PARKS & GARDENS: PHOTOS CLOSER TO HOME
A simple walk in the park can yield plenty of shooting opportunities, and you might even find some in your own back garden
Tip 23: Patterns and contrasts
What you leave out of a photograph is just as important as what you leave in. Instead of trying to shoot whole objects, look for repeating shapes, patterns and textures within them. That’s why this shot works so well – by moving right in with a wide-angle lens, Craig Churchill has emphasised the pattern made by the bare trunks against the snow. The small patch of copper-coloured leaves left over from autumn, just off-centre, makes a striking contrast. Small areas of colour like this really stand out against monochromatic surroundings, showing that subtle hues can be just as effective as vibrant colours.
Tip 24: Frosty close-ups
What might just be a pile of leaves at any other time becomes a striking, graphic composition when it’s covered with frost, as this shot by John Glover demonstrates. To emphasise patterns and shapes, shoot straight downwards so that your subject is at right-angles to the camera. Or, to isolate a subject against a blurred backdrop, find an angle that places the maximum possible distance between it and the background, use a longer focal length and a wide lens aperture.
Tip 25: Fun and games
Alistair Balharrie’s sledging shot captures all the fun and excitement of snow, but on heavily overcast days you’ll need to check the camera settings carefully. Use exposure compensation of 1-1.5EV to stop the snow coming out grey, and don’t be fooled by the apparent brightness of the light – shutter speeds are often a lot slower than you’d expect, and you might need to increase the ISO to 800 or beyond to prevent camera-shake or blur.
Tip 26: Winter wildlife
Set up a bird table or hanging feeder and watch out for birds coming to feed. Depending on where you live, you might also get foxes and badgers visiting your garden, and squirrels too. Don’t chase them around the garden trying to get a shot! Instead, be patient, observe their habits and find a position you can shoot from unobtrusively. You’ll need a long telephoto lens and a tripod – it’s possible to shoot handheld, but it’s risky. A fast telephoto, like the 70-200mm f/2.8 used by Matt Hart for this picture, will increase your chances of a sharp shot.
Tip 27: Soft light
Winter light is perfect for portraits. It’s soft and flattering, and if there’s snow on the ground it acts as a ready-made reflector, as David Queenan demonstrates with this great family photo.
Tip 28: Strobist portrait techniques
This was shot by pro photographer Roman Makhmutov, using no fewer than five flashguns. The main illumination came from an off-camera flash with a softbox, bottom-right, while another with a beauty dish lit the scarf from behind. Another flashgun lit the model’s left side, a fourth provided a ‘kicker’, or hair light from the rear, and a fifth fitted with a blue gel added subtle background illumination for the trees behind. Who needs summer, or daylight?
Tip 29: Telephoto lenses
Use a telephoto lens for outdoor portraits, to blur distracting backgrounds.
Quick tips for getting sharp photos
Tip 30: Safe shutter speeds
Use the ‘reciprocal’ rule. If you’re shooting at a focal length of 30mm, say, don’t use a shutter speed slower than 1/30 sec.
Tip 31: Vibration Reduction, Image Stabilization
Nikon’s VR lenses and Canon IS lenses can help cut camera-shake down, while other manufacturers, such as Sony, make DSLRs with technology that shifts the sensor to counteract camera movement and works regardless of what lens you are using. However, as effective as these technologies are, they still won’t prevent blur when a subject moves.
Tip 32: Use a monopod
Monopods provide good support for the camera, and make handy walking poles when it’s slippery!
Tip 33: Brace yourself
Rest the camera on trees, walls or fences to help keep it steady.
How to take sharp landscape photos
Banish Bad Pictures: 9 quick fixes for common camera complaints
Pro Secrets: how to use a telephoto lens for awesome landscapes
The landscape photographer’s guide to shooting anywhere: free photography cheat sheet