This past weekend, I had the good fortune to be able to shoot two of my favorite subjects - Angel Falls and the Cape Neddick Light. My good fortune was expounded upon by being able to learn something new while shooting at both locations. Lets Begin!
My intention at the start of the day was to drive and hike to several falls in one day. As Angel Falls was the farthest waterfall I planned on shooting, that was the logical place to start. I hiked in to the falls to get a couple of shots great shots of the falls. This is a grand 90 foot waterfall in a narrow canyon - the choices of angles is limited if you want to get the entire waterfall in the shot without getting wet. I've been here before and knew what to expect - I got my shot and started on my hike out. It was then that I realized how many wonderful small waterfalls there are that I've overlooked before.
I spent more time shooting the small falls on the way out than I did the rest of my journey. The smaller falls are varied and offer many different angels to shoot from. It's a wonderful experience to be able to shoot on one trail all day.
Needless to say, I did not get to any other falls, and I will have to plan my trips to Angel Falls differently in the future.
Cape Neddick Light (The Nubble):
I chose to try my hand at sunrise at Cape Neddick in York, Maine. The Cape Neddick Light - also called The Nubble Light - is a wonderful spot. The light and keeper's house are situated on an island 200 yards off shore. The shore line is rocky and easy to access. It is one of the most picturesque places in Maine and, due to its accessibility, one of the most photographed.
It was no surprise when I arrived at 4:55 AM that there was a rather large group of photographers and artists at the light this morning. It was going to be a gorgeous sunrise.
I set up two cameras - one for long exposures (1-2 minutes) and one for standard exposures. I've done this before at the ocean and thought I knew what to expect. After several shots, I checked some of my long exposures - they looked good on the 3" screen and curves were looking good. I continued shooting for about 25 minutes until the sun was sell above the horizon. It had, indeed been a great sunrise.
What I hadn't paid attention to was my 10-stop filter for my long exposures. It had accumulated a fairly large amount of condensation. This was a problem as the sun came up and I had neglected to notice the moisture. When I got to a computer, I realized my mistake - the condensation had caused both flare and haze on my long exposures. Something that can not be fixed in Post. Ah well - I got one good long exposure and plenty of great shots from my standard exposures as I would have noticed condensation by looking through the viewfinder.
So - 2 lessons learned -
1. Don't pass up the photographic opportunities on your way to a specific shot. You may miss something worth shooting.
2. Don't neglect your equipment. While nothing extreme happened to my gear, I did ruin several long exposure shots by neglecting to see the condensation on my filter.
I had a great morning today shooting Portland Head Light and Spring Point Lighthouse. Today I decided to slow things down...literally. I was shooting long exposures on a tripod with a 10-stop filter and a couple of Graduated ND filters. I created roughly 100 shots and had a roughly 30% "keep" rate - which is better than I expected while experimenting with filter stacking. You can see the best shots in my "Featured" Gallery.
Anyways - as I was packing up at Spring Point, I had a stranger ask me if I had any advice on taking a great photo of the lighthouse.
My response was: "Slow down and take your time."
He replied, "OK - and I bet good glass helps, too," as he eyed my 14-24mm lens.
-- Unfortunately this is the way many new photographers think - so I gave him a couple more tidbits. --
My response was probably not what he expected:
"Today I'm shooting long exposures - I'm stopping down to f/8 and f/11, so fast glass isn't as important as a steady tripod - I'm using this lens because it gets me the wide angle I'm looking for.
"If you want the best advice I can give you, it's this: your eyes are the most important tools you have - not your camera. Try to see the lighthouse in a unique way... look for a way to photograph it in a way that isn't expected. The difference between a snapshot and a photograph is the creative mind, not the equipment used to create it."
He then asked how I dealt with the wind for my long exposures.
"It's calm - my tripod is sturdy enough to handle the occasional light breeze," I explained.
"Thank you for the advice," the stranger said, "I'll try to do something new today."
As I headed back to my car, I couldn't help but watch the stranger - I think he really was trying to see the lighthouse in a new way - I saw him getting low to the ground, shooting from different perspectives, and maybe even taking the time to think about what he wanted to do next. Hopefully he remembers my advice down the road - the next time he's making photographs.
OK - so you've been browsing the internet,trying to figure out how to get started shooting great photos...and you landed here.
If you're just getting started, (and you've managed to find this obscure blog), you probably already have the two most essential pieces of gear you need. First, you need a camera - and you're probably carrying one with you right now. Nearly every phone built in the past 15 years has included a camera - and these days, it seems like the camera is the most advertised and most reviewed piece of hardware on every new phone. Why? Probably because if you take a moment to look at the photo sharing site, Flikr, you'll see that the two most used "camera manufacturers" are Apple and Samsung, and the most used "cameras" are iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones.
