Alan Defelice,  a member and past president of the Manassas-Warrenton Camera Club.

So you have the best equipment, you have done your homework scouting out the best locations and the times for sunrise and the weather reports, you have checked your settings, you got up at O Dark 30 and have arrived in plenty of time to set up for the best shot of the year.  You are completely ready to capture that glorious landscape as the rising sun drapes its golden blanket of light across it….or are you? 

You say you have done your homework, but what really have you prepared?  The equipment and settings are just a few of the tools to take the shot.  Being there is half the battle, but let’s face it losing is half the battle, that is no better than a 50 /50 chance.  The weather reports and sunrise times are basic logistics to the preparations.  What are you forgetting?  What else is not mentioned that perhaps is the most important part to any photograph?  You need to be more than physically present to take the photograph….don’t you?

Would an architect show up to his construction site without his blue prints?  Surely you have more prepared than a few physical tools and random thoughts of a generalized notion of what the scene will look like and the image you are about to construct.  There is more logistically involved than showing up with the right equipment and hoping the moment strikes you and that you react fast enough to capture it with the right techniques.  Your homework should include your designs of how you wish to present the image.  It is fine to get lucky, but lucky is not a strategy.  Everyone has heard the adage: “Luck favors the prepared”.   By thinking of options you wish to explore and prioritizing the techniques and determining the time it takes to execute each and the best order of those techniques you wish to use, you maximize your time.  By contemplating what the techniques bring to the table (each lends to a specific feel and emotion) you will be properly prepared to photograph your landscape in a way consistent with the story you wish to tell, congruent with the way it makes you feel and in a way that enhances the impact of your image transforming it from 2 dimensions to 3 dimensions.

Unless you are shooting in stereo or using techniques to shift color channels, you are shooting in 2 dimensions and trying to capture the depth and rhapsody of a 3 dimensional scene in a 2 dimensional image means you are already handicapped.  It is the equivalent of painting a person’s eye with an iris, a pupil and sclera, but no catch light reflection.  It will look flat and lifeless.  In order to maintain the viewer’s interest and share the impact of the scene, you need to lend your voice to what you see:  The You in Your Image.   The audience needs to see you and your vision reflected in the piece.  That voice gives added dimension to your image.  It helps you to connect with your audience, to draw them into your image and make them feel a part of it as opposed to observing from a distance. 

Without it, the landscape is just a picture of what happened without them, something someone else saw, and although pretty, it is mute; it has no voice.  Listen to your thoughts and feelings and prepare ways to accentuate that voice and create the added dimension that will draw in your audience and keep their attention.   If you prepare this in advance and how to execute it before you are presented with the opportunity, you will have a better chance of executing this in the fleeting moments of fickle lighting that can make or break an image.  What’s more you will free up your mind for more creativity at the time you are shooting to consider more advanced techniques and compositions because the light is different than you imagined, or because the sudden change of light made you feel something new you now wish to capture. “In short prepare your voice, bring it to what you wish to photograph, and don’t forget to use it.”

Will it Sell?

This weeks guest blogger is Steve Heap.  Steve is a member of the Manassas-Warrenton Camera Club.


We all love to find beautiful locations and make an image that truly reflects the feelings we experienced at the time, but many of us also think: “other people may like this picture as well, can I sell it?”


You can, of course, try to sell prints, and this is successful for some. What I have found works for me is to sell such images for advertising and commercial purposes via stock photography sites such as Shutterstock or iStockPhoto. In a branch of the industry known as microstock, images are sold on-line to customers around the globe, and, while the income per individual sale may be small, the volumes involved can make this into a successful business.


This particular image has sold over 200 times and has been used in varied ways including an ad illustrating the ecological focus of a computer company! I’m sure you have similar images gathering dust on your hard drive!


Stock Photography is not for everyone – it can be hard work to build a meaningful income – but it also is a great motivator to get out there to find that next beautiful image!


How to sell your photographs in Microstock – Steve Heap

Bears in Shenandoah National Park

This week’s guest Blogger is Cindy Tucey,  a former member of the Manassas Warrenton Camera Club now based in California. 

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is home to approximately 300-500 bears, making it one of the most densely populated areas for black bears in North America!  However, despite this density, spotting and photographing a bear while in the park is a treat and can be challenging.  If you are lucky, you may see bears foraging for food in the forest while on a hike or crossing the road when driving on Skyline Drive (so please drive the speed limit to avoid hitting them!). 

 The summer and fall months tend to be the best for seeing bears in Shenandoah.  By early summer, mother bears have emerged from their dens with their young cubs, who will spend one year with their mother before venturing off on their own.  In the fall, black bears spend 16-20 hours per day foraging for food in preparation for their winter hibernation.  Their diet consists of plants, grubs, insect larvae, nuts, acorns, fruits, and since they are opportunistic in nature, bears will occasionally go after other animals.  

 While bears can be seen anywhere in the park, we have typically had good luck seeing bears in the Big Meadows and Skyland areas, including near the Big Meadows campground.  We have also seen bears on many of the trails, such as Cedar Run, Whiteoak Canyon, Hawksbill, and Stony Man.  Last June, we saw a mother bear teaching her cubs to turn over rocks looking for grubs in the forest near the Big Meadows Lodge.

 Here are a few tips for photographing the bears in Shenandoah:

1)     Use a telephoto zoom lens, which allows for full-frame shots while maintaining a safe distance and not frightening the bear.  Bears are wild animals and as such it is important to not approach them too closely. 

2)     Also, be sure to check the histogram, as it may be necessary to manually underexpose the photo by ½ to 1 stop since the black fur can trick the camera’s meter into thinking the scene is very dark. 

3)     Finally, it can be difficult to get fast enough shutter speeds because there is less light in the forest and due to the fact that bears are most active at dawn and dusk.  To counter this, try taking a burst of photos in the high-speed burst mode, as a few photos will likely be sharp even at relatively slow shutter speeds. 

We were fortunate to come across this black bear in late October 2010 in Shenandoah, near the Big Meadows area.  He seemed plump and about ready for hibernation, even sitting down and yawning several times before ambling off through the woods. 

 Technical Details of the Photograph:  Canon 7D, Canon 100-400mm lens, f5, 1/125 sec.

Pick your background first

This week’s guest Blogger is Don Rosenberger, a member of the Manassas Warrenton Camera Club and Board Member of the Expo

Several years ago I took a flower workshop from Tony Sweet.  I learned a key secret in making better flower photographs, “Choose your background first”.  While simple in theory, it is often a challenge to put this simple concept into practice.  My first choice is to always make use of items in the garden but I have another trick tucked away in my backpack, colored fabric.  I have 3 foot squares of fabric in various colors.  In the shot above I held a piece of blue fabric about 2 feet behind the flowers.  With the shallow depth of field of a macro lens, the fabric is rendered as a color without definition.   Get a remote camera release and you will not even need an assistant to put this simple concept into practice.

With tulips starting to bloom in our area it is a great time to visit a fabric store and get out and put this idea into practice.

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