One of our Wilderness Photographer of the Year judges Jackie Ranken offers some top tips to better improve your photography.
GRW: What is the best time of the day to photograph outdoors and why?
The common advice given to photographers is to photograph early in the day and at dusk when the sun is low in the sky making the direction of light more interesting and the colour more emotive. Regarding selecting images for a photography competition the words ‘interesting’ and ‘emotive’ are what you need to look for. A unique angle or point of view will often be more engaging than a pretty sunrise or sunset.
Ask yourself, what is the subject and what are you wanting to communicate to the viewer. The light just before or after storms can be a great time to shoot because there can be dramatic clouds or interesting puddles that reflect your subject in unusual ways. The most difficult time of day to photograph would be in the middle of the day when its it sunny because the contrast in the light is at its maximum and the direction of the light is overhead. Hard, hard, hard.
GRW: What if I don’t have a tripod – can I still take good landscape photos?
A good landscape photograph will generally have an interesting composition that leads the eye around the frame and captures the attention of a viewer. Tripods are used to stabilise a camera/lens allowing a photographer to make photographs with slow shutter speeds (a slow shutter speed is generally from 15th sec and slower).
Slow shutter speeds are used to make water soft and silky and/or to create a wide depth of focus where all elements within the frame are relatively sharp from front to back. Tripods are useful when the light level is dim otherwise ‘camera shake’ can ruin a good idea, but then, ‘intentional camera movement’ (ICM) can create beautiful emotive interpretations of a scene (1-2 sec).
Many modern cameras have image stabilisation built into them and there are techniques to stabilise your position by jamming your camera onto a tree or post. Another option is to raise your ISO which will make the senor in the camera more sensitive to light. Though, high ISO’s lead to images with more noise and loss of detail. If you don’t have a tripod then you will be limited by your options but ultimately that is your choice.
GRW: I’m unsure about the manual dials on my camera. Can the Auto function take good enough images?
The Green Auto button takes away many of the creative controls in your camera. I would suggest choosing the ‘A’ Aperture Priority, or ‘P’ program mode so that you can easier control of the exposure using the exposure compensation button (+ /-). This will allow you to make your photograph feel the way you want them to be, exposure is an emotive tool. It will also stop the flash from automatically turning on. (The cold, hard light from a flash can destroy the ambiance of a place.)
As you learn and practice you can apply this knowledge to the manual controls and keep learning and enjoying your photographic journey. Ultimately if your idea is unique and emotive then perhaps the auto button will express your vision, it’s better to give it a go then not try at all.
GRW: Are filters important in improving my outdoor photography?
There are three filters that will enhance a landscape.
- A polarising filter, careful turning of this filter on your lens will give the effect of you putting on your polarizing sunglasses. It helps to control reflections off all sorts of surfaces. It makes green foliage greener and blue skies darker and allows you to see into pools of water to the rocks below.
- A Neutral Density filter (ND) this filter is used to help slow down the shutter speed to make water look soft and silky.
- A Neutral Density Graduated (ND Grad.) filter is dark at the top and clear at the bottom. It helps to control bright skies and when properly attached to the outside of your lens it will help to balance your exposures. This filter is most useful for those who choose to shoot Jpeg files and have limited understanding a RAW file processing.
There's still plenty of time to enter our Wilderness Photographer of the Year, presented by Mountain Designs and be in the running for some great prizes including a luxury guided walk, heaps of great outdoor gear and $5k cash. Click here to enter,