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10 Ways Photography Can Positively Contribute To Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

10 Ways Photography Can Positively Contribute To Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

Mental health is important to all of us. Undoubtedly, the best way to keep yourself positive is to do something you enjoy. Do some more photography during the pandemic. It can be a big benefit to your outlook.

Mental health is something everyone should, literally, keep in mind. With the COVID-19 pandemic, communities at large are facing plenty of life-altering effects. The immediate concerns are the physical effects of the virus and its complications. Furthermore, there is wide spread evidence of a rapid increase of psychological distress globally. Any sustained pressure in society leads to difficult behaviour. Consequently, the most common mental health issues arising from the outbreak include stress, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration and depression.

In a study made by QJM International Journal of Medicine QJM International Journal of Medicine | External link - opens new tab/page, the escalating new mental health problems are associated with the general fear and long lasting public anxiety over the spread of COVID-19. In addition, inadequate information provided by the media also increases the feelings of hopelessness and desperation. The abnormally elevated levels of anxiety are further associated with negative consequences. These include harboring of desperate thoughts and suicidal behavior.

Tough restrictions take their toll

Strict quarantine protocols have lead to feelings of frustration and made a lot of people feel frail and helpless. The data on the same study by QJM revealed more. Among individuals who were quarantined, frustration, boredom and loneliness are thought to cause an impairment of the subjective well-being and the overall quality of life. Furthermore, other Medical Journals have noted mental health concerns. These include sleep disturbances and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | External link - opens new tab/page. Unfortunately, these Mental health impacts can last, not only during the quarantine period, but even into the long-term.

The impact on mental health brought about by the rapid spread of the pandemic is enough to clearly recognize it as a major health priority. What should we do about it? There are still no official behavioral strategies to help reduce the dramatic mental health problems induced by the pandemic. Nevertheless, you are encouraged to take personal measures that can somehow alleviate the mental health consequences.

What can we do about it?

Thousands of studies have revealed different methodologies to care for people suffering from mental health problems. Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 protocols make it difficult to easily access mental health treatment options. So how does one cope with a personal mental health issue?

Reducing the stress is difficult. However, it does seem to be a most effective way to fight mental health issues. During the initial lockdown, and since then, relaxing activities at home were encouraged. An absorbing hobby or interest is said to reduce boredom and uplift your spirits. A study by Lancaster University researchers found that Engaging in photography significantly improves a person’s well-being Engaging in photography significantly improves a person’s well-being | External link - opens new tab/page. The visual arts have long been studied for their positive effects on both the physical and psychological health. Photography is a form of self-expression in the visual arts. Consequently, photography can contribute to your ability to maintain or reconstruct a positive outlook.

The benefits

Taking up more of your time with photography will have effects on improving both physical and mental health. To illustrate how photography can be a great benefit to those facing mental health struggles, especially during the pandemic, we have identified these benefits of photography…

1. Photography improves self-care habits

Dr. Liz Brewster of Lancaster University and Dr. Andrew Cox from the University of Sheffield have done a study that revealed how taking pictures daily and sharing them with others can actually improve self-care. Doing something new develops into a new habit. The process is therapeutic and makes a person feel refreshed. Furthermore, it keeps the brain busy by making it think about creative photos to take every day. (See: Daily photography improves well-being – Brewster & Cox, 2018)

2. Photography encourages community interaction

Making valuable connections significantly improves a person’s well-being. Taking pictures and sharing them to a community, like a social media group, helps you to meet new people with the same interests. Photography becomes a common ground that can spark conversations, make connections, and eventually find support to fight loneliness and boredom.

3. Photography makes an individual reminisce

Photographs capture unique moments. The pictures you take can help bring back memories from the past. At the same time, your photos bring back the positive thoughts that go with those moments. This is one reason why people who are feeling sad or depressed look through old pictures. It is an effective method to, somehow, lift the mood. The point is, photography is a lovely way to make memories as well as, looking back, to remember them in a positive light.

4. Photography provides a beautiful vision of the world

Every picture tells a different story. Taking pictures lets you see a unique beauty all around you. As you review your shots you will get to appreciate those things you once took for granted. You discover your environment with a renewed vision without even meaning to. The greatest thing about it is that photos let you freeze the beauty that you see as you take photos of the world around you.

