Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting Ready for a Photography Trip

As you know we just got back from a trip to TN.  If you know me then you know that is where I am from originally and where I first fell in love with photography.  I am started the planning phase early.  Not the day to day activities but the overall trip.  Where I want to go and the things I want to see.  I am not one to plan every single detail but there is some thought that needs to go into the times that you photograph.  Shooting wide landscape shots from the Foothills Parkway is not the greatest thing in the middle of the day.  Sunrise is something special though.  I have been to the mountains hundreds of times and I have a few spots that are "old faithfuls".  I will surly visit those the first couple of days and spend the less photographic times scouting some new areas and estimating the best time of day to be there.  This time I am going to try and hit some of the less known places and do a little bit of hiking.

Things to look for when you are planning a trip:

Weather:  This can change in a moments notice but having an understanding of recent weather patterns may help you plan your locations.  For example:  The area around the Great Smoky Mountains (GSM)has been in the mid 90's.  That is hot for that area this time of year!!!  What does that tell me?  Well, it tells me that the morning will be misty and great for intimate landscapes but the sweeping majestic landscapes will likely be so hazy that photographs of them will be well.... yucky.  I will check them out for sure but I am not holding my breath.

Traffic:  Places like the GSM are bombarded with visitors.  The GSM National Park is the MOST visited National Park in the country.  Millions flood there every year.  If you try to make it up there after the sun comes up you will set in traffic for 3 to 4 hours.  Get up early to beat the traffic.  Naturally, if you want sunrise you will have to do this anyway.  The trip that might take 4 hours will take 25min. if you drive through around 4:30am.  It is worth it to go early and nap in the car.

People: Try to find areas that are not so littered with people.  Get out in the forest and see what few really get to see. 

Food:  Pack your lunch...  If you don't do this your hunger may get the best of you and cause you to stop early to feed the beast.  Many shots will be missed while you are hanging out at Denny's.

Hotels:  I am fortunate that my parents live there and are only 45min from the top of the GSM.  That is where I will be staying.  If I were not staying with them I would try to find the hotel closest to the area of interest.

Mates:  Lets face it folks...our significant others are not all photographers.  The idea of spending an entire day in the woods is not their first choice...it may not even be on their list!  If they go with you don't count on being in one spot long.  Some, like mine, are actually content setting in the car reading a book.  That is a happy medium for me but still limits any hikes.  Spend time with the family and pick a day (or two) to leave them doing something they like.

Well, that is all for this post.  Thanks for reading and I hope you take some of this advice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smoothing the Water

When I photograph water I love the effect of blurring the motion.  So, how do you blur the motion?  Believe it or not it is pretty easy.  All you really need to know is to use a slow shutter speed.  That is about all there is to blurring the water.  I would suggest starting at about .5 seconds or slower.  The longer the shutter is open the more blur you will get.  If it is windy that will be seen in any foliage so try and be careful. 

Your aperture will likely need to be fairly small (f16 or so depending on the amount of light) because you need the longer shutter speed.  If you are doing this in the middle of a sunny day you might need a neutral density filter to limit the amount of light coming through the lens.  This along with a small aperture would help give you the needed shutter speed.

This can be a very fun way to spend your time once the sunrise shots are over.  It is also a great place to go just before you hit your sunset location too. 

Another suggestion is to get in close.  Look for some abstracts as well.  My first thought is always to use a wide angle to encompass as much of the scene as possible.  Remember that a part of photography is making order from chaos so the more you put in the frame the greater chances of distracting from your subject.  This of course is not a rule but more of a suggestion.

Finally, I recommend a circular polorizing filter.  The one effect of this filter cannot be replacted in post processing.  It works just like polorized sunglasses and removes the glare from the top of the water, the rocks, and the foliage.  This gives you a look under the surface and gives you more color saturation. 

Get out there and give it a shot.  If you have any questions just email or call and thanks again for reading.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It’s All about Timing

It really is about being at the right place at the right time.  I would love to tell you that this was the location that I had chosen but I found it nonetheless.  I was on my way down from my primary loaction of Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to my secondary location when I looked out my passanger window.  I immediately pulled over at the first place I could find, grabbed my gear, and ran to the vista. 

[tangent tip]
When I first left Clingman's Dome I left my camera attached to the tripod and the tripod legs loose.  This allowed me to be ready really fast in the event that something came along.
Regarding the first photo (which I think is my favorite from the trip) if I had been early the sun would have shown in the photo causing some major highlight issues.  If the time of day had been later I would not have gotten the shadow lines of the sun through the trees.  This scene only lasted a few minutes.  Luck plays a big role in this as well...  Just don't tell anyone I said that. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Clients and Etiquette (rant warning)

I recently wrote a blog about a wedding I photographed in Tennessee on my recent trip. When I provide the clients with the wedding contract there was a place for them to list the contact information and address of the wedding venue. I did this for two reasons.

1. So I can plug this information into my GPS and actually find where the wedding is going to be.
2. To contact the venue regarding the expected etiquette for the photographer.

Chances are the venue has already communicated their expectations to the clients and they can relay that information but on the off chance they didn’t (or they forgot in the madness of planning) you have a way to get in touch with them. Why is this important? Well, let me tell you the story of the Tennessee Wedding.

I received word from the clients that the church there would not allow ANY photograph during the ceremony. I thought for sure that they just meant no flash photography and I certainly could understand that. I spoke to the Minister and he confirmed that they do not allow ANY photography at all during the ceremony. I was surprised but adhered to their request. Prior to the start of the wedding I was able to talk to one of the staff members and she let me know that the reason they do not allow any photography is because of the past photographers. They would dress improperly because they were the “photographer” and would run up and down the isle clicking away completely oblivious to the real “event” taking place. How insensitive can you possibly be?

So, you might be a paid vendor with a job to do but you must consider yourself a guest. You are not the center of attention (that is the bride’s job) and if you are then you are doing something wrong. Portray yourself professionally, dress like a professional, respect the venue, and try to remain unseen until it is your moment to take the stage and direct the formal photos.  Thanks again Conley and Stephanie for inviting me to your wedding!