Photography Hot Spots – Love ‘em or Hate ‘em?

I hear much maligning the days about photography hot spots. You know them, they are the places photographers seem to flock to: Mesa Arch, Tunnel View, Horseshoe BendKjeragbolten (that rock wedged between two other rocks in Norway), etc… The list goes on an on and they tend to be natural wonders. Although, cityscapes are certainly included (e.g. New York’s Manhattanhenge).

Photography Hot Spots - Delicate Arch

But do those photography hot spots deserve their increasingly bad reputation? I asked some fellow photographers to give their perspective on the love and hate of shooting at photographic hot spots.

On The Side Of Love

The Sheer Beauty

Let’s face it; these places are popular for a reason. They are gorgeous! Maybe not when there is a crowd (even the Mona Lisa is hard to enjoy from four rows back in a packed crowd), but there is a reason these locations draw people, with or without cameras.

For instance, we see a picture of symmetry and grandeur of the Taj Mahal and we are drawn in.

Photography Hot Spots - Taj Mahal

And all those photography hot spots in National Parks around the world? Those parks were set up to protect and preserve the often astonishing and sublime beauty we humans are lucky enough to share with this world.

Photography Hot Spots - Machu Picchu

Good Practice And A Chance To Learn

The hard part of photography can be finding subjects. For outdoor and landscape photographers, in particular, more effort is put into researching, getting to and finding the right location than actually shooting.

Hot spots make the learning more readily accessible when the pain is taken out of the hunting process. These days almost any hotspot can be found online with direction or precise coordinates on a map. It is a chance to get out and shoot more and an opportunity to learn from other photographers at the hot spot.

Photography Hot Spots - Seattle

Camaraderie And Socializing

Photographer Eileen Descallar Ringwald explains what she enjoys about the social aspect of hot spots.

While I value getting away from crowds, I do see advantages to be had when in groups. Once in Yosemite on a climbing-focused trip, a photographer I met by chance in the El Cap picnic area told me the elusive moonbow conditions were going to occur that night. I went out at night to the Lower Yosemite Falls Bridge and was at first shocked to see just how many photographers and even non-photographers were there. However, everyone was very polite. People made way for tripods and shared long exposure settings throughout the night. One photographer even shared where he normally went to shoot the Upper Falls. I had a fun time and got some decent shots as well. This was an experience I would have missed if I hadn’t decided to ‘follow the crowd’.

When you get in with the right group, the benefits can multiply. It can lead you in directions you would not have discovered on your own.

Photography Hot Spots - Socializing

Gateway Drug To Other Offerings In The Area

Landscape photographer and instructor Gary Crabbe spends a lot of his time outdoors with this camera. He has used photography hot spots as a means to an end.

The lure of great iconic photo locations should not be ignored or dismissed on the pathway to developing our own personal vision. I always recommend that once you’ve nailed a certain shot, dare to explore further afield or venture off the regularly traveled path. This will allow you to seek out more unique or personal compositions. Regardless of what primary area my travels take me, I always like to find one or two nearby lesser-known locations that fuel a bit more of the journey with an eye toward photographic discovery and adventure.

Photography Hot Spots - Mesa Arch, Utah

I shot Mesa Arch at sunrise (pictured above) because it makes for a beautiful image. I visited the park with my friend Michael Riffle. As we were spending three days in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, he suggested a location nearby that I hadn’t previously explored.

It was Dead Horse Point State Park and at sunrise in October, it looked like this:

Photography Hot Spots - Dead Horse Point

While Mesa Arch and the ‘Big 5’ National Parks of Utah are a big draw, there are so many other unique and interesting sites to explore. While I wouldn’t have planned a trip to Dead Horse Point if I were alone, it, and many other sites, are valuable add-ons made possible by first hitting the Gateway Hot Spots.

It’s Never The Same Place Twice

Sure, you’ve seen the photos and you might have even been to that photography hot spot. But times and weather change. Different light means a different mode. Fewer people, more people. A chance encounter with wildlife.

It all makes hot spots different for everyone on each occasion. They are an easy way to grow as a photographer because they teach us not to be complacent and accept that, “Well, I shot that already. It never changes.”

For instance, another day at the Taj Mahal can bring a new feeling. Maybe the shot works better with people? Maybe the light isn’t as crisp? Take the opportunity to learn from them.

Photography Hot Spots - Taj Mahal

On The Side Of Hate

Crowds

Photographer and tour operator, Genevieve Hathaway, knows a thing or two about crowds.

