Photography Tips-How To Carry Your Stuff in The Wilderness

Many beginning photographers often wonder, what is a better system for hauling my gear when I am so far away from my car?  You  have read the articles in the photo magazines and forums and bought all the cool gear.  Gear is why we are here, right?  Here is the best way that I found to lug that new gear.

As the term “landscape photographer” implies, the photographer must go to where the best landscape is found. That may be in some fairly isolated locations.  In order to record the scenery, the photographer should have a camera and assorted accessories that make the creation easier.  Getting to where the landscape is may require hauling your gear into some remote areas.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to get into the natural environment and create art with your camera.  But carrying the necessary gear can be heavy and bulky.  Many advocate a minimalist approach.  But what I have found is just when you thought that you have the basic gear needed, the opportunity for a shot requiring the lens left at home is key.

Believe me I have tried an array of backpacks and bags.

Backpacks provide an easy way to carry your equipment.   Many packs are equipped with a belt strap to transfer some of the weight off your shoulders and onto the waist.  The problem with the backpacks is whenever you want to change the camera’s lens or add a filter, it becomes necessary to remove the pack. This requires you to locate a level surface to place the backpack.  Finding a spot requires time and often, time is of the essence.  Light changes, clouds move, or any number of conditions alter, changing the scene. The moment is lost.  Your opportunity is squandered in the search for a piece of equipment.

Shoulder bags, when filled with all the necessary equipment, are heavy and one shoulder bears the burden of the load.  I found that I had to continually move the bags from shoulder to shoulder to relieve the stress.  Though it is easier to access the equipment, it is difficult to shoot with a heavy bag on your shoulder. It becomes necessary to search for a clean spot to set the bag.

After years of searching, the best solution I have found is manufactured by Lowe Pro.  Lowe Pro’s S&F Technical Vest is  designed with SlipLock™ System. It has a harness system created for outdoor photographers.  This system consists of a belt and shoulder system with loops to attach varying sized pouches for lenses and miscellaneous gear.  The support system transfers the weight evenly along the shoulders and waist, making it easier to carry the load.


Your gear is easily accessible, when you need it.  Having the equipment within arm’s reach, makes changing lens and filters a quick process.  Minutes count when you are in the field and the light is changing.

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For Better Photos Change Your Position

Capturing a scene, or for that matter when photographing people, most beginning photographers shoot from one position, which is standing up.  In one seminar that I attended the instructor stated that he tell you the height of the photographer by just looking at their photos.

The human eye is accustom to viewing objects from a standing position, as this normally where we see things.  The photographer can create an interesting, eye catching image by simply kneeling or lying down on the ground to take the photo.  Shooting from an angle that most people have not viewed the world  from challenges the mind.  When challenged, the brain is stimulated. The observer lingers in front of the photo. This is the effect that you are looking for when creating the image.

Getting the shot from a higher position is another way to catch the viewers eye.  One photographer I know carries a ladder in his vehicle for just this purpose.

These two techniques can also be used to hide any unwanted object from the scene.  For example, there may be an object or person in the middle of a scene.  By getting lower to the ground, more interesting foregrounds can hide these distractions.  Try it and you  can see the difference it makes.  By getting higher you can shoot over the unwanted object  in many cases.

Another easy way to create a more appealing image is to turn the camera from landscape to portrait.  By turning the camera on its side when shooting  will change how the scene is recorded.  Normally, beginners will shoot all their shots with the camera held level.  By just mixing it up and turning the camera , you can make the photo different and sometimes different is better.  Tilting the camera at odd angles generates images that stir the imagination.  Try this for a change to see the results.

Robert Capa, the Hungarian born war photographer, is quoted as saying that if your photo isn’t interesting enough, then you are not close enough.  Getting closer to your subject it eliminates any distracting elements in the scene.  In portraits of people, isolating their face or part of their face, for example the eyes will produce a photo that draws your attention.

Using a zoom lens that varies focal length can be used to get closer to the object.  This allows you to zoom into just the subject that you want to capture.  Or you can do it the way Robert Capa did, just use your feet.  To zoom out, walk back and too get closer, walk toward the subject.

Just using these tips can make your images more fascinating.

Get out and experiment and have fun.

Posted in How to take the perfect picture, Photography tips

How the Camera Sees or Why does My Photo Suck?

It happens all the time.  It has happened to me on more occasions than I would like to admit.   Your eye embraces a great scene.  You know that this photo will propel you into the world of the greats.  Watch out Ansel Adams, be prepared to bested.  Then you get the finished image from the printer or you see it on the computer screen.  You scream, What happened to my masterpiece?

It may not be your fault,  but it could  a disconnect between how you as a human perceives the outer world as opposed to how, the tool, the camera, records the world.

Let’s look at how the camera sees its surroundings.  The camera, regardless of how sophisticated, has certain limitations.  Most importantly, it has only one eye.  Why should that matter to the photographer?  Because the camera cannot distinguish between objects in the distance and far away.  It flattens the scene.  With two eyes we perceive the depth of field.  The mountain in the distance is farther away and the tree closer.  It keeps us from walking into things .

But what be done, you ask?  There are things that you as a photographer can do to overcome this obstacle.

First thing that you will want to do, now that you know that the camera has only one eye, is to mimic the camera.  When you find the scene that you want to shoot, close one eye and look at the scene again.  It looks different doesn’t it?

Second thing is, look around and see if there is anything that would add depth to the shot.  By this I mean, find something in the area that will frame the main subject.  Something like a tree branch, arches through a wall or an outcropping of rocks.  Something in the foreground or in edges of the viewfinder frame that is closer than the main subject.  The human eye will add depth to the photo when there is an object in foreground.

