30 Ways to Improve Your Photography in 30 Days

Author:  Larry Mason

If you are looking to improve your photography skills you are in luck! Here you’ll find 30 different suggestions that you can put into practice to see significant improvements in your own photography over the next 30 days.

1. Read Your Camera’s Manual

When it comes to improving your photography it’s important that you understand your camera and what you can do with it. While it may not be the most exciting reading, taking the time to go through the manual can help if you have not already mastered your camera.

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Learn how to use the various features of the camera because without that knowledge you won’t be able to put those features and functionalities to work for you. It’s not important that you read the manual word-for-word, but at least scan through it and look for things that you don’t already know. When you find something new, slow down so you can comprehend it, and actually try it on your camera.

 2. Practice Every Day

Whenever you want to improve at something, regardless of what it is, it’s important that you practice. Get in the habit of taking your camera with you everywhere and make an effort to practice your photography in some way every day.

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3. Improve Your Skills in Lightroom and/or Photoshop

Post processing is an important part of digital photography. You don’t need to learn how to do advanced photo manipulation and all kinds of crazy things in Photoshop, but it is important that you learn your way around Photoshop or Lightroom and how to effectively process and edit your photos.

While Photoshop is extremely powerful, Lightroom is my personal preference. Lightroom is an excellent tool for both organizing and processing photos, and that is what makes it really stand out. Both Photoshop and Lightroom can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you get some experience you’ll find the quality of your photos can improve significantly.

If you’d like to learn more, Arizona Highways Photo Workshops have classes in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

4. Make Use of Available Resources

Post processing can require a serious amount of time if you take a lot of photos, and improving your workflow can help you to reduce the amount of time it takes, leaving you more time for other things. One way to improve your workflow is to make use of available resources like Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. It could be presets and actions that you created yourself for your own use, or some that you have purchased. Creating your own is a great option, although most photographers choose not to dedicate the time required to do so.

Using a set of workflow presets is an excellent way to improve your efficiency and get great results. You can get many Lightroom Presets and Photoshop Actions on the internet for free.

5. Follow Tutorials

If you want to learn more about any particular aspect of photography, chances are there is a free tutorial online that will teach you. Following along with tutorials is a great way to quickly pick up tips and learn new techniques. If you’re not sure where to find a tutorial you can, of course, do a Google search, or go to You Tube. There are many courses there. Sign up for Creative Live where they present many courses for free.

6. Read a Book

Online tutorials are one option for learning, and another great option is to read a book, or even an e-book. There are countless books and e-books available on just about any photography-related subject you can image. Visit your local library and save some money, or check out the selection at Amazon.

7. Shoot in RAW

While there are some benefits to shooting JPGs, in general RAW files will allow you to create the best photos possible. With RAW files you’ll have more options and better potential in post processing, and RAW files will be a little more forgiving of small errors in exposure.

8. Shoot at the Right Times

If you are taking photographs outdoors, such as landscapes, travel photos, and outdoor portraits, the time of day can have a big impact on your results. Lighting is a critical element for every photograph, and lighting changes drastically throughout the day and in different weather.

If you’re looking to get the best results, make an effort to shoot at the times of the day that typically offer the best light. Getting out around sunrise and sunset will generally give you the best lighting conditions. The window of time after sunrise and before sunset is, of course, known as the golden hour and is a favorite of many photographers. If you’re shooting landscapes don’t forget about the blue hour (before sunrise and after sunset).

9. Understand the Exposure Triangle

It’s possible to improve your photography by focusing on things like composition and post processing, but if you really want to get the best results it is critical that you understand the exposure triangle. Understanding how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO interact is essential to master the craft. With a solid understanding of exposure you’ll be able to take control.

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10. Master Manual Mode

While you are working to master the exposure triangle, and once you have done so, learning to shoot in manual mode is the next logical step. While aperture priority and shutter priority certainly give you much more control than auto, manual mode will give you full creative control and allow you to expand the possibilities. Modern cameras are pretty smart, but auto mode will always have limitations. If you’re comfortable taking full control you will be well on your way to better photos.