5. Photography keeps the brain in great shape

The brain, like other body parts, gets old. Photography is a good exercise to keep the brain healthy. According to research by Professor Denise C. Park from the University of Texas, photography is an activity that demands high-cognition. In her study, participants who engaged in digital photography are able to enhance and improve their episodic memory and reasoning skills. In short, photography can help you ‘use it’, rather than ‘lose it’.

“Although there is much more to be learned, we are cautiously optimistic that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained, mentally challenging experiences.”
Mentally challenging activities key to a healthy aging mind Mentally challenging activities key to a healthy aging mind | External link - opens new tab/page

6. Photography can help the body get moving

Photography typically encourages exercise. If you go out and walk around in the hope of taking great pictures of the outdoors – you are exercising. This allows the body to burn calories, especially when you need to climb a tree, get closer to a subject, or do any physical activity that helps you find a good shot. Walking, especially in the hills, is great exercise and a great photo-opportunity too. Moreover, while getting fitter, you are improving your mental health.

7. You get to enjoy what you love even more

It is natural for a photographer to take photos of something that is of interest to him or her. The interest keeps you more engaged. As you become absorbed in an enjoyable experience you also see your interests in a different perspective. Absorption and engagement gives you a rewarding feeling that can boost your happiness.

8. Photos are positive mood stimulants

A study titled The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature | External link - opens new tab/page, art therapy can help reduce cortisol, a hormone that can cause stress in the human body. Photography is a form of art. Taking a good picture, therefore, makes a person feel relaxed. Consequently, taking positive photos helps you see the world differently and will keep you motivated.

9. Photography improves creativity

Activating the brain through photography is possible because it does not only awaken creativity. It actually lets the brain process different thoughts and encourages the body to translate its emotions into photos. The activity also promotes curiosity and gives you the courage to try out different techniques to improve every shot. As mentioned above, sustained, mentally challenging experiences help keep your mental processes active or even improve them. Of course, photography includes lots of challenging mental experiences – learning, observing and creating – to name but a few.

10. Photography gives you a sense of direction

Especially during the pandemic, people worry about the uncertainty of the coming days. Photography somehow eases you out of the daunting thoughts by making you look forward to what you will photograph next. Instead of brooding about what is in store, taking photos lets you enjoy each moment, guiding you to be positive. Think about your photography and get excited about the next day – that is a great step toward positive mental health.

Additional Tip:

How to Take Photos & Be Creative During Quarantine

By picking up a camera, you instantly challenge yourself to get creative. The problem, however, is that there are limitations set to maintain social distancing and lockdown protocols. Because taking outdoor shots may be challenging for some, here are some practical tips for photographers that you can do to enjoy photography while in quarantine…

Photo editing

Explore different methods of photo editing. For those who are working from home or are taking online classes, you may have a bunch of time in your hands. Use it to learn about improving your photos. You may enroll in online classes or explore any photo editing app that you currently have. This will allow you to revisit old photos and have you attempt to enhance them using what you have learned. Remember, learning is great for your mental health.

Photograph food

There’s no better time to actually appreciate the chance to enjoy cooking and eating than being in quarantine. Get creative with your meals and transform them into fine art photos. Eating AND photography – what could be better!

Go black & white

One way to develop your photography skills is by shooting in black & white. Most digital cameras have a setting for monotone shots. Try it with your family or pet as the model and try to hone your skills with this technique. Alternatively, you could try converting old photos to black & white in a photo editor. Your photography will improve by looking at your photos in a different way. In addition, new ideas and approaches is good for your mental health.

Take a photo scavenger hunt

This is a fun challenge that you can do at home to help occupy your time. Make it a contest. Get your family and friends and create a social media group where you can upload and see each others’ shots. Mix and match your ideas with others. In short, have a great time, and improve your mental health and well-being. (Download: Prepare a Photo Scavenger Hunt).

Get creative with a free background remover

Instead of brooding about not being able to get out, you can use a background remover to edit your photos. You can bring the outdoors into your pictures. Lighten the mood by editing yourself into travel destinations. Get a good laugh by having a virtual group picture with your friends and make it look real with a new background. There are tons of creative things you can do once you remove the background from the image. Once again, laughing and community are great for your mental health.
 