The second essential piece of gear you need is the head on your shoulders with a thirst to learn. Learning to use your camera to its fullest capabilities is a life long endeavor. It's not just about selfies, snaps of your friends or your latest meal, and quick shots of things you think will get you attention on Facebook. Being a photographer is a journey - and you choose the paths you want to explore and the boundaries you want to push. There are essential things you will need to understand before pushing boundaries and getting really creative, but the desire to do so needs to be there.
So there it is - you have the two most essential pieces of gear already. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a Digital SLR, lenses, speedlights, studio flashes, filters, and other "essential" gear that other sites will tell you you need to get started...you just need your phone and the thirst to learn how to use it to it's fullest potential.
OK - so I'm being a bit facetious here. The best photographs taken by any phone camera probably came from an experienced photographer with one or more of the following:
Buy I was serious about people being able to take really great photos with phones. It just takes practices and the willingness to learn HOW to take great shots with a phone. They are becoming easier and easier to use, but you never really learn the subtleties of making a great photograph.
So here it is - what you should buy when you are fed up with trying to make truly great photos with your phone:
If you're confused now, I understand. I'll try to be more clear and concise in future posts about gear. This was really just to get you started.
Go out and make great photos!
So this is it - my first blog post... and someone (you) is reading it. This is great - a place to jot notes, show off my photos, and share some tips, tricks, and techniques I've picked up over the years.
And now where to start ...
I guess I'll start by telling you all a little about me.
First and foremost I'm a husband and father of 2. You'll probably be seeing photos of my kids in this blog since they tend to be my practice subjects.
My chosen profession is in Information Technology. I'm a network and system technician for a small managed IT firm.
Photography is my outlet - it's what I do to relax and have fun. I've never made it my profession because I don't want to rely on it as my sole source of income. Nothing ruins a great hobby like relying on it to pay your bills.. This site and blog have been set up so I can showcase my photos and maybe make a few extra dollars on the side.
And that brings up the first tip of my blog:
If you make any money with your camera gear, get an insurance policy for it. I'm not an insurance expert, but I've seen things go awry for photographer friends of mine. If you're shooting for fun - however good it may be - and you're not making any money on your photos, your camera gear is likely covered under your homeowner's/renters policy. If you've got more than a few thousand dollars worth of equipment, you'll likely need a special rider for it. However, once you start using your gear to make money, your homeowners will likely NOT cover your gear. Insurance on your gear isn't too expensive and if something happens to it (like it gets dropped into a brook, river, or pond) the insurance deductible will surely beat the cost of a new body and lens.
(End tip - more about me.)
I've been shooting since the film days - my first experience with an SLR was with a Canon AE-1. The first camera I owned was a Pentax point and shoot (film) that maybe cost $35. The first SLR I bought with my own hard earned money was a Nikon N65 that I bought with a 24-70mm kit lens to start taking "serious" photos. At that time I fancied myself a future wedding and event photographer...then I realized how much work each wedding was and how much serious photography gear cost. It took me a few years dabbling in becoming a full time pro (weddings, portraits, sports, landscapes) to realize I just wasn't cut out for it.
Since that Nikon N65, I've maintained my loyalty to Nikon. My first DSLR was a Nikon D70s...that camera made me a digital photographer for life - I rarely went back to film after that purchase and I rarely shoot other manufacturers. That's not to say I look down on other brands - there are several great manufacturers out there - Canon, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad, to name a few. They all make great cameras and they all make great glass. I may reference Nikon products in this blog more than other manufacturers, but that's simply because I choose to shoot Nikon. In a future post I'll go over some tips on picking a DSLR camera system.
Which Brings me to Tip#2:
When you buy your first DSLR, remember that you aren't simply buying a camera, you're buying into a camera system. That goes for compact systems with interchangeable lenses as well - you're buying into a system, not simply a camera. If you're happy with the photos you make from your first DSLR and the kit lens that came with it (I've made many great photos with kit lenses myself - and some of them are quite nice) they whole "buying into a system" may not apply to you. But once you plunk down $1200+ on a single lens, you realize that you're not likely going to change camera manufacturers again. Make sure you are comfortable with your camera and they system you are buying into before you start buying "serious" lenses (and bodies).
(enough on that - more about me)
Since the D70s, I've shot nearly every Nikon camera made at one point or another. I haven't owned every one - I rent the "Pro" bodies for the most part, but I've owned my fair share of DSLR bodies as well. Currently I shoot a Nikon D810 and a Nikon D700, but the D700 has been relegated to backup duty and duty when I'm shooting and NEED two cameras. Keep in mind when buying into a camera system that you will likely go through far more camera bodies than camera lenses, (unless you only ever shoot with the lenses that come with the camera... they are generally made of plastic and are meant to last about as long as the camera body.) Expensive glass is meant to last years - even decades... which is one of the reasons good glass it is so expensive. You don't need the "best" glass that each manufacturer makes, but the better build quality lenses will last you the lifetime of several DSLR bodies. (That would be tip # 3)
Enough about me... I'm ready to get this blog going.
So get out there, start shooting, and make great photos!
© Richard J Snow Photography