Crowds at locations can provide challenges for photographers. Especially iconic travel locations can be very crowded making clean compositions tough, making it hard to find spots to shoot. It’s also hard to try and capture more authentic, idyllic scenes. It’s great that so many people are traveling, but this provides photographers with new challenges in composing our shots and even in competing with other photographers for the coveted angles. I think these challenges can push us to be creative. They are opportunities to find new angles at favorite sites, wake up early to beat the crowds and to even discover more off the beaten path locations to shoot.

Photography Hot Spots - Crowds

Rude Photographers More Interested In Getting ‘The Shot’ Rather Than Ethical Or Polite Behavior

We’ve all met them: rude photographers. They seem to care only about themselves and getting ‘the shot.’ I asked Canadian photographer Michael Russell for his take.

I have to wonder if the photographers who yell and scream, push people out of the way, damage plant life and infrastructure, or otherwise act to disrupt others, have any understanding as to why a great view at an iconic location is special? Even when the light isn’t great or there are too many tourists on the trail in front of their camera; do they feel anything? A photographer who acts out because something went wrong while hunting for a preconceived trophy is at best missing the gift of visiting these places. At worst, ruining the visit for everyone else who does.

Photography Hot Spots - Rude Photographers

Uninspired Execution

Pam Boling, a talented, multi-faceted photographer from Las Vegas, sees a lack of effort and originality as a common outcome.

I am most inspired when I am shooting portraits or landscapes. My most lucrative client, however, is the commercial client. Commercial content rarely inspires me. Getting the exposure right in commercial environments can sometimes be the most challenging: I am often faced with window light, fluorescent lights, OCF, harsh backlight, and sometimes reflective surfaces. I think the photographic process – whatever the subject – eventually becomes the driving force once the toolbox is worn around the edges. Some photographers don’t go beyond the normal tools and the results are uninspired.

Photography Hot Spots - uninspired

False Impression That Photographers Are Great When Copying

Freelance writer and photographer Peter Tellone put it most succinctly when it comes to copying others.

Copying greatness does not make you a Chef, it makes you a Cook. The entire point in this madness that is art is to be the Chef.

If you don’t expand your vision, if you don’t break out of the mold of others, you are nothing more than a fancy copy machine.

These hot spots make it easy to take a great photo because the scene, in and of itself, is already amazing. You just need some decent light to get a decent photo. To be great you need to build, expand and reinterpret what others have done, and what the scene gives you.

Photography Hot Spots - No so great

Conclusion

I have tried presenting both sides to the controversy of iconic photography hot spots. Honestly, I can see both sides of the story. Some positive aspects and some negative.

What do you think? Do you love or hate photography hot spots?

The post Photography Hot Spots – Love ‘em or Hate ‘em? appeared first on Digital Photography School.

All Deals are Back – Photography eBooks, Presets and Courses at up to 88% Savings

It has been a big week with our dPS Mid Year Sale and we know thousands of our readers have picked up some great photography training at crazy low prices.

Today we have a special surprise for you – all our deals are back for one last time!

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Each of the deals this week have been enjoyed by many readers but whenever we do deals like these we get emails from people to miss out – particularly as we know many of you are celebrating holidays at this time of year.

So – we decided to bring ALL the deals back for a couple of days to give those who missed out the chance to enjoy one of these bargains.

A quick reminder of what’s on offer in our dPS resources store:

And then there’s our 4 deals from our friends:

All of our our dPS products and those from our partners come with no-risk money back satisfaction guarantees. Try them out and if you don’t love them simply let us know and we’ll arrange a full refund – no questions asked.

Whether you pick up just one or create a collection of training to last you the next 6 months – we hope you find something in what’s on offer this week that will help you take your photography to the next level.

But don’t wait too long – these deals will only last a couple more days and then they’ll be gone forever.

The post All Deals are Back – Photography eBooks, Presets and Courses at up to 88% Savings by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Deal 3: Save $401 on The Complete Landscape Photography Pack

It’s Day 3 of our Summer Sale and if you’re interested in the art of landscape photography – this offer is for you!

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InFocus Deals are offering dPS subscribers their Complete Landscape Photography Pack with a massive 89% discount!

For US$49 you’ll get US$450 worth of learning materials in The Complete Landscape Photography Pack – a mammoth savings of US$401!

Take a look at what’s in this amazing Landscape Photography pack:

Get full details of the bundle over at the InFocus Deals Page

This bundle is huge and will help you improve your Landscape Photography for sure!

But of course, as with all our deals this week, an offer this fantastic can’t last forever.

So, don’t miss out. Lock in the unbeatable savings of US$401 today.

