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Archive for July, 2012

Countdown: 7 Rules for Surefire Holiday Snaps

July 17th, 2012 No Comments

Gaudi's La Casa Mila (credit)

On holiday, you shoot a lot of the ‘sights’  from city buildings to scenic landscapes.  Do it as you usually do.  Then, change the angle.  Get low, get high, get to a side, go around, work in some foreground experiment.  For example, if you go to Barcelona and are enthralled by one of Antonio Gaudi’s several fascinating buildings, shoot them from where you’re standing, sure.  But then, try entering another building across it, get to its top floor, and take some images of your personal Gaudian delight from your new vantage point.

6.  The Tuesday Rule: Natural Lighting

What they say is true: the mid-day and afternoon sun’s flat hard light makes for dull, lifeless images (try a polarizer).  Instead, take outdoor photographs in the morning and evening.  Sure, you’ll get shadows but early and late sunlight makes for better colour and finer detail.  That said, you’ll get the best lighting when the sun is playing peek-a-boo with dark clouds, or after a rainshower.  Such sunlight brings out deliciously rich hues while at the same time filling in shadows.  (This effect varies in intensity in different regions of the world.)

5.  The Wednesday Rule: Reference Points

When a reference point is available, consider whether working it into your photograph would create a better picture.  It can be a signpost, a street sign, a neon display.  Try placing it in a corner or an edge of your composition.  Pros do this quite often.  Not only will it answer your friends’ question “Where?” but when memories have faded your photo will have a built-in marker telling you where you had taken it.  So when your fellow travellers are lunching at a roadside cafe in Paris and you step out to take a snap, get the signboard into the frame!

4. The Thursday Rule: Shoot the Locals

Shoot the locals but make sure you don’t offend anyone or get in trouble.  The first rule is simple: you can’t do in Afghanistan what you can do in Holland.  Next, include people as part of the overall scene, from a respectable distance and without picking anyone out, and you’ll be fine.  If you see a particular person you want to photograph from close range, seek permission first.  Simply smiling and gesturing with your camera will elicit a response  But be prudent; if you see an, um, ‘interesting’ character at 1 a.m. in a tube station in London’s East End, it may be wiser to pass.


3.  The Friday Rule: Group/Family Photos

Don’t forget to take plenty of family photos, specially at key scenic spots and include yourself; it’s safe if you know how to do it.  Don’t use the timer and put your camera where a thief can snatch it and run off, especially in suspicious areas.  When using the timer in a populated area, place your camera in a safe, protected corner.  That said, would you believe the best option is to ask a nearby person and hand your camera to him/her?  Here’s who: One member of a foursome of two couples, a woman in high heels, anyone with a backpack!

2.  The Saturday Rule: Batteries, Memory cards, Uploads

It’ll happen.  Sooner or later you’ll run out of space or run out of juice and it’s only if you have a working camera that you can take any holiday snaps, good or bad!  So always keep a spare set of batteries and a memory card or two.  If photographers could carry a couple of extra rolls in the days of film, you can surely carry a couple of extra SD cards!  Also, whenever you’re able to, upload your new photos to your online filespace.  That way if you lose your camera you don’t lose your precious photos and, in a pinch, you can erase photos off your card and re-use it.

1.  The Sunday Rule: Keep your camera with you at all times!

Many years ago on a Sunday at a lodge at Lake Manyara, Tanzania, a sleepy chap wandered into the upstairs dining hall for breakfast and took a corner seat by one of the huge, joined windows, enjoying the view.  Just about when coffee and breakfast arrived, he took another look out the window,  and what a sight!  A few open-bed vans, loaded with food and provisions with canvas tied tightly over the bed, had been parked below in the compound. 

A large baboon had got atop one van and was untying the rope!  A worker was trying to shoo him away, without success Ð the baboon just snarled at him.  After a second of gawking, the visitor swung into action, opening his camera case while watching the baboon, who was evidently very skilled at untying knots, as he drew back one corner of the canvas cover. 

Then the visitor hesitated, he needed to remove his 50 mm lens and get his 70-210 mm zoom on.  Did he have time?  He saw a couple more workers came out to the aid of their ineffectual mate, and the three started picking up stones.  No he didn’t!  So the visitor shot a photo with his 50 mm lens . . . and encountered the end of the roll just as the workers started stoning the baboon, quickly driving him away.

It’s far from a good photo he got, but had the sleepy fellow not carried his camera with him, he would have had no photo of a memorable sight.  It was worth the lukewarm coffee and tepid eggs.


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