The value of photography is greater than just the pictures

Photography can help you to express yourself. However, it has become a lot more valuable during this pandemic. It can help you personally focus on positive life experiences, reduce stressors, and enhance self-worth. Photography is absorbing and interesting. The engagement you get from this hobby is important, especially as the world has gone through so many changes in the months since the outbreak started. Focusing on photography somehow gives the mind and body a sense of balance. As a result, you are ready to face the day with positive thoughts and attitude.

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Post contributed by :: Jenn Pereira

Jenn Pereira is the Product Designer of Removal.AI, an AI technology used to remove background from images. This tool also comes with a free online photo editor that allows users to create diverting graphics, banners and images. She is passionate when it comes to designing and creating new ideas to help brands and small businesses realize and achieve their goals through innovative product, UI/UX design application and strategic digital marketing.
Website: Removal.AI Website: Removal.AI | External link - opens new tab/page

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Low light action shots – tips for getting them right

“Low light action shots” is contributed by Melanie Hyde (Bio) of PaintShopPro.com Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Action photography itself can be extremely challenging. Being in the perfect place at just the right time, capturing that incredible moment. Then, hoping to transport anyone who sees your photo across time and space to take them back to the moment the image was taken. It’s a truly a magical experience, whether you’re taking the picture or the viewer.

Given the challenges that come with action photography, removing most of the light only makes it all the more difficult.

There is good news. The same principles of action photography and proper exposure apply. It’s just a little more challenging to get those low light action shots.

Light sources for your low light action shots

When it comes to taking low light action photos, you’ll need to combine the available light sources. This will help to make the most of the situation. First, take a look around and identify whether the lighting is constant or variable.

Constant Light

Constant light occurs within your setting when you can isolate out a source for a shot. Framing the shot is important so that the light is consistent for that shot. The next shot may have a different source – you need to isolate the light for that too. For example, if you were shooting a wedding reception, you might capture an image of the bride and groom on the dance floor. Then, you turn around and capture an image of the bride’s parents dancing across the room. Depending on the setting, the lighting may be different between the two subjects but consistent within each shot.

When lighting is consistent, operating your camera becomes much easier. The camera can adjust to meet the needs of the low light action shots. Here are a few points to keep in mind when shooting with constant low light:

  • Shoot in shutter priority mode so the camera can adjust.
  • Use Auto White Balance so the camera can adjust.
  • Manually control your ISO.
Variable light

Variable light occurs when light sources are constantly changing and are inconsistent across your field of view. Imagine you’re photographing the lead singer at a rock concert. You may have to deal with strobes, spotlights and pyrotechnics. The constant changes in light sources will cause your camera to struggle to automatically expose the image correctly.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera - go manual.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera – go manual.

When dealing with variable light conditions it’s usually best to go manual. In this situation, remember to:

  • Manually set your aperture and shutter speed.
  • Manually set your White Balance.
  • Manually set your ISO.
Balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

You have three ways to control the way your camera exposes an image. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. To successfully capture great low light action shots, you must be able to manipulate these elements. Select settings that allow you to capture the highest quality image for the ambient light conditions.

The exposure triangle helps you to keep your shot’s exposure within the capability of the camera and lens. So when going manual your settings should allow these three essentials to balance. Look in your viewfinder to get the needle settled in the centre for a proper exposure. For more detail check out The Exposure Triangle – An aid to thinking about exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

Start with shutter speed

Low light action shots are by definition going to be in difficult light for your camera. Getting your shutter speed right can be tricky. However, it has a huge impact when shooting movement in low light. The following diagram will help you select the right setting.

Camera shutter speed guide.

Camera shutter speed guide :: Low light action shots need the right camera speed. If the shutter speed is too low you get blurring.

You have to select a speed that is fast enough to capture the motion clearly and without blur. The speed should still slow enough to deal with the lack of light. For action shots, it’s always best to use the fastest shutter speed that the light allows. It is a balancing act so you will need to practice.

Select the widest aperture for your low light action shots

In action photography, capturing crisp and clean images is usually the priority. When shooting with low light settings, it’s crucial to get as much light to your sensor in the small amount of time that your shutter is open as possible.

For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

The aperture sets the initial amount of light coming into the lens. For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

To accomplish this, use the widest aperture that your camera allows. While shooting in shutter priority mode, you allow your camera to do this automatically. Shooting in manual mode however, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your exposure. You need to make sure that your images are not underexposed in the low light.

Using high ISO

Are your images are consistently coming out blurry with your aperture is as wide as can be? Consider stepping up your ISO settings.

Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

On the dance floor the light is almost always difficult. Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

By changing your ISO, you alter your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more exposed your image will be. Just be cautious: using a higher ISO may introduce more “noise” to your photos. This noise can often be reduced or corrected in a post-processing software like PaintShop Pro Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page or Lightroom Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page. (Shooting in RAW is especially helpful with noise reduction).

Check your work as you go

Throughout the shoot, use your histogram. (See: Can you use the histogram on your camera?) It will help to make sure you’re exposing your images correctly. The histogram shows the distribution of the type of light in your shot. It aims to help you capture a consistent amount of light across the full spectrum of your image.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

You’ll also want to make sure that your white balance looks good and adjust accordingly. In most cases, your camera is going to be able to set white balance automatically, but you may need to tweak it; especially if your lighting is wildly inconsistent.

Increase your odds

Low light action shots are all about being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.

Use the fastest lens you can find. The wider the aperture, the more light your lens allows to strike your camera sensor. Anything higher than F2.8 will cause you to struggle with exposure.

Set the camera to continuous drive. This equips your camera to capture a burst of images every time you press the shutter release and gives you a better chance of capturing that perfect picture.

Use a fast memory card. Your camera can only capture images as fast as it can write them to the memory card. If you snap too many images in rapid succession, you’ll have to wait for the card to catch up with your camera and you might miss “the shot.”

Be prepared to shoot…a lot. You’re going to have a lot of images that are no good. So remember to keep tinkering with your settings. The key is shooting lots of images at different settings until you get the perfect mix.

Don’t forget to have fun

Low light action photography can be both challenging and fulfilling. As you refine your skills and your eye for lighting, action, and composition, remember to regularly experiment and try new settings.

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Essential gadgets for the everyday photographer

Essential gadgets for the photographer

A look at some essential gadgets for the photog…

Today’s article comes from: Jane Grates (Bio) from Sleeklens.com.

It is essential, and fun, to keep up-to-date with the latest trends. Gadgets occupy an important niche in our world of photography. In this article I look at the essential gadgets that are must-haves for the serious photographer.

essential gadgets for the photog

Look out for those essential gadgets…

SD Card holder

First, the basics. Lots of hardware to improve your performance as a photographer is wasted if you do not have enough space to store pictures. The storage issue can become a nuisance. Beat the problem and have many SD cards in order to prevent lack of drive space. This is particularly important for photographers who travel a lot.

Essential gadgets - The SD card holder.

Essential gadgets – The SD card holder.

Buying an SD card holder is a smart solution to the space problem. You can split your work over different SD cards to create a well organized library. Not only are you placing your work in a safe place, you are creating smart categories too.

A Tripod

A classic, the tripod is vital when dealing with heavy lenses or long exposure times. Night time photography is almost impossible without a tripod. The longer exposures are needed to capture low light levels.

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have. Look for one that suits the needs of your photo interests and for height and transportability. Higher quality tripods tend to be heavier, but this means they are less likely to blow over or vibrate in windy conditions.

xxx

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have.

Think how you will use your tripod. This will determine the price range. If you do your work mainly in a studio, or you are just starting your business, you can buy a simple model. If, on the other hand, you are a skilled photographer, you will want to buy a pricier, more adaptable one to last longer and endure the diverse conditions you may come across.

Lens Filters

You can create “filter effects” with post-production ‘presets’ in editing software. But you can skip a step by using on-camera filters. This will save incredible amounts of time in processing. Filters can help you avoid burned out images from strong sun if you use Polarized filters. The camera lens will react the way your eyes do when you use polarized sunglasses.

Polorising filter - one of the more essential gadgets.

Polarising filters help you deal with strong sunlight – one of the more essential gadgets.

Remember to buy a lens filter that fits your lens size. There are companion gadgets for filters. Step-up/down rings serve to create a perfect fit on lenses with non-standard formats or sizes. The latter are commonly seen on bridge cameras.

Remote shutter release

For long exposure times, or for portrait pictures including the photographer in the scene, remote shutter devices are handy tools. Simply grab your remote shutter release, place your camera on the tripod and let the action flow.

Remote shutter release - one of the essential gadgets.

Remote shutter release – one of the essential gadgets.