The post Deal 3: Save $401 on The Complete Landscape Photography Pack by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Using Your Photography to Create Social Change

There are images that immediately come to mind if someone mentions them. For instance, the image of the man being shot in the head during the Vietnam War, or the girl running naked down the road (also in Vietnam) after being burned by a napalm bomb. I don’t want to use the word iconic, but they are well-known, and very emotive images. The Vietnam War was like no other, and these images helped to show the devastation.

An image of an event, or a place, can create a lot more connection than written words or stories; humans are visual and we relate to visual cues. But images don’t have to be about war to generate a response from people.

In late-1970s Australia, the government wanted to dam part of a river in Tasmania. It was something that upset many people. It would mean that many parts of stunning rainforests in the area would be drowned and lost forever. When I think back to that time, there is a beautiful image of the place that immediately comes to mind. It is an image of the river by photographer Peter Dombrovskis, and its catchphrase was that it would be submerged by the dam.

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Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, South West Tasmania, by Peter Dombrovskis, National Library of Australia, an6631500 (Bib ID#2899361)

Here I am 30 years later, and this image is still strong in my mind; it says, “This image stopped the Franklin Dam”. Images can very powerful. Who wouldn’t want to have an image that changed the world – well, at least helped save a small part of it? With so many images in existence now, it may be hard to imagine that any could have the same impact. With the world of digital perhaps we are in image overload.

It doesn’t mean you can’t try. There is no reason why you can’t highlight a cause that you are passionate about, using your photography.

In the area around where I live, there is a large green belt that follows the Yarra River, which is the main source of water for the City of Melbourne. It is wonderful that the land has been preserved and not given up to development. Parts of the area were still being farmed until very recently, around 2o years ago.

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Morning Light over Banyule Flats. The area has been allowed to return to its natural state as it would have appeared over 250 years ago.

Part of the area is a swamp (wetland) and was here before European Settlement. Once the land was claimed, the swamp was drained and the water course moved so it didn’t fill anymore. Fences were put up, and cattle grazed there for over 150 years.

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Early Autumn Mists on the Water.

Eventually, the land was sold to the local council, and they have helped the area recover over the last 20 years by revegetation, and putting the water course back, so the swamp would fill again. It did – and it has become a place rich with native birds and plants. The fence posts are still there, but the trees that grew while it was dry have since died from being waterlogged.

The area is ecologically and communally important and is in constant use – but there is a problem. Banyule Flats is situated right in the middle of where they want to connect two freeways. This is an area that I love and want to help protect, so I started thinking about how I could use my photography to help stop the freeway.

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Winter Sun Casting Long Shadows.

My first thought was to start putting photos up on my blog. If I could get people from around the world to build a connection with Banyule Flats, perhaps I could get a whole lot more people to fight for its survival.

About 12 months ago my local council, Banyule City Council, was offering Environment Grants and I wondered if I could get one to do a book on the area using my photography. I rang the coordinator for the grants and spoke to her about my idea for the book. She seemed to really love it, and gave me ideas of what to put in the proposal. I had to join the Warringal Conservation Society to be eligible for it, but that was never a problem, and I have loved being a member.

The grant was approved, and I will use the photos I have been taking for two years now. It is time to put the book together and work out what is the best way to present the images. We can’t just put them all together with no story because, it has to be interesting.  It has to be done in a way that people find not only beautiful, but helps build a connection to the area so they won’t want to see it destroyed.

This is an opportunity to use photography to bring about social change. If you can help people build a relationship or feel something for a cause, then that gives you a lot more people who want to fight for it with you. Your case becomes stronger, and there’s power in numbers.

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Cattle Egret Surveying the Water Below. One of many birds that inhabit the area.

One thing that is happening with the book on Banyule Flats is that we are inviting the Wurundjeri Elders and people to be involved. They are the traditional owners of this land, and having their input will help highlight the area, give the book a unique look, and help showcase part of their culture. Of course, I will not take advantage of them and will make sure that proper credit is given, and they will get a share in the royalties as well.

If we can make the book show off the area, we hope that more local people will get involved in the fight for the Flats, and we can then introduce the area to a much wider, potentially worldwide, community.

The book is going to be visual, have lots of photos throughout showing the area through the seasons, and contain big landscapes, as well as macro images of the flora that grow there. The photos have to be powerful to get our message accross: there will be no freeway through Banyule.

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Bottle Brush. One of the indigenous plants at Banyule Flats.

Images are very strong. If I just tell you about the area then you are not going to want to protect it, but if I show you what it looks like then you start to feel a connection. Beauty has to be seen, and that is where photography becomes very powerful.

Think back to causes you have felt very passionate about. Do you think of them in words, or in images?

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Sunrise Around the Back of Banyule Flats.

