Practical Professional Advice

Tips and techniques for nature, landscape, and travel images abound. Some techniques you can use when shooting outdoor images include:

► Focus one-third of the way into the scene. This technique approximates hyperfocal focusing, and although it's not as accurate, it works reasonably well. For sweeping landscapes where there's no obvious center of interest — such as a person, object, or an animal — focus the lens approxl-mately a third of the way into the scene. The depth of field for distant subjects extends approximately twice as far beyond the point of focus as it does in front. At close focusing distances, however, the point of focus falls approximately in the center of the depth of field.

► Visualize the image. If you're shooting a sunset scene, decide whether you want to capture foreground detail or show trees, hills, and buildings as silhouettes. If you want to show foreground detail, meter the foreground directly by excluding the sky and sun from the viewfinder and then use a graduated neutral density filter to tone down the sky so that it isn't blown out. If you decide to let the foreground go to silhouette, include less foreground in the frame by slightly tilting the camera upward to feature more sky. Or switch to a telephoto lens to pick out one or two elements to silhouette, such as trees or a building.

10.12 Human shapes lend scale to this polarized image from the Utah desert near Bryce Canyon. ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/250 sec., with an EF 28-70mm f2.8L USM lens.

► Research before you go. Most travel photographers agree you can never do too much research on the place you're traveling to. The more you know about an area, what its defining characteristics are, and what areas the locals frequent, the better the chances that you can take distinctive images that capture the spirit of the locale.

► Photographing rainbows. To capture the strongest color of a rainbow, position the rainbow against a dark background, such as stormy clouds, a hill, or trees. You can underexpose the image by about 1/3 or 1/2 f-stop to increase the color intensity.

► Use side lighting, backlighting, or cross-lighting. Frontal lighting is often chosen by inexperienced photographers but creates images that lack texture and depth because the shadows fall away from the camera and out of view. Instead, shoot so that the sun is on one side of the camera, with light striking the scene at an angle. Side lighting provides the strongest effect for polarizing filters, given that maximum polarization occurs in areas of the sky at right angles to the sun.

► Use the Self-timer mode or a cable release. For low-light and night scenes, you can use the Self-timer mode to ensure that there's no camera shake as a result of pressing the Shutter button with your finger.

► Include people in travel images. People define the locale, and the locale defines the people. As a result, it's difficult to capture the spirit of a place without including people in your images. I also make a point of using people in my landscape images to provide a sense of scale to natural land formations. Silhouetting people against a landscape or nature shot can add mood and drama. If you don't speak the language, use hand gestures to ask permission before you photograph people.

► Find new ways to capture iconic landmarks. Some landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, have been photographed at every angle, with every lens, and in every light possible. Spend some time thinking about how to get a fresh take on iconic landmarks to make your images distinctive.

► Use a lens hood. You can avoid lens flare by keeping lenses clean and by using a lens hood to prevent stray light from striking the front lens element.

► Use selective focusing. The opposite of maximum depth of field is choosing to render only a small part of the scene in sharp focus by using limited depth of field. This is effective with any lens set to a wide aperture with a close subject as the point of focus while the rest of the scene is thrown well out of focus. The falloff of sharpness increases as the focal length increases and the aperture widens.

► Metering a bright sky. To properly set exposure for a bright sky, meter the light on the brightest part of the clouds with a spot meter. If the sun's above the horizon, take the meter reading without the sun in the frame and in an area of the sky next to the sun.

► Use silhouettes as design elements. Be on the lookout for interesting silhouettes as graphic elements of your photograph. They can be employed when the subject of the silhouette has detail, coloring, or some other feature that would detract from your composition but has a powerful shape. When creating silhouette images, it's often beneficial to underexpose the image slightly from 1/2 to 1.5 stops.


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