You can choose a remote shutter release from wired or wireless devices. I recommend buying a wired model, at times interference can be frustrating. Although, there are some very good models on the market recently. It is worth

Another remote shutter choice is a phone app. Not all camera models are supported. Some Canon and Nikon models are compatible with this feature. The apps are cheap, or free, saving some of your money. In fairness the latest remote shutters are not really expensive. Still, having a phone app will certainly guarantee that you won’t forget your remote shutter release wherever you go!

Weather cases

A common problem, as a photographer, is the sudden appearance of bad weather. It’s not good for using your camera! Don’t risk the investment you made in quality kit. Consider carrying a weather-safe case that fits your camera model, lenses and other accessories. Not only are you going to protect your beloved camera, but you can continue your shoot regardless of the conditions.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather - use a camera case.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather – use a camera case.

Weather sealed cameras can benefit from this protection too. Water seals deteriorate over time. Other attached accessories are not all water proof as well. Don’t risk your device without even thinking about it.

Smart phone lenses

If you are a photographer on the go, you probably own a smartphone. Up to date models have a good camera. It can be a limitless source of creativity. However, smartphones are limited compared to modern DSLR cameras. They rarely have full and true manual controls. They lack the proper control of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed settings.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

A cool way to fix this issue is smartphone lenses. They come in a wide range of prices and with various features. Common base models of add-on smartphone lenses can do things that smartphone camera lenses can’t do. For example, fish-eye effect, macro or telephoto and other effects. More complex models, like the latest Sony QX-10, completely reinvents the smartphone lens concept. It boosts the smartphone with a professional quality sensor packed with manual controls. Even if it seems to be pricey, the result won’t disappoint.

Remember, the smartphone is a useful addition to the camera bag in its own right. Check out this post: Using tablets in photography.

Essential gadgets – more than just the camera… Photographer’s backpack

Like the tripod, photographers backpacks are a common classic. They provide storage for the camera, different lenses, as well as leaving room for other important items. Some are also designed to carry laptops, batteries, and much more. Avoid back packs that are not designed for photography. They can cause equipment damage. Specially designed packs let you carry equipment safely and help you pack efficiently.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Consider buying a weatherproof backpack regardless of price. Protecting your working equipment is a top priority. Photographic equipment is highly sensitive to poor climate conditions. Most good quality packs come with slip-over water protection.

Also, be aware of the maximum weight supported by the backpack. Don’t over load it (or you). Avoid misuse, which will shorten the life expectancy of the product. Protect it from wear, chemicals and dust.

Essential gadgets are those that suit your needs

You can find countless options for complimenting your photography and workflow. Most will depend on the kinds of photography you decide to focus on. In the end, it is up to you to find the best equipment that will enhance your day-to-day photography. Everyone has their own special “essential gadgets”… What are yours?

Feed your imagination…

Here are some more essential gadgets for photographers on Amazon.
Check out this Google search on essential gadgets for photographers!

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Looking for the natural detail

Looking for natural detail :: It is all too easy to miss the finer details in nature.

• Looking for the natural detail •
Casual observation often misses the natural detail in a scene. Most of us are guilty of walking past the fascinating detail and seeing only the bigger picture.

Getting closer to the riches.

“I’m sure we’ve all walked along a beach, enjoying the moment. A time to kick off shoes, socks and the shackles of daily life. To relax in one’s own world, exploring new surroundings. But do we soak up all we see around us or do we merely pass by, with little more than a cursory glance? To stop and look closely, could be considered a luxury – but then why not? Enjoy all the riches a beach has to share, it fuels our memories all through the winter time. Is it real, or just a dream?”

These are the opening words to a sequence from the second presentation in my Hebridean Trilogy, entitled “The Island Dream”. And how true they are. I am sure we have all been guilty of overlooking the finer natural detail, spread out as it is, all around us.

Natural detail :: Patterns left by the falling tide as the sea, sand and peat mingle

• Water patterns in the sand •
Patterns left by the falling tide, as the sea, sand and peat mingle on a Hebridean Island.

Natural detail – the wonders up close

I am often on my knees, on a beach, photographing the wonders to be seen up close. Whether they be patterns left by the falling tide, as the sea and the sand and the peat mingle together, or broken shells who have ended thier life by being smashed in the endless surf.

You don’t need specialist equipment or Macro lenses to capture this natural detail. Most cameras have a close up feature incorporated which adjusts the camera’s settings accordingly. With your feet and legs set firm in the sand, and holding the camera tightly, you can almost replicate a tripod. This ensures images are sharp and in focus where they have to be.

