Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photo tips for preserving memories from the field


Nothing ignites the memory of a great hunt or fishing trip like a great photograph.

But far too many hunters and anglers give the snapshot short shrift.

That's a shame, because getting really nice photos is a lot easier than bagging a 5x5 buck or catching a 10-pound walleye. Today's point-and-shoot cameras are idiot-proof. All you need are a few basic skills to make a photo keepsake that reflects the time, effort and passion you put into the outdoors.

Here's seven steps to better outdoor photography:

1. Learn to point and shoot. You can sight a rifle to shoot 1-inch groups at 200 yards, but you can't shoot your dit cam? L-A-M-E. Something in the Y chromosome wards men away from instruction manuals. Recognize it, accept it and overcome it. Women have no excuse.

One key: Figure out how to control the flash so you can turn it on and off, depending on the situation. More about that later.

2. Carry the camera with you. Why do most photos show deer splayed in a pickup bed or hanging in a garage? Because that's where you left the camera. We can all agree nature provides a far superior backdrop and lighting.

So, forget the SLR; instead, buy the smallest point-and-shoot you can afford so you will carry it in the field.

3. Fill the frame. This single step will improve your photos more than just about anything.

Most amateurs stand way too far from their subjects. Pose your subject so her face is clearly visible in relation to the deer's head, her honkin' bass or that first hard-earned greenhead. Then, watching the viewfinder, creep closer until the important elements dominate the frame.

Word of caution: Make sure you know how your auto-focus indicator works to make sure you're not too close.

4. The flash. Learn how and when to use a fill flash.

How: Read the manual so you can override the camera's automatic mode. This allows you to turn the flash on and off as needed.

When: In very bright, direct sunlight, a fill flash removes harsh shadows and reveals detail. Or, if the subject is backlit by the sun, a fill flash might salvage what otherwise would have been an accidental silhouette.

5. See the light. Pose your subject so the sun falls on his face. In other words, if the sun is behind him, turn him the other way.

Also, take advantage of early morning or late afternoon sun when possible - the sweetest light of the day makes a dramatic difference.

6. Move around. Try different points of reference. Crouch, stand up or lay on your belly until you find the right angle. You'll know it when you see it in the view finder.

7. Shoot 'em up. Pros burn through frames like you burned through ammo with your first pellet gun. Get a high-memory photo card (they're cheap nowadays) so you won't be afraid to press the button. Try some with and without fill flash, and don't forget to switch angles. You'll be amazed how often one frame is the perfect frame.

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