11. Master the Histogram

When it comes to getting the proper exposure, your camera’s histogram can be an extremely valuable tool. If you’re not familiar with the histogram it can seem a little overwhelming, but it is something that you can learn pretty quickly. The histogram is a graphic display of the tonal range in a photo, and it’s an incredible tool for helping you to properly expose photos.

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12. Use a Tripod

A tripod can help to improve your photography in a few different ways. First, and most obvious, a tripod can help you to get sharper photos by eliminating camera movement. This can be especially important with telephoto lenses or in situations where slow shutter speeds are required.

Tripods can also help by opening up more creative opportunities. For example, if you are photographing a waterfall you may be able to get the shot handheld, but a tripod will also give you the option to use a long exposure that will blur the movement of the water. Using a tripod can also help to improve your composition because it forces you to really concentrate on how you compose each shot. If you don’t currently use a tripod start carrying one with you and use it whenever possible.

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13. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Many of us fall into certain habits in our photography. It could be using the same lens, shooting the same types of subjects, following the same rules of composition, or going to the same places. More importantly, your habits and your comfort zone can also prevent you from trying new things.

Take some time to think about your own habits and how they might be holding you back. Make an effort to intentionally break your own habits and get outside of your comfort zone. This is when you will typically learn the most.

14. Limit Yourself

In some situations you may also find that putting arbitrary limitations on yourself can help you improve. This can be used in combination with stretching your comfort zone, but it doesn’t have to. Some examples of limitations would be to use only one specific lens for a day or a week, shooting only in one specific mode, focusing only on one type of subject, or whatever else you think will allow you to improve in a specific area. Imposing a limitation on yourself is great for controlling your learning. Rather than simply working to improve your photography in general you will be working to improve in one particular aspect or in one specific way.

15. Focus on Something Specific

Along the same lines as the previous point, you can place an emphasis on one specific type of photography. If you place all of your current effort into improving in one discipline you will likely experience quicker growth. Some possibilities would be to focus on portraits, macro photography, black & whites, still life, landscapes, wildlife, etc.

16. Learn Composition Rules, and Break Them

When it comes to composition there are a lot of rules or guides that you can follow (the rule of thirds is often the first that comes to mind) to help improve. However, they are really just suggestions and tools that you can use, not something that you need to follow with every shot. Breaking the common rules of composition can often result in interesting photos, so be willing to take some chances.

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17. Emphasize Perspective

If you want to create interesting and unique photographs emphasize perspective. Most photos are taken from typical perspectives, so finding more creative perspectives will usually result in photos that get noticed. For example, instead of always shooting a portrait from eye level, get high or low. Instead of shooting a common landmark from the typical location or angle, find a way to get off the beaten path and get a unique perspective.

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18. Use Leading Lines

Leading lines can be an awesome tool for creating interesting compositions. Lines are all around us, and if you can put them to use in your composition it will result in photos that get noticed. It could be a line of trees, a road, a row of buildings, a row of people, or any other line or row.

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19. Learn to Frame Your Photos Effectively

How you frame or crop your photos can have a big impact on composition and the overall look of the photo. Sometimes you may want to take a creative approach to framing that will cut off part of an element of the photo, which can add intrigue. Learning to use framing and cropping effectively will help to improve your results.

20. Find Patterns

Making use of patterns can be another way to make photos more interesting. Like leading lines, patterns are all around us. You’ll just need to look for them and find creative ways to showcase them in your photos.

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21. Experiment with Shutter Speed

Varying your shutter speed will allow you to do some creative things. A faster shutter speed will help to freeze objections in motion, and slowing down the shutter speed will cause moving objects to blur, or cause everything to blur if your camera is in motion during the shot. Generally you will want to use a shutter speed that is fast enough to capture sharp details, but playing with blur can be a great way to get a creative shot.

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22. Find Interesting Subjects Around You

When it comes to taking better photos the temptation is to think that you need to visit some amazing location or have a stunning model. In reality, opportunities are all around us. Finding interesting subjects around you could involve look for opportunities in your house or your yard, looking for locations in your town or city to photograph, or simply going on a photo walk in an urban area.