Natural detail :: Shells which ended their life smashed in the endless surf.

• Broken shells •
Shells which ended their life smashed in the endless surf.


You may also need to consider lighting. We photographers often keep the sun behind us. When crouched on the beach your subject could be in deep shade. This is tasking the camera too far. Perhaps a bright but overcast day would be better, avoiding strong directional light which may cause camera sensors to work overtime.

A quiet, wondrous place

A quiet beach in the right light can be a wondrous place. Try mooching along the sand, being careful not to leave footprints where you may later wish to photograph. No need to rush either, enjoy the rare moment.

Natural detail :: You can almost replicate a tripod

• Detail in the sand •
With feet and legs set firm in the sand you can almost replicate a tripod for your natural detail shot.


I recall a visit to Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. One beach offered me countless opportunities to photograph the finer points of natural detail. I must have spent several hours, in glorious warm sunshine, ambling along the shore line. I can’t recall now how many images I got. It must have been several dozen. With digital, if the shot doesn’t work for you, at least you can delete it later. In the days of colour transparencies, you couldn’t delete them and each shot had a cost attached. Even then you couldn’t see how it had come out!

Work the scene

So my advice is to find a suitable beach and “work it” hard, but in a relaxed fashion. Enjoy both the atmosphere and the images you find.

Natural detail :: On a beach there's fine detail is all around.

• Fine detail everywhere •
Find a suitable beach and “work it” hard. The natural detail is all around.


Photography should be fun and not a chore. I used to be most concerned if, after 3 or 4 weeks shooting in the Hebrides, I came home with very few images. Nowadays it doesn’t bother me so much, as I have revelled in the hidden beauty of the wonderful Hebridean Islands.

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Ruari Cumming ARPS (contributing author)

Words and images by: © Ruari Cumming ARPS/Hebridean-Island-Images.com
Ruari has been photographing the Hebridean Islands for many years. He is a distinguished photographer holding the ARPS award. He continues to take stunning pictures of the landscapes, beaches and people of the Islands. He also regularly gives talks on his work. More… Hebridean Island Images Hebridean Island Images | External link - opens new tab/page

How to prepare for a photo safari and what to take

The King

• The King
Image by John de Jager • OnePhotography  External link - opens new tab/page

Going on safari – it’s amazing.

Photographic safaris should be experienced by every photographer at least once in a lifetime. They provide the perfect opportunity to photograph wildlife and nature as they are dedicated tours focusing on photography.

What is on offer on a photo-safari?

Most offer private vehicles allowing the photographers to focus on specific wildlife, spend the needed time with the wildlife to get the shot, and allow for a more flexible approach to the safari. Most importantly, the safari is hosted by an expert wildlife photographer to assist clients with getting the perfect shot and then processing the images.

How should you prepare

• Contact the operator of your chosen photographic safari company and confirm with them what their recommended equipment is. This can vary from area to area, especially with regards to lenses. Some reserves allow vehicles to follow animals off road and one can get away with shorter lenses e.g. 200mm. Other reserves are more restricted and longer lenses are required e.g. 600mm.
• Spend time getting to know your camera and equipment. Wildlife photography is not static. You will see fast moving subjects and shifting light. You should be able to change settings quickly.
• Practice by photographing pets or birds in your local home area. Get a feel for photographing a moving subject. (You can get some more advice on this in our action photography course – Editor).
• Beginners and amateurs, don’t worry! This is exactly why an expert wildlife photographer joins you on safari. The host will assist you with the best camera settings and how to get the best out of your camera.

On a mission

• On a mission •
Click to view large
Image by John de Jager • OnePhotography  External link - opens new tab/page

