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Behind the Scenes at Downs Park

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Sometimes to get a good shot you have to get a little dirty. In the end the shots are worth it. I've become used to coming home sandy and messy. I have to be honest and say that usually the messier I am the better the shots are. Last night was no exception. I was soaked to my knees, covered in sand and mud and feeling pretty scratchy by the time the Park Rangers reminded us we had to leave.

So I had the pleasure of getting this dirty at Downs Park in Pasadena, MD. Great park, I really look forward to visiting again. At first at the fishing pier I was a little uninspired. There were cool rocks but I'd have to shoot down at them. The pier was nice but full of people. It was also pretty windy. I don't have any share worthy shots from the pier but I have a few I'm happy with when we moved onto the Dog Beach.  

Sometimes there is a moment when I notice something that I need to photograph. On this particular night it was a long stick crashing in the waves. I asked a friend to hold my camera and went in for the stick. This is where the wet and messy began. Definitely worth it because this was the best stick I had seen in a while, it had great curves. So I grabbed my camera and set off down the beach. I position the stick in the sand as if it was slithering into the water then took a couple shots. Although this is a nice photo, I wasn't completely happy with it. I pulled out my Lee Big Stopper, a 10 stop neutral density filter and began taking long exposures of the same composition. The final shot is pretty dramatic.

The long shutter speed does wonders especially with nice clouds. The water becomes nice and smooth and you catch the dramatic movement in the clouds. The Lee Big Stopper is a very fun piece of equipment.

Here are a few of my other favorites from the night. -Jen

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Point of View and Background

When you compose your image it is important to consider the background in your shot because you background can help or hurt your image. A background that is busy or that has undesirable elements in it can detract from your photograph. Think about a beautiful couple but a few feet behind them in the shot is a full and ugly garbage can. The garbage can is distracting and takes the viewer's focus away from the subject and onto the background elements. To avoid this be mindful and consider your background. You will be able to make quick changes to your perspective and point of view that will allow you to capture your subject in the best way possible for that particular scene. I suggest starting with taking a few steps to the left or right and looking again. Sometimes that is all you need to do. Here is a example of how much two steps in one direction can drastically change an image. 

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Wild Life Photography Tips

Photographing wildlife can be difficult. Subjects can be hard to spot and they often move quickly. The best advice I can give you is to be prepared. Scout your location ahead of time and visit places you are familiar with. Places where you have experience viewing wildlife. I strongly suggest using a fast shutter speed. It is always better to air on the side of caution, better unnecessarily fast rather than too slow. Shutter speeds that are too slow will capture motion blur and potentially ruining your shot. Also make sure you are using the continuous shot function to have the ability to catch multiples frames. It is the same idea as the shutter speed, it's better to have the ability to shoot multiples even if you might not need it. Think of a bird taking off in flight, continuous mode will mean the difference of 4-5 usable shots vs 1-2 in single shot mode. Fast shutter speed and continuous shooting mode is perfect for walking around when you don't know when a creature may appear next. Most of all be diligent and patient. Keep you eyes on the sky, tree line, ground, water, and even behind you because you never know what you will see next. Then just patiently wait and if you are prepare you will be ready to capture that next great shot.

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Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle is a great tool to help you move beyond the auto features on your camera. It allows you to let the camera do the work for you while giving you creative control over motion and depth of field in your photographs.

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Moon Photography - Settings and Examples

Moonrise

Photographing the moon can be really difficult. It doesn't look like it but the moon is very bright and this makes for a pretty tough shot. Photographing the moon as it rises add another level of difficultly because in two minutes the moon moves its height in the horizon, so this rules out long exposure in many cases. After many attempts and plenty of research and trial and error I have finally found a happy place with moon photography.

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Here are the most important things to remember.

-Preparation is very important. Find a great sun and moon app and plan out your location ahead of time, then give yourself plenty of time to be in position. 


-Spot meter and selective focus right on the moon. This is the best way to capture the most details of the moon.

-Don't be afraid to bracket so that you can get detail in the scene as well as the moon. If you choose to bracket, during the early stages of a moonrise do so quickly and with fast shutter speeds.

-Open up your aperture. Using a low F-stop allows you to capture more of the scene and foreground of your image without having to bracket. Don't forget to spot meter to the moon.

-The best time to photograph the moonrise is when the moon rises within an hour of sunset. During this timeframe try to keep your shots under 1 second. The moon moves so quickly during it's rise that anything longer you will see lots of motion and complete loss of moon details. 

-If you are photographing the moon as it rises into a pitch black sky you can use long exposure to photography a moonscape complete with stars depending on weather.

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-If you are photographing the moon without any foreground your shutter speed should be double your focal length. So for example the moon shot at 200mm should have a shutter speed of 1/400. Open your aperture as wide as you can and then set your ISO appropriately, start low and then work your way up. an ISO of 400 always seems to be best for me using this moon photography formula. Be sure to spot meter and focus to the moon for the best results. 




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Landscape Photography - A Dissection

Have you ever shown someone a photograph only to hear "Wow, you must have a great camera." It is a common response from someone who doesn't know how much is needed beyond the camera to take a nice photograph. It is a response that makes some photographers want to crawl out of their skin. It is so true that the photographer takes the picture and not the camera. I dissected one of my favorite landscape shots just to show you, all of the thought that goes into a mindfully composed photograph. I could have just set down my camera and clicked... but would I get the same results? Definitely not.

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