5. Play with perspective
Photographers usually use wide-angle lenses to capture sweeping vistas, but for this shot of a wind farm on Culter Fell, landscape pro Simon Butterworth used a long lens to compress the distance between the rolling hills.
“It’s the least populated area in Scotland,” says Simon. “It’s not an easy place to photograph because there aren’t that many features in the landscape, but it does get the most fantastic light.”
Simon was walking on the fells in poor weather, and he thought he wasn’t going to get anything. “Then there was this fantastic break in the clouds that lasted about five minutes, so I put the long lens on and took a few shots. I wanted to pull the hills together, and to make it look like there were loads of wind turbines in one place, so the long lens brought them all closer together. The wind turbines would have been almost invisible if I’d used a wide-angle.
“I set my camera to Manual when taking a shot like this, as you never know how the meter will react. In this scene it would have exposed for the hills, and the highlights would have blown out.”
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- Keep looking through the viewfinder – you can never quite visualise the compression effect.
- Use a tripod, select Manual mode and set a narrow aperture. Focus a third of the way into the scene.
- Check the histogram. You want the highlights to be almost right up against the right-hand edge. If they aren’t, adjust the shutter speed.
6. Shoot an environmental portrait
Shooting portraits in a subject’s normal working environment can reveal more about their characters than conventional portraiture could, and as landscape pro Julian Elliott describes, setting up a shoot needn’t be difficult or time-consuming.
He was recently asked by a potential client for some examples of his environmental portraits. He didn’t have any, so he approached a couple of shops in his home town where he thought he could get the shots he needed. They declined, so he had to think on his feet.
“There’s a baker I go to every now and then, and behind the countertop, it’s all open. I just introduced myself and explained what I needed. They had no idea who I was, but they said, ‘Yes, come in.’ I took about 20 shots in ten minutes.”
“I asked them not to pose, and while they knew they were being photographed, they just got on with their jobs. I wanted to show the energy that goes into what they do – they must be shattered at the end of the day.”
Check out our free portrait photography cropping guide.
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- Julian was short of time when he took his baker shots, so he resorted to knocking on doors, but he says that the best thing is to contact potential subjects, show them your work, and let them know what to expect.
- Think quickly about what you want to capture, and leave your camera on Aperture Priority mode. “You can’t be messing about with settings on your camera,” says Julian.
- The likelihood is, you’ll be shooting indoors in poor light, so take your fastest lens – the one with the widest maximum aperture – and increase the ISO on your camera if necessary. As a rule of thumb, keep your shutter speed at least as long as your focal length. So if you’re shooting at 50mm, go no slower than 1/50 sec.
7. Use flash to freeze action and blur motion in one frame
Conveying the exciting action of a BMX stunt can be difficult, but one solution is to both freeze and blur motion by using a slow shutter speed combined with flash, as Jared Souney did in his shot of cyclist Gabe Kadmiri, below.
“I shot at dusk, and lit the scene with a Sunpak 555 on a stand to the right of the camera and a Quantum Qflash in my left hand,” Jared says. “I hand-held my SLR.”
You need to anticipate the cyclist’s moves, not just to get the shot, but to stay safe. “You have to know what’s going to happen before it happens,” says Jared, “or you’ll end up with a pile of camera parts!”
If you plan on shooting cyclists like Jared, check out our guide to using panning to enhance your cycling photography.
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- This year’s BMX World Championships takes place in Birmingham on 24-26 May, providing plenty of shooting opportunities if your local skate park doesn’t suffice.
- Get in close to your subject and shoot wide to increase the size of the subject in the frame. Jared used a fisheye lens.
- Set a slow shutter speed of 1/15 sec to blur the subject’s movement, and use a flashgun set to rear-curtain sync to freeze the motion at the end of the exposure.
8. Use torchlight after dark
Few scenes have such atavistic power as a prehistoric stone circle shot against a setting sun. This photo of the Callanish stone circle on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, by landscape pro Guy Edwardes swiftly transports the viewer to another time when life was simpler, harder, and more spiritual.
But as simple and raw as the image may seem, it’s not without artifice, as Guy explains: “It’s not actually a sunset,” he admits. “I took it about an hour later. In the summer, it doesn’t really get dark properly in the Outer Hebrides, so there was plenty of residual colour in the clouds. The starburst that looks like the setting sun is the light from a handheld torch.”
Guy exposed the image using a narrow aperture of f/22, which helped to keep the subject and foreground grass sharp, and created the starburst effect on the torchlight. “My wife was with me,” he says, “so she held the little torch behind the stone while I took the picture. You have to get the position just right, so it’s just peeping out from behind the stone, pointed directly at the camera.”
For more, check out our guide to the 12 common errors of night photography (and how to fix them).
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- For silhouettes at sunset, Guy recommends you take a Spot meter reading from the brightest part of the sky, and then increase the exposure time by about a stop and a half. So if your camera’s meter suggests an exposure time of 10 secs, expose for 20-25 secs.
- Check the histogram (find out how to read a histogram). “If there’s a small gap on the right,” Guy says, “then you know you’ve got the image as bright as you can possibly get it without clipping the highlights. If it’s too bright, reduce the length of the exposure slightly.”
9. Photograph military aircraft
The air show season is about to start in the UK, offering plenty of opportunities for great aeroplane shots, and if you’re lucky enough to live near an airbase, now’s the time to practise. This shot of a GR4 Tornado was taken by bird and aviation pro Nigel Blake as it took off from RAF Marham in Norfolk.
You might think that shooting military aircraft from the perimeter of an airbase is the prelude to a short stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure, but as long as you’re sensible, and open about what you’re doing, the authorities won’t bother you.
“Security might want to know what you’re up to,” Nigel explains, “but generally they are really friendly and don’t mind at all.
“I’d been shooting in a nearby wood, and was passing Marham on my way home. After checking my Photographer’s Ephemeris app on my iPhone I realised the sun was setting in line with the runway. Marham is built on a hump, and the runway has nothing but sky as a backdrop.”
“Six aircraft took off, and one of them came out with the burners on. It was cold, so the difference in temperature between the air and the burners exaggerated the ‘jelly air’ behind.”
For more, check out our 6 simple tips for better pictures of planes.
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- Make several visits and get to know how the pilots fly, what patterns they fly in, when they’ll drop the undercarriage, and so on.
- Mount a long lens, with a teleconverter if necessary, and stand to the side of the runway so you can pan smoothly with the aircraft.
- Switch to Aperture Priority mode and select Evaluative metering. For shots facing the setting sun, dial in +2/3EV of Exposure Compensation.
- Use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 sec to get the heat haze of the afterburners pin sharp.
PAGE 1: Garden flower photography to Abstract art
PAGE 2: Play with perspective to Photograph military aircraft
40 More Portrait Ideas: part 2 of our free downloadable posing guide
73 photo locations to shoot before you die
99 Common Photography Problems (and how to solve them)
Common mistakes at every shutter speed (and the best settings to use)
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