Possibilities in your house and in your yard include still life shots of flowers, jewelry, toys, food, or any other object. It could also involve macro shots in the back yard, or photographing birds or other wildlife that may be there. It’s also possible to find local destinations in your area that you may not even be aware of. Do a Google search for best photography locations is your city, town, or county and you’ll likely find several blogs posts and forum threads where other people have listed their favorite locations. With some creativity you won’t need to travel in order to get amazing photos.

23. Re-visit an Old Location

You may be overlooking some good opportunities if you are not considering locations that you have already photographed in the past. As you improve your skills you will naturally get better results, so going back and hitting the same locations again can still be a worthwhile activity.

Also, if you are shooting outdoors most locations will change drastically at different times of the year and different times of the day. If you re-visit an old location at a different time of day or year you’re likely to get photos that will be significantly different.

24. Find a Local Photography Club

Getting together with other photographers in your local area is a great way to have fun while improving your skills. Many photography groups hold organized photo walks or events at specific locations. Getting involved will help you to work on your own skills and you may even benefit from some of the relationships and connections that you make through the group. Meetup.com is an ideal place to search for a group in your area. One such meetup group is http://www.meetup.com/Arizona-Highways-Photo-Workshops/, but you may also be able to find others through a Google search.

25. Be More Selective

While you do want to be practicing is often as possible, it’s also helpful to be more selective in the photos that you take. Rather than taking a spray-and-pray approach and constantly firing off shots, slow down and think about the photos that you are taking. When you slow down and only take photos that matter you will be able to focus more on each shot, and you’ll have far fewer photos to deal with in post processing.

26. Get Close

Make an effort to get closer to your subject and fill the frame. This can apply to just about any type of subject from portraits to nature to still life. Filling the frame will often result in more interesting and more powerful photos.

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27. Get Feedback

An important part of improving is to get feedback from others. Being able to accept and learn from constructive criticism is a great way to improve your skills. Fortunately, there are a number of websites, blogs, and forum threads where you can get feedback for your photos. Attend some classes where you can get critiques of your work. Arizona Highways Photo Workshops are a great place to go to get feedback.

28. Be Inspired

Viewing the work of talented photographers is ideal for seeing what works and getting ideas that can be put to use in your own photography. Fortunately, finding photography inspiration is very easy online. All you need to do is go to a site like 500px, Behance, 1X, Flickr, or Pinterest and you are sure to find plenty of amazing photos. You could follow the work of specific photographers, follow Pinterest boards for inspiration, or look for awesome photos of a particular location. One of my habits when researching a location is to search sites like Flickr and 500px. I can usually find some beautiful photos that show me the best places to go, best subjects to photograph, or give me examples that I can try to emulate.

29. Find a Model

If you’re interested in improving your portraits you should work to find someone who is willing to model for you. Ideally it will be a friend or family member, but sites like Model Mayhem also allow photographers and models to match up.

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30. Make Your Own Backdrop

Another possibility is to create your own backdrop or makeshift home studio. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a great setup.

This most important thing is to take action. Make an effort to practice every day and you’re sure to see improvement.

Larry Mason is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Bangkok – Photographer Overload

Author: K. Meng Tay

Most of us, at some point, will have a chance to travel overseas, either simply for leisure or for photography-oriented trips. If it’s the latter, you are often faced with a myriad of choices and questions. Your natural instinct tells you to take pictures of those that you’ve seen in hundreds of travel magazines before: Eiffel Tower in Paris, Great Wall in China, Coliseum in Rome, etc. Sure, you want to show your family and friends that you were there but what would make a more interesting photography trip is to shoot scenes that will link your moment in time in that foreign country with those pictures.

First order of business is decide how much sightseeing you want to do and how much of that you want to capture in pictures. In a bustling and fast-pace city like Bangkok, you better be ready to shoot or you will miss your shot.

The second decision to make is what type of pictures do you want to focus on. Not many opportunities for landscape photography here unless you go to the outskirts of the city. Portraits are good. With people from all over the world visiting Bangkok, you are bound to see some very interesting faces. The Thais, in their many walks of life, is a kaleidoscope of colors. Buddhist monks in their saffron robes, street vendors cooking steaming food, shoppers at the open-air market, and schoolchildren in their school uniforms.

