box1There is something special about connecting with nature… whether you are camping or simply traveling through an area. For me, connecting with nature includes having a camera in my hand. Making photographs causes me to research where I am going with more scrutiny than if I am just going as a tourist. I get up early and stay up later so I can show up at the right time to make the best photographs and I watch the weather so that I’m able to create dramatic photographs. Some of my best images have been right before or right after a storm.

Here are several ways I do research to help me to know where to go in areas I want to photograph. There are several sites on the Internet that aid in this research such as,500px.com an on-line Canadian photography community and marketplace that I use to find inspiration and connect with other photographers. It is also a place where you can potentially market your photographs. The great thing about 500px is that you can type in a location such as the Grand Canyon and you may find hundreds or thousands of photographs taken at the Grand Canyon. Click on a photograph you like and you will see what camera, lens and settings were used to create the image. Also, when you click on an image, it will use Google Maps to display the exact location where the image was taken. Another site I use is FineArtAmerica. What this site lacks in information, it makes up for in inspiration and a great place to sell your images.

Another great place I use for planning my trip is Pintrest. Besides showing great photos, Pintrest has great trip planning ideas and websites to look research. One more great place is your Facebook friends. If you are like me, you have tons of photographers as friends. I have found that local folks are some of the best resources for places to go, especially the little known places.

Time of Day is Key

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Once you’ve chosen your destination, you must consider the time of day you want to be at that location. Begin with a vision of what you want the photograph to look like. If you are photographing the Grand Canyon, you should first decide if you want a front-lit image or a back-lit image. You must decide if early morning or late afternoon is the best time to create your vision of the scene.
Google Earth is a great place to begin your plan so you can choose the best time for your particular spot. If you can, pre-scout your location to make the final determination of lighting conditions. Then, follow my first rule of landscape photography… “Take a nap at noon!” Rarely are any great shots taken during the middle of the day!

“Rarely are any great shots taken during the middle of the day!”

Once you have picked the right spot and chosen the right time of day, your photographic skills come into play. If I can give you any advise on improving your landscape photography, it is to slow down. When you first arrive at a scene, walk around without your camera, try different vantage points, look for leading lines and materials to frame your images, and be sure to evaluate an interesting foreground.

Take your Time!

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One way to slow down is to use a tripod. I believe your images will be better with the use of a tripod, not only because it will make you stop and think about the shot, you will usually be able to shoot at a lower ISO and no more camera shake! I use a Manfroto 055 aluminum, plenty sturdy and not too heavy. If you want to save a little weight, you can opt for the carbon fiber. Also, I prefer a hydrostatic ball head. A reasonably priced, middle of the road ball head that will hold up to 35 lbs is the Manfortto 468MG. It is available without quick release and a few different quick release models. Check with your local camera store. Get in the habit of lifting the camera with the tripod attached to make sure your camera is securely attached. Enough said!

“Try something different”

Also, be sure to try something different! Shoot at night, paint with light using a simple flashlight, photograph moving water with a long exposure using a neutral density filter, do multi shot panorama images, do HDR images, try different lenses (you can rent lenses at your local camera store to test them out) or even change your camera system.

photobizI recently changed to the Panasonic Lumix Mirrorless camera. I am having a blast, learning a new system, using all the features, enjoying the lighter and less expensive lenses. Along with this, don’t forget video. I am now adding video every time I shoot.

Once you’ve planned your assignment, get up early, let your creativity flow, go places you have never been, try something new, get out of your rut and have fun with photography doing photographs just for you!
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Doug Box is teaching a Nature, Macro, Floral, Animal, Landscape, Street and Travel Photography program at the 2017 Texas School of Professional Photography, April 23-28.. This is going to be a popular program, so remember to sign up Jan 3, 2017, at 11pm CST.

 

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