I made this photo in my friend Ozark Bill‘s backyard. I’m not much of a gardener but I sure enjoyed photographing all the great subjects he had. We were experimenting with an inexpensive method to light macro photos. I really like the way this photo turned out. Today, I’m going to explain how it’s done. I said this was an inexpensive technique, but that comes after your camera, macro lens, external flash unit, tripod, ballhead, etc… I was using a Canon DSLR with a 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, and a 430EX flash for this shot. Mount the flash in the hot shoe and point the flash head up as if you were going to bounce the light off the ceiling. Here comes the inexpensive part… Take an empty Pringles can and cut a rectangular hole near the bottom so that it snugly fits over the flash head. Note: if you send an unopened Pringles can to me, I can return it to you empty. Adjust the flash so that the open end of the Pringles can points a few inches in front of your lens. Set up as you normally would on your subject and fire the flash when you take the shot. You may need to play with the flash exposure compensation in order to get the exposure dialed in. Just check your histogram and experiment until you find the right setting. The reflective interior of the Pringles can will direct and focus the light onto your subject. I think it’s a great technique. The only problem is finding room in my camera bag for my modified Pringles can.
A sunrise or sunset at a lake is one of my favorite subjects. I have many images like this in my library. The key to making a great image is perseverance. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets are very difficult to predict. Sometimes you’ll be rewarded with amazing colors and great light. Other times you get nothing. Paying attention to the weather can help increase your chances but it’s not a guarantee. Generally speaking, you’ll want partly cloudy conditions. High altitude cirrus clouds can offer some of the more dramatic scenes in my opinion. There are also times when the various cumulus-type clouds can add interest to the scene. Clear conditions generally won’t offer much in the way of color unless it is hazy. Usually low, thick stratus clouds mean nothing interesting is going to happen.
Fortunately for the last twelve years, I have lived near a state-owned conservation area that boasts numerous fishing lakes and many options for composition. Being close by, I’ve been able to go often at both sunrise and sunset. If the possibility of a good sunrise/sunset exists, I don’t try to over think the situation – I just go. The worst that can happen is sitting in a beautiful spot and watching the day come to life or the night take over. I can’t remember an occasion when I regretted being out there whether I made the image I wanted or not.
At the northwest corner of the lower 48 states is one of the most amazing natural areas I’ve ever visited. Cape Flattery is located at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The views are absolutely breathtaking and I’m not one who uses that word freely. It is a high, rocky point extending into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. The rocks have been carved into spectacular features by wave action over the eons. For many, Cape Flattery might be a side trip while visiting the Olympic National Park but I see it as a worthy destination all by itself. However, there are many wonderful outdoor photography locations in the area. Shi Shi Beach, Second Beach, Ruby Beach, and of course the National Park are just a few. Cape Flattery is on the Makah Reservation and you will need a permit to visit the area. It’s simple and inexpensive to obtain one when you get there. I highly recommend Cape Flattery as an amazing location for landscape/seascape photography.
I try to see something unique every time I travel and I’m seldom without my camera. It isn’t always possible to make a side trip but this time, my friend and I got to drive through Garner State Park on our way back to San Antonio. The Frio is a pretty river and this place was well worth exploring. After checking the area well for rattlesnakes, I set up and made this one of a kind photo (at least for me). As it’s name suggests, the water is quite cool – yes, I checked. The fisherman in me wanted to cast a line but I’m content to have gotten a few photos. Next time you travel, see if there’s not some place close by that looks interesting. As they say, you never know until you go.
Today I want to share one of the images that started me down this path. This is one of the first images I made with my first digital SLR camera that made me say, “Wow”. It is also one of the first images I digitally printed and hung on my wall. I had a couple of 35 mm film SLRs and used them for several years. I wouldn’t trade my experience with film because it taught me the fundamentals of photography. However, I never really made any images that had the wow factor. Being on a tight budget was mostly to blame. Film and processing costs kept me from truly experimenting with my subjects and the economical 4×6 prints just didn’t offer much feedback. I think the vision was there but the tools and the means to effectively use them eluded me. We have such a huge advantage in the digital world. Our LCD screens give us instant feedback and there is no penalty for making multiple images of the same subject. The information we learn from postprocessing is even greater and most times, is just hours away. We can have complete control over the entire process from shooting to printing if we so choose. Knowing what I know now, I’d have done things differently back in the film days but I can’t complain. I’ve enjoyed the journey and I look forward to future innovations.
Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri is one of the most interesting landscape photography opportunities in the state. The photo above is just one of many possibilities. According to my buddy Ozark Bill, these giant granite boulders offer limitless compositions. He makes it there more often than I do and I certainly agree with him. I’m highlighting his post on the topic today, so please click here to learn more about this amazing location.
Gulls are extremely common in the winter around here. This is one of the most common, a Ring-billed Gull. They’re also very tolerant of humans which makes them great practice subjects for your bird photography. I found this one in a parking lot and was able to drive to within a few yards of it. I spent a few minutes practicing manually focusing. At a nearby dam, there’s always a bunch of gulls flying around looking for baitfish. This presents a good opportunity to practice tracking and keeping birds in flight in focus.
It may not be gulls but I bet there are some common birds in your area too. Canada Geese and Rock Doves are a couple of species that come to mind. If you’re interested in improving your photography skills, try perfecting your technique on these easy subjects.