My favorite is taking pictures of food and fruits. The tropical fruits in Thailand are tasty and colorful durians, mangosteens, pomegranates, mangos, jackfruits, etc. Similarly, anything goes in terms of variety and taste of food. There is almost no regulation here so anything that sells is on the market. Fried scorpions and grasshoppers are available if you dare to try it.

Shooting temples is another popular option. In this very devout Buddhist society temples are everywhere. They range from super-big temples to store-front altars. Statues of Buddhas come in many shapes and sizes and different posses. Some may require a wide-angle lens to capture the entire image. Smoke from burning incense sticks give an interesting effect to the pictures.

The first picture below shows just a plain busy street with neon signs. But, look closer and you will see three languages on the neon signs: Thai, English and Chinese. This was taken in Chinatown, where a sizable Chinese population here drives commerce in the country. This popular area is where many locals and tourists come for the best seafood in Bangkok, as evidenced by the many roadside food vendors lining the street.

Bangkok-Chinatown

If you want to try pomegranate juice, you may have a hard time finding a bottle of POM here. Better yet, street vendors will oblige you by squeezing a fresh glass of juice from an exotic looking pomegranate below. An opportunity to practice your macro photography.

Pomegranate

If you come into contact with this fruit, you will never forget its smell. It is so pungent that many hotels, planes, trains, buildings, will not allow you to bring a durian inside. However, the locals love them and in some countries, they nickname it “the king of fruits.”

Durian

What makes the following picture memorable? This woman is selling hats on a boat. Her pose and variety of hats that she sells reminds me of where I shot this picture – the Floating Market.

Floating Market Hats

No visit to Bangkok is complete without pictures of the many temples and statues of Buddhas. One must respect the local religious custom when shooting around and inside temples. Never climb on top of a Buddha to pose for pictures.

Many Buddhas

BuddhaHead

K. Meng Tay is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Nikon’s “Live View” Grows Up

Author:  John Frelich

For those of us who felt like “2nd Cousins” to our Canon brethren because we couldn’t just focus and shoot in “Live View,” a new day has dawned. With my D700 I had to focus in a limited area of the image and then close out “Live View” to then capture an image. Those with Canons didn’t have to do the same and would look at us strangely when discussing the problem.   The process was mainly used to manually focus on an off center spot to get the best possible results.

Recently I purchased a new D810 and was going through a Field Guide for the camera. Under the topic it updated the capability of the Nikons to shoot either in a manual or tripod based process but also discussed how auto focus (or manual) can be used as well as a split screen process to focus on both sides of the viewer and on the subject. From that point of focus you can just capture your image by pressing the shutter button.

For those interested in video capture the D810 also added capabilities that go beyond the original still image system becoming a hybrid digital single lens reflex camera that could take video. From the little time I’ve had the camera it seems that this entire process has clearly been improved.  Has this been passed down to other models, everyone will have to research this for themselves.

John Frelich is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

 

Panasonic Lumix GX8 – Is it a good decision?

Author:  David Goodell

Is my purchase of the Lumix GX8 a good decision??

A few days ago I purchased a Lumix GX8 which will be delivered tomorrow. Why buy this camera instead of a Sony,  Olympus, or Fuji? One feature separated this camera from the others – post focus.
panasonic_lumix_dmc_gx8
I plan to use post focus for my macro photography because it will allow me to increase the depth of field of my close-up photos. Briefly, post focus uses 4K video to take photos at each of the cameras 49 focus points and then allows the photographer to pick the photo which focuses on the point I want. Or, and more importantly for me, you can pick several or all of the photos and focus stack them using Photoshop or another program. There is a negative however – post focus creates 8 MB JPEG files which could be a problem. We will see. For sure I will have to be careful in selecting my white balance.
Will it work for me? I will let you know in a few weeks.  If you want more information about post focus check out these websites: youtube.com/watch?v=oAhOC9ta36Q and youtube.com/watch?v=6wFRy8VQKuQ

Common Camera Mistakes

Author:  Larry Mason

We’ve all made simple camera mistakes – some great and some small – but there are some that creep up a bit more frequently than others.  Here are the top 10 most common camera mistakes that most photographers make at some point and how to avoid them.