What you should take

Once you are out in the field it is not easy to get more equipment. Think ahead…
• A camera and lens within your price range (some operators offer equipment rental). Lens wise, it is good to have a wide angle lens for landscapes and a telephoto lens for the animals.
• An external flash with spare batteries is well worth having. If you can also bring a wireless flash transmitter to avoid “red-eye”.
• A shutter release switch for star trails and possibly an (intervalometer).
• Take enough memory cards (high speed). I have shot 8GB in RAW images in less than an hour on safari before, so it is important to have enough backup memory space available. Some form of external storage device to transfer images onto after each safari is advisable too. The reason why I suggest high speed cards is because in wildlife photography you will often shoot in high speed continuous mode. Card speeds affect how many frames you can capture in a burst of shots.
• Take spare batteries. You can be out on a drive for many hours at a time.
• A good laptop powerful enough to process images on Photoshop/lightroom or other post-processing software. Some operators offer monitors to uplink to for editing purposes but if not, bring a laptop with dedicated graphics and an RGB LED screen.
• A memory card reader or method of downloading your images to clear your memory cards each day.
• A good lens cleaning kit is essential. Being out in the field leads to dust collection!
• Insure your equipment! Weather can be unpredictable and I have had a client lose a Canon 600mm lens in a freak wind storm that caused a log to fall on the lens. The lens was not insured…!
• Bean bag or vehicle mount to hold your camera nice and still while shooting.
• Plastic packets, waterproof camera sleeves or waterproof material! Thunderstorms are common in Africa through the summer months. So bring something just to cover up that lens or camera.
• Bring a lot of patience! Wildlife photography is often about waiting for the right moment. Under the guidance of your host and guide, this wait will be more than worth it.
• A willingness to learn and share. It is important on these safaris to be willing to learn, not just about photography but about the creatures you are photographing. The more you learn about animal behaviour. the better. It will allow you to anticipate your next shot. Share with the others on safari too. Everyone has some idea or technique that may just help others in the group.
• An ethical respect for nature is very important. Not only is it unethical to disturb animals to get a shot, but it can at times put you and the rest of the clients in danger.
• Adequate protection against the sun (hats, sun cream etc).

John de Jager (Contributing Author)

John de Jager is the owner of Onephotography, a photographic safari company operating in South Africa. They specialize in luxury photographic safaris focusing on rare and endangered species found in South Africa – as well as all the classic wildlife. See OnePhotography on FaceBook  External link - opens new tab/page for regular updates and stunning imagery.

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Three great tips for travel and street photography

Three 'Ain't a Crowd

Three ‘Ain’t a Crowd – Taken in Lisbon, Portugal
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
By Paul Donohoe on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

Travel and street photography are a natural fit.

All street photography involves travel. Whether you are travelling round the world, or just across town, this article is for you. It all involves travel. Adventure awaits the traveller and street photographer.

Finding the location

How do you go about finding the best location for street photography in a new place? I am going to cover three tips to help any street photographer, wherever they are traveling, and regardless of the time they have. Each tip will require a little tinkering depending on your needs and preferences, and on the place you’re traveling in.

1. Explore with or without your camera – Play the Tourist

Yes, that’s right: with or without your camera. Surely, you are asking, a good street photographer always carries a camera? Well, sometimes, no. You can carry one as you explore if you insist, but it’ll work better without!

What do people say about tourists? They are so busy trying to get pictures of the things they are looking at that they end up seeing hardly anything at all. Here is tip one: play tourist but without the camera. Just wander around, looking at — and seeing — the sights. Soak up the atmosphere.

If you’re in a new place for a week or so, take more time to wander around. Of course, if you’re visiting for only a day then you might only take an hour.

Following this plan has advantages for the street photographer. Just looking at the sights gets the sightseeing part of the deal out of your system. It’s important for a photographer to spend time without a camera, just using their eyes. In a new place there are always new sights to see. This can be really distracting when you are trying to focus on the lives of the people carrying on amid the other eye candy.

As you explore, you will discover places that appeal to you. You will find where the crowds are, the interesting backdrops – the places you just know you will come back to.

Lisbon Wall

Lisbon Wall • After Escher
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
Pauls-Pictures, on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

I saw this wall and climbed those stairs once or twice as I explored. I saw this image in my mind’s eye. Then when I came back with my camera, it was there waiting for me!

2. Research: the where, the what, the who and the when

It’s not hard to spend an hour on the internet looking at maps and other information. A lot of people will be content to conduct this research after they arrive at their travel destination, and that’s fine. For me, I like to prepare ahead. The planning, for me, is half the fun!

Are there events, festivals or other activities happening? Where do people gather? What about shopping areas where people stroll? Knowing these things ahead of time, will not only get you excited about your visit, but will start the creative juices flowing.

Check online for the work of other street photographers in the place you’re visiting. Read their blogs, think about their experiences. This isn’t so you can “copy” what they’ve done. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about where and what to photograph — and sometimes where and what not to!

