Got a call earlier a little while back from a friend who is off to the Rockies. She is a beginner with her camera, still basically using full auto most of the time, but aware that she could do more and wanting to make the most of the photographic opportunities from the trip. However, she is also not going to have lots of time to fiddle to get shots or to learn new techniques during the trip as her partner isn't always very patient when waiting for her to get her shots.
So what tips did I give her?
- Get a polarising filter. For a trip like this, with blue skies, cloud formations, and BIG scenery, a polarising filter (CPL) is essential! Take your normal clear filter off, screw in your CPL and leave it on. Remember to rotate it to see the effect when taking your shots – more on how it works in my earlier post Essential accessories – a polarising filter.
- Go with plenty of space on at least 2 SD cards. I now use 8Gb and 16 Gb cards for normal use. I keep a spare, empty card in my wallet at all times, and always download all my shots from a shoot as soon as I get home, then reformat the card in my camera to leave it clean and ready to go whenever needed. Nothing worse than arriving at a lovely photographic opportunity to find your card is full! More on this in my post on Setting your D3100 up for a wedding shoot.
- Use the mountains scene icon for landscapes. I generally advise beginners to switch from the full auto green camera icon (on Nikons) to a default setting of the Portrait (lady with a hat on) on the scene dial. This gives more pleasing narrow depth of field for shots as has the added benefit of giving faster shutter speeds so more shots come out sharp than in full auto mode. However, for this trip, with big scenery, if you want everything in full focus from front to back, use the mountains icon. The only thing to beware of using this setting is that it will give you slower shutter speeds. So the rule of thumb here is to make sure that your shutter speed ( the number in the bottom left of the viewfinder ) is at least as fast a 1/your zoom setting. So if your zoom is at 50mm, you need to ensure your shutter speed is at least 1/50th sec or faster, but if you zoom in to say 105mm, then your smallest shutter speed shouldn't be less than 1/100th sec. If you do go slower than these numbers, you will very likely get blur from camera shake. And most people can only get away with a shutter speed of 1/30th sec handheld whatever their zoom setting, so keep that in mind…
- Keep shooting! Memory cards are cheap, and how many times are you going to be in the Rockies! So keep shooting – the light never stops changing in mountains. I normally have my camera set to Multi shot mode as typically the second and third shots are sharper than the first as my finger has stopped moving.
- Make sure your camera is set to the highest resolution settings. Don't skimp and be fooled into thinking that getting more shots on your card is a good idea by setting your camera to lower resolutions. Always, always shoot at your top quality and resolution as you never know which of your images will be wanted by a magazine or paper. You can shrink a high-res shot but up-scaling never looks really good.
- Take a backup camera. Loss of your main camera on a trip like this is awful, so always pack a spare, even it it is just your little compact. I always have this with me on trips as well as my main camera, as you never know when you might drop the main one, have it stolen or even run out of battery!
- If printing from your card, shoot RAW & JPG. I would always recommend shooting RAW as this gives you far more data to play with in post processing than JPG. However, if you want to print direct from your cards you need JPG images for most store photo booths, so in this case, go into your menu and select the RAW and JPG option – and always choose JPG fine – the highest quality.
- Take a lens cloth or lens pen. These should be in your camera bag anyway, but always take, and use, a proper lens cloth or lens pen to ensure that your filter's front surface is clean and free of finger marks, grease or scuffs. if using your phone, always give the lens a quick wipe before shooting – see my earlier post
- Use postcards for inspiration. Postcards in the local shops at your destination are a great way to get a feel for the classic best views. Another great source of photo inspiration to check out before you go is the Internet – just type in your destination then choose images. Flickr is another worthwhile source for ideas – it never hurts to have done a bit of homework…
- Change your partner :). Just kidding! But maybe rope them in – give them a camera too!
Take a look at my last post as well on getting the big landscape shots
Some nice Rocky Mountain shots at http://cwmcdonald.com/2012/07/27/breaking-clouds-jasper/
Joe Houghton Photography runs small group photo shoots, individual 1 to 1 tuition, and photography assignments. You can see some of Joe’s photography on Fine Art America, ArtistRising or on his Flickr site.