No. 1: Lens cap still on
This is a classic error and nothing makes you feel dumber than some smart-Alec pointing out guythat the camera works better when the lens cap is off.
Most of us manage to laugh it off only thinking of the retort ‘actually I’m just taking a dark frame for my noise removal protocols calibration. Don’t you do that?’ much later in the day. And inside you’re kicking yourself.

Try to get into the habit of tipping the camera up as you lift it towards your eye so that you can check if the lens cap is on. I leave mine off most of the time will shooting and rely on a lens hood and UV filter for protection.

No. 2: Wrong sensitivity selected
If you’ve been shooting in low-light indoors without flash and then you head out into brighter conditions (or vice versa) there’s a danger that the selected sensitivity setting will be wrong for the light conditions.

In some cases you may notice that the aperture or shutter speed values are flashing in the viewfinder to let you know that the maximum or minimum value is not sufficient, but on other occasions the settings may stay within these limits.
They key is to stay vigilant and keep an eye on the exposure settings and if you are shooting a landscape in aperture priority mode with an aperture of f/16 and you find that the camera is suggesting a shutter speed of 1/2000sec, check the sensitivity setting.

You may still get a correctly exposed image, but it will be noisier than it needs to be.
Conversely if the sensitivity is too low when you head indoors the shutter speed won’t be fast enough to freeze any movement.

No. 3: Flat battery
Is there anything worse than flicking the power switch of your camera to discover that it’s completely lifeless? In some cases this can be followed by a few moments of panic batteryduring which the hapless photographer desperately tries to operate every control in a frantic search for life.
And then it dawns on them…it’s the battery, the battery is flat.
It doesn’t matter how many times you flick that switch on and off, the battery is out of juice and the only way you can take any shots is to charge it up for a couple of hours.
The best way out of this photographic hiatus is to have two batteries, one in the camera and the other in your bag and fully charged, ready to roll.

Then as soon as the opportunity comes along to charge the flat battery you do so. Don’t leave it, do it straight away.

No. 4: Wrong white balance
If you always shoot with the white balance setting set to automatic this probably won’t be a major issue for you, but if you take care to get the very best result you can in-camera and set the white balance to match the shooting conditions, then this is something to look out for, especially if you are shooting JPEG.

Using a white balance value that’s designed for rendering warm indoor light neutral when you’re outside will make the world look very cold. Conversely, using a daylight white balance under artificial lighting can results in a very warm, almost orange image.
Your camera’s LCD screen is your savior here, checking your image in it should alert you to any color problems.

If you’re shooting outside in bright conditions don’t just give the LCD a cursory glance to check for exposure warnings, shade the screen and have a good look at the image color, maybe even check the color channel histograms to see if there are any unexpected peaks.

headshot

If things don’t look right, the chances are that the white balance needs adjusting.

No. 5: Spot metering still on
A camera’s spot meter can be extremely useful because it lets you take very precise light measurements from small areas within the scene and ensure that your subject is correctly exposed.

However, if you leave it on and pick up your camera expecting the general purpose Evaluative, Matrix or Multi-zone system to be in action you are likely to get some very varied exposures.

metering

If the metering spot (which may be linked to the AF point) falls over a very bright area the camera will reduce the exposure so that you get a very dark image and if it falls over a very dark part of the scene you will get a very light image.

The obvious way to avoid this situation from arising is to try to remember to switch the camera to the metering setting that you normally use before you put it away, but that’s easier said than done.

If you find that the camera is saying that the image will be correctly exposed, but the results look very wrong, check that the metering isn’t set to spot metering. On my Canon, I have put on the viewfinder and exclamation point to remind me I am using the spot meter.
No. 6: Memory card full
The comparatively low price of memory means that we can now afford larger capacity cards, but this can lull us into a false sense of security.sd cards

Eventually, if you don’t clear the card you will run out of space.
This situation is slightly less problematic than having a flat battery as memory cards, especially the SD or CF variety are widely available on sale, but if you’re miles from the shops that’s not much comfort.

It’s also bad practice to walk around with a collection of cards that are full with images.
Those cards are small and easy to misplace and it’s easy to lose track of which images have been downloaded and which haven’t.

The solution is to get into a routine of downloading your images (and backing them up to a second hard drive) as soon as possible after a shoot and then formatting the card in-camera so that all the images are erased and the card is ready for use next time.