Flea Market Stall Holders

• Flea Market Stall Holders •
By Paul Donohoe – Street photographer
• Click image to view large •
Pauls-Pictures, on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

Having heard there was a huge flea market twice a week, I headed there at the first available opportunity. I sometimes think markets were invented for street photography)

3. In street photographer mode…

Keep walking and exploring or focus on a favoured place you’ve found and stay there. You’ve explored and you’ve done your research. Now it’s time to get on with it and get some street photos! The crucial factor in being able to make good street photographs is to be in street photographer mode.

You will read that some people are always in that mode. Perhaps. However, here’s what I mean… To make good street photographs you have to be truly in the space and in the moment. You need to be in tune with the environment and with the people you encounter. In other words, you have to become “of the street” – you belong there, it is your space but it’s also a space you are sharing, even if only temporarily, with other people around you.

Keep walking. Go back to the places you discovered in your exploration and research.

So much of street photography is about feelings, intuition. If, by chance, you come across a space you feel is just right for you, sit awhile and watch the people go by. It might be a park, a town square, or even a train station entrance.

Walking or staying put: there’s no right or wrong. And you can switch between the two; sit for a while till you just feel it’s time to move on.

The picture at the top of the page is one of my all time favourites. It happened after I’d spent an hour just hanging around a small square five minutes from where I’m staying in Lisbon. You really do become invisible if you hang around in one spot long enough.

Three tips… plus!

So, there you have it – three tips for finding the best street photographs when you arrive somewhere new. Actually, there are a couple moew things… Have some fun while you’re at it. Whether you’re there for a day or a couple of months, take your time. There’s no rush – you’ll get the photos you’re meant to!


Paul Donohoe is a Social Documentary and Street Photographer currently traveling to random places as the fancy takes him and his partner. He is passionate about his art and takes his role as a photographer very seriously. He believes that there are no ordinary moments and there are no ordinary people and he has a simple but profound philosophy which informs his work: “Love, Compassion and Empathy are my guides”.


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Ten simple ideas to help your portraiture improve

Video

Video

Straight forward portraiture advice is difficult to come by…

In the video we have some great ideas that help you to map out a great Portraiture session. This is straight advice aimed at getting you to a good quality completed portrait as directly as possible.

I have to add that the book advertised in the video is also a great book. It is packed with some excellent ideas and written in a simple and easy-to-read way. If you are interested in following up on the book I can highly recommend it. My copy is pretty dog-eared these days!

 

Portrait and Candid Photography: Photo Workshop This is a great book packed with lots of hints, tips and ideas like the ones below. A really worthwhile read.

 

Ten points at the core of good portraiture

In the video Erin Manning highlights the importance of the following ten points…

  1. Don’t fix your subject in the middle of the frame. Instead, think about the rule of thirds – a more dynamic outcome.
  2. Poses and “cheesy” words to force a smile are false and make the photo look strained.
  3. Make your clothes simple and un-distracting. Forget patterns and fussy details. Simple solid colours help the subject to stand out, not the clothes.
  4. Avoid straight on shots with a big flash. The open pupil in the eye will cause light to reflect back to the camera and show bright red eyes… You don’t want your subject to look like red-eyed monsters. Use red-eye reduction settings if your camera has them.
  5. Vary your poses, angles and heights. The more angles you get the more you are telling a story about your subject. Get them in many different ways.
  6. Use flash to help reduce harsh shadows. The sharp sunlight of the middle of the day is very unflattering. The use of fill-in flash softens the shadows bringing out the subjects character.
  7. Look for great quality of light. Remember that hard light (harsh edges and strong contrasts) is very unflattering. Shoot in the later afternoon or early morning to get soft light with better colours. Use shade to reduce hard light if you are forced to work in bright mid-day light.
  8. Don’t stand too close and use a wide angle lens. This exaggerates the nose. Stand away and zoom in. This reduces nose size and is much more flattering. (Great advice).
  9. Pay attention to the background. If it is too busy make sure there is nothing distracting. Check to make sure the background has not created odd effects like poles sticking out of heads and flowers in ears!
  10. Make sure you have enough battery capacity and memory card space to cover the whole session. You don’t want to lose any shots when you are in full swing.
Erin Manning’s Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Great Portraits


Erin Manning

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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