Pacific Coast

An example of using the foreground to add depth

Another weather related trick to adding depth is mist or fog.  Objects further away seems to fade and the further objects almost disappear.  This creates a sense of depth for the viewer.

Foggy afternoon on a north carolina mountain

An example of using fog to create depth

Look for lines that extend into the scene.  A road will become narrower as it stretches into the distance.  This adds depth as well.

Country Lane

An example of a road narrowing into the distance giving depth to photo

Experiment with these photography tips and just get out there and shot. And by all means, have fun.

Posted in How to take the perfect picture, How to Use the Camera, Photography tips

How To Use The Camera

In our quest to learn the basics of photography, we need to start the camera.
When you first get the camera and look at it, it has all those buttons and so many functions available, it can be a bit overwhelming.  What is the best setting to use and in what situation?  Because there are so many options, the easiest route becomes just using the auto setting and letting the camera do the rest.
The reason you came to this site is to take control of the camera and manage the creation of your image.  It is the time that you took control of this creative process.
On the camera you will find Manual, Auto, Aperture and Exposure settings. Or it may have Auto, Manual, Landscape, Night and Portrait.  Because you are reading this article with a burning, or at least simmering desire to control the process of image making, we are going to focus on the Manual, Aperture, and Exposure (Shutter) settings.  In order to create the kind of images that you desire, it is necessary to master or at least have a basic understanding of these settings.
Let’s start with the manual setting.  This setting will give you the most control over the finished image.  In the manual mode you set the exposure and the aperture.  Experimenting with this setting is best way to learn.  Set the aperture at its smallest opening (for example F-22) and see what happens when you set the exposure for a longer period of time (for example 1 second or longer).   A caveat, when using a longer exposure time you should use a tripod to keep the camera steady.
In the Aperture setting you set the aperture setting that you want and the camera determines the length of time that the shutter will remain open.  This is useful when you know that you would like the entire scene in focus or if you want to isolate your main subject and blur the background.
Setting the exposure or shutter setting allows you to determine how long the shutter will remain open and the camera determines the aperture opening for you. This setting could be used in low light situations.
By playing with each of these setting, you get a better feel for creating the images that you enjoy making.

Posted in How to take the perfect picture, How to Use the Camera, Photography tips Tagged , ,

Photography Basics-Exposure and Aperture

Let’s start with some photography tips for beginners.  These photography basics will apply when we look at using the camera in future articles.  Setting the exposure and aperture on the camera will determine the finished image.
What are exposure and aperture?
We’ll start with exposure.  Exposure is the amount of time that the camera lens remains open.  The best analogy that I have heard is a water hose.  The longer the water hose is running, the more water you receive.  Substitute light for the water and you get the basic idea.  Allowing the camera to remain open for longer periods of time allows more light to hit the surface of the camera’s image sensor or film.  During bright days, you will want to have the exposure set for a shorter period of time.  During low light or night, you will want to keep the shutter open longer for more light to strike the image sensor on a digital camera or the film’s surface in a film camera.  Locking open the shutter during a starry night creates allows more light to hit the capture source, either film or digital card. By locking open the lens you too can create kind of  shots that you have seen where the stars seem to be in motion.
Setting the aperture controls light by determining how wide the shutter will open.  The higher the setting (for example F-22) the less light. A little confusing, I know.  Why is this important?  In the earlier article I spoke about the photo I saw on the wall at a photography class. It was the photo of a bird in sharp contrast to its surroundings.  By opening the shutter wider (for example F-4) the camera creates a sharp image of the main subject, but blurs the surrounding scene.  On the hand, if you would like the entire scene sharp, as in a landscape photo, you would want the shutter on the higher setting (for example F-22) . This allows more of the scenery to be in focus.
Hopefully these photography basics  help you understand exposure and aperture.  In following articles I will cover the camera and how exposure and aperture relate to the camera functions.

Experiment with your camera using the manual setting and have fun.

Posted in How to take the perfect picture, Photography tips

How To Take The Perfect Picture

This blog is in response to the many requests that I have received over the years asking me how to take good photos or if I would offer photography classes.

Many people own a camera, but are not sure how to create the images that they really desire.  It may have happened to you.  You see the scene that would make a great picture and you snap away.  When the picture is developed or you put it on the computer screen, it is not the scene that you remember.  Hopefully this blog with assist you in becoming the photographer that you aspire to be.

When I started as a teenager, I was using a point and shot film camera.  I carried the camera everywhere.  On our scout trips to the Smokey Mountains hiking the Appalachian Trail, to the Scout Ranch in New Mexico and  to every family outing.  All the shots were point and shot allowing the camera to determine the exposure and aperture.  I wasn’t taking the picture, the camera was in control.  And I had to throw away whole lot of pictures.  Don’t get me wrong, often the camera created some good shots.  But there is more to the process.  You should control the camera and  create the image you see.  After all, it is your photo.

My real education in photography began when a local adult education center was offering classes in photography.  On the walls were example of the instructor’s photos.  One in particular caught my attention.  It was a bird with the background blurry accenting the bird and leaving it as the center of attention.  I said I would like to take photos like that.  I remember clearly the instructor saying “you will by the end of the class.”  Hopefully, you too can create the photos that you want following the photographic tips in this blog.

I now shot digitally, but the things that we cover apply to film or digital image creation.  The advantage of digital cameras is the ability shot more images and delete the bad images.  With film mistakes can be costly.

What I hope to do with this blog is allow you to create the kind of images that you want, not what the camera sees.  I hope to put you in control of the process that will allow to you to create that work of art or a better family photo.

Let’s take control of the photographic tool, the camera, and with the photographic techniques and photography tips in this blog, you can begin taking great photos.  Remember to have fun.


Gregory Colvin

Posted in How to take the perfect picture, Photography tips Tagged ,