No. 7: Shutter speed too fast for the flash
This can catch you out when you’re shooting portraits outside with a fairly larger aperture to blur the background and you decide to use a bit of flash to fill in the shadows.

In some cases the camera refuses to fire because it has recognized that the shutter speed is too fast for the exposure to sync with the flash firing.

In this situation also usually gives you a clue by flashing the shutter speed in the viewfinder.shutter speed

In other instances, however, the shutter will fire and the image has a black section because the shutter wasn’t fully open when the flash fired.

If you want to stick with the same aperture the solution is to use a neutral density filter on the lens to take out some of the light and allow a longer shutter speed. Also, check into High Speed Sync which lets you flash at high shutter speeds.

No. 8: Missing tripod quick release plate

Quick release plates are very useful because they allow you to mount and un-mount a camera on a tripod in a jiffy.

plate

The problem is that they are quite small and unless you always leave one on your camera or always make sure that the plate is clicked properly back onto the tripod head after use, they are prone to going missing.

In an emergency a camera can be attached to a tripod head with elastic bands or even Gaffer tape, but it’s some way off ideal!

Another option is to look around to see if there’s anything else that can be pressed into service. Can the camera be rested on a wall for example?

Also consider pressing the camera onto the side of a tree or convenient post to help reduce some of the wobble.

You may need to push the camera’s sensitivity setting up a little to allow a safer hand-holding shutter speed.l plate

If none of this works look to see if you can introduce more camera movement to make a creatively blurred image.

And if that’s not on, put it down to experience and head to the shops to buy a quick release plate for every camera you own. I have them on my camera’s, my tripod, and all my lenses.

Have you ever had your Quick Release come unscrewed? This happens a lot. A solution to this is to get an L Bracket made specifically for your camera.

No. 9: Dust marks
Most modern SLRs and CSCs have a dust removal system that keeps loose dust at bay, but they are not infallible.

spots

A few little specks of dust here and there aren’t a major problem and will only take a few seconds to clone out on a computer, but keep an eye on the situation so it doesn’t get out of hand.

If the cloning starts to run to minutes then it really is time to clean the sensor. It’s not as tricky as you might fear, but if you really don’t fancy it contact your nearest camera servicing center.

Before you make a print, check the whole image carefully at 100% (Actual Pixels) on screen to make sure that that there are no spots, specks, or hairs that will spoil the end result.

A mark might look quite small and insignificant on-screen, but it will scream at you from the wall once the print has been framed and hung on display.

On some cameras, there is something called ‘Dust Delete Data’. You can fire a shot off at a white piece of paper in front of your lens. It will detect the dust and remember where it is. It will then remove those dust specs for all your pictures.

No. 10: Wrong focal length
Okay, so you’ve consulted the maps, checked the weather forecast and headed out before dawn to photograph a landscape that you’ve already visited to find the perfect vantage point.

The camera battery is freshly charged, with a spare nestling in your bag along with a collection of formatted memory cards.

You’ve checked and cleaned the sensor and the glass of your favorite wide angle lens is spotless.

The sun begins to rise, the image you have imagined appears before you and you get the shot. Perfect, everything is just as you planned it would be.

But then, a magnificent stag appears from the shadows. It turns and looks directly at you with its antlers beautifully side-lit by the rising sun and its breath creating billowy steam.

It injects a little more interest into your already enchanting landscape shot, but to make the best of it you really need to switch to a 300mm lens.

focal length

The lens you left at home because you were going out to shoot landscapes.
Fair enough that’s a pretty extreme example, but it illustrates the point that no matter what you are heading out to shoot, it’s often worth sticking another lens or two in your bag just in case.

Larry Mason is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Monument Valley: An Inspiring View from Hunt’s Mesa

Author: Megan Galope

Last May, I made the wise choice to attend the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Monument Valley/Hunt’s Mesa workshop. It was led by renowned photographer LeRoy DeJolie, a Native American who is very familiar with the area. This workshop took us to Monument Valley several times, where we were able to photograph the Mittens, Totem Pole, and Yei Bi Chei.

