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How to Take Great Outdoor Photos with Amanda Ray

Advantages of Digital – Take Lots of Photos and Try All of the Buttons

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Summer is here, and for many families that means fun – sunny trips to the beach, long weekends at the lake and lazy days of fishing. Thanks to digital cameras, anybody can capture these treasured moments in literally hundreds of snapshots. However, quantity isn’t quality. This week, Dave Morris of Birmingham, Alabama, an outdoor photographer for over 30 years and Brad Dale of Wolf Camera in Hoover, Ala., who’s been in the photo business for 25 years, will tell us how to make the most of a point-and-shoot digital camera in the outdoors.

Take Advantage of the Digital Age:
Less than a decade ago, photography was a much-more daunting proposition. Each roll of film only had a few-dozen shots on it and was expensive to develop. Opening the envelope from the developer only to find you’d paid for 2 good photos and 20 or 30 lousy ones was disheartening. Photographers worried: “Did I get the shot?” “Should I take the photo again, just to be sure?” “Do I have enough film?” “Should I save what I have left?” “How much will having these photos developed cost me anyway?”

Today, a single memory card the size of a postage stamp can store hundreds of pClick to enlargehotos. Last October, I took over 1,000 photos on a 10-day family vacation. I photographed birds, flowers, people, trees, food, street signs and anything else I wanted without worrying about running out of film. If I had to take 20 shots to get one good picture of a pretty yellow bird or an exotic flower, then I did.

“Shoot more, and shoot more often – that applies to cameras as well as guns,” Morris says. Dale agrees. “Shoot, shoot, shoot. Memory is cheap, so don’t be afraid to take lots of pictures. Out of every 100 pictures I take, I’ll love 25, 50 of them will be okay, and I’ll hate the other 25.” Stock-up on memory cards. Dale’s favorite memory-card brands are Lexan and SanDisk.

Quantity is only one of the many advantages digital cameras offer, however. Digital cameras correct many of the photographer’s mistakes. As Morris says, “The photographer can focus on the story he wants to tell, rather than the worrying about the technical aspects of photography.”

Know Your Camera:Click to enlarge
Morris explains, “The best resource you have is your camera’s manual. I know, I know…nobody wants to read the manual. But if you want to take quality photographs, you have to be able to control your camera. Try one new function or setting at a time. If you don’t understand how your camera functions, making it do what you want it to do is difficult.”

Dale advises, “Set your camera settings to maximum resolution, and turn off the digital zoom. The optical zoom still uses all of your mega pixels, but the digital zoom doesn’t. It crops in your photos and discards information. You can do that yourself in an editing program. Make it a habit to check your camera settings before taking pictures. You don’t want to spend a whole day making pictures, only to find out that your teenager has set your camera to internet quality when he’s borrowed it earlier.”

Digital cameras offer many scenic modes, including landscape, beach, snow and night modes. Try them out, and learn the advantages each has to offer. Dale comments, “Alabama’s white sugar-sand beaches are brighter than most beaches. That white sand reflects a lot of light, so I use my camera’s snow mode when I’m taking pictures at Gulf Shores.”

The Most-Important Camera Functions:Click to enlarge
As you sit down with your camera and its manual, Morris recommends starting with these functions:
1) Flash – “Learn how to force your camera to use the flash, which never hurts the photo and usually helps.”
2) Automatic metering system – “How does your camera measure the amount of light in the scene?”
3) Focus – “Learn how to override the auto focus and how the different focal zones are used.”
4) Aperture Priority – “By adjusting the aperture priority, you can control the depth of field.” The depth of field refers to the areas behind and in front of the main focal point that are in focus.
5) White balance – “Learn how to set a correct white balance to control the image.” The white balance affects the way your camera interprets and captures the colors it is seeing.

Tomorrow: Plan Your Photos

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Take Great Outdoor Photos with Amanda Ray"

Day 1: Advantages of Digital – Take Lots of Photos and Try All of the Buttons
Day 2: Plan Your Photos
Day 3: Understand Light and Take Advantage of It
Day 4: Use Your Feet and Getting Good Prints
Day 5: Donavan Lakes and Triple D Ranch


Entry 460, Day 1