IMG_9679-editedThe Mittens at Sunrise

IMG_0721-editedTotem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
We also were given a special treat when we were able to meet with Effie Yazzie and take photos of her herding her sheep with her dogs by Ear of the Wind.

IMG_0946-editedEffie and her dog Molly at Ear of the Wind arch

During the 5-day workshop, we also visited Mystery Valley and Teardrop Arch, as well as Agathla Peak.
IMG_0585-editedTeardrop Arch

IMG_9511-edited-bwAgathla Peak

The highlight of the trip, however, was the night we spent on Hunt’s Mesa. This mesa that overlooks Monument Valley is difficult to get to on one’s own, and requires a Navajo guide. The view is breathtaking, and our tents were set up so that we were able to awaken to the wonder that is Monument Valley.
IMG_0100-editedHunt’s Mesa – The view of Hunt’s Mesa from our tents.

LeRoy DeJolie was very helpful to all participants, sharing insider tips and tricks to get better images. This workshop is being offered again this May, and space is still available. You can find the details about it here: http://www.ahpw.org/workshops/2016/Monument-Valley-Hunts-Mesa-Photography-workshop-2016-05-17/. Don’t miss out on an amazing experience!

Megan Galope is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  mapphotography.smugmug.com

Come Prepared for the Unexpected

Author: Amy Novotny

birds1

When photographing mother nature, we know that nothing is guaranteed.  To make efficient use of our time and resources, we check the weather forecast or follow animal migration patterns, but we cannot always predict events accurately.  Furthermore, as we develop our skills as a photographer, we begin to accumulate more equipment–lens, filters, lens hoods, etc–in attempt to be prepared for various types of photography.  These items can result in an equipment bag that can eventually be too heavy for us to carry.  Unfortunately, this often results in being very selective in which equipment we carry to a shoot.

In the past month, a group of photographers joined me in two different shoots with two different purposes: wildlife photography of the Sandhill cranes in McNeal, Arizona and landscape photography of a sunset at Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona.  In the first shoot, four of us drove down south to capture the migration of the Sandhill cranes and to photograph the birds returning to their roosting spot in the evening and their subsequent departure in the morning.  Having never shot wildlife outside of a zoo and not having a lens of focal length over 200 mm, I rented a lens from a local camera shop that suited my camera and reached a focal length of 400 mm.  Unfortunately, an accident at the shop led to that lens becoming unavailable and they attempted to provide me with an alternate lens that reached 600 mm in focal length, but they were not confident that the technology matched.  I decided to bring the rest of my lens with me as a precaution.

Upon reaching McNeal for sunset, we went out to the trail to photograph the birds. One of the other photographers only brought her 500mm lens with a tripod, and due to the weight and bulk, left her other lens at home.  Unfortunately, I soon learned that my rented lens would not stabilize despite seeking help from the other tech-savvy photographers.  I could not capture the birds without blur, and initially, I was very disappointed.  

The other photographer with the 500 mm lens enjoyed the shoot immensely, as she had the appropriate setup.  However, as the sun began to set, I walked around and spotted a nice water scene and pulled out my trusty wide-angle lens for some landscape photography.  Soon, the clouds began to light up with pink and orange hues that became a deep red and turned into one of the most vibrant sunsets I have ever seen.  I did not stop shooting for 45 minutes, as what had been an initial disappointing shoot turned into one of my favorites.  The photographer with the 500 mm lens tried what she could with her current equipment and just enjoyed the sunset with her eyes.

One solution to the equipment challenge that I learned on the second photography trip to Watson lake is that some people bring a cart to haul their extra equipment.  This worked well on flat trails but became problematic on uneven rocky trails.  Others bring a couple of zoom lens that cover both wide angle and telephoto needs.  The purpose of this second trip was to catch the reflections of the Granite Dells rock formations on the still waters of Watson Lake at sunset.  The clouds were not present as we had hoped, but the lake was full of waterfowl.  Thankfully, I had brought my telephoto lens, and since the cormorants were close enough to the hiking trail, I was able to practice wildlife photography with my 200 mm lens.

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Even though mother nature can be unpredictable, it allows for great opportunities.  Finding the balance in selecting which lens to carry is difficult when preparing for a trip and when hiking is involved, but being prepared for the unexpected can be a pleasant surprise.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.