When I think about the Vietnam War, images come to my mind, like the two I already mentioned. The Franklin Dam project was one of the first major campaigns that I have a really good memory of.  The image of the Franklin River gave people an understanding of what they were going to lose if the dam went ahead.

If you have a cause that you want to assist or save, use your photography to help. Get the best photos that you can, and show people what you want them to see. The stronger your photography is, the better the effect it will have. You want to create images that people will remember. In the years to come when people talk about Banyule Flats and how we stopped the freeway, I want them to think of my images in the book.

The post Using Your Photography to Create Social Change by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Landscapes Photo Contest! Win One of Two – Year Long PRO Subscriptions from ViewBug!

Over the last few years here at dPS, we’ve run some very popular competitions, and this month will be no different!

This month we are working with one of our newest partners – ViewBug – to give away to lucky dPS readers, full access to their Photo Contest and exclusive discounts from photography based partners! ViewBug is an online photo contest community that provides the opportunity for photographers to share photos with chances to win prizes. With ViewBug, everyone can get an opportunity to be discovered!

ViewBugAvatarViewBug is a community where you can participate in photo contests with cool brands, awesome community of judges, and gain recognition and exposure.

For this photo competition, ViewBug is giving away Two Year Long PRO Subscription!

These prizes are designed to allow photographers full access to participation and voting in all of the ViewBug Photography contests. Each will be won by a different dPS reader. Here’s what you could win:

A Year Long PRO subscription to ViewBugs photography contests! A $139 Value!

How to Win

To win this competition you’ll need to:

Visit the ViewBug/dPS Contest page here and upload your entry into the Landscape Photography Contest.

Do this in the next 60 days and on May 5, 2014, ViewBug and its community of photographers will choose the best landscape photos. We at dPS will announce the winners in the following days.

The deadline for entries is Wednesday, February April 26, 2014, Midnight PST. Entries placed after deadline will not be considered. Enter Here!!

This competition is open to everyone around the world no matter where you live.

Disclaimer: ViewBug is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Landscapes Photo Contest! Win One of Two – Year Long PRO Subscriptions from ViewBug! by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

World Press Photo 2014 Winners Announced

Each year World Press Photo holds their annual competition to find the best images of the year in photojournalism and documentary photography. They showcase the winners on their website as well as host a traveling exhibit. I’ve been luck enough to personally see the exhibit twice, in two different cities, along my travels.

On February 14th the World Press Photo winners were announced

John Stanmeyer About A Photograph from thinkTank Photo on Vimeo.

John Stanmeyer, World Press Photo winner for contemporary issues, is our photographer this week on About A Photograph. John talks you through his award winning photograph – enjoy!

Please visit About a Photograph.com for more information on John and the entire series of “About A Photograph”

With thanks to John and Triple Scoop Music.
Produced by Kurt Rogers and Deanne Fitzmaurice.
Sponsored by thinkTankPhoto.com

This is a screenshot of their website

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Head over to view all the 2014 award winners here!

Even if you are not into documentary or journalistic photography, you can’t help but find these images haunting, stunning, and sometimes shocking. Photography has long since been an important tool in documenting our lives and times. See what these, often brave (or stupid) photographers bare witness to and capture with their cameras for the world to see.

Documentary photography has also historically played a role in social change. You just have to think about the images of the starving children in Africa to realize that’s true. Only after the images showed up on the media, did the world take notice and do something to help.

So do your part – go see the winning images. Really look at them. Not just for their technical and artistic qualities, but look at the meaning in those images. Be inspired to create deeper, more meaningful images yourself.

Enjoy!

For more on documentary and street photography try these tips:

The post World Press Photo 2014 Winners Announced by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Lost your Photo Mojo? Ten Tips to Bring Back the Magic

We all go through creative blocks. Is it such a bad thing? Or, on the contrary, is it a sign that we need to push ourselves, and grow in the process? I think that a loss of passion may be an opportunity to renew and refresh your vision and turn it in a positive experience, instead of staying in a rut and feeling sorry for yourself.

Ten Tips to Get your Photo Mojo Back

1 – Get out of your comfort zone

You may hear this one often, but have you done it yet? I’m not suggesting that you go out and shoot your first wedding, but try something that may seem out of character for you. I consider myself more of an urban photographer than anything else. But I have experimented with other genres, such as B&W flower photography. Did I enjoy it? Sure I did, tremendously! But I also realized that I’m happier shooting street photography. That realization alone gave me a boost to get out and do more of what I love most.

I'm mostly a street photographer but I enjoy trying new genres and techniques. It gets my creative juices flowing! ©Valérie Jardin

I’m mostly a street photographer but I enjoy trying new genres and techniques. It gets my creative juices flowing!
©Valérie Jardin

2 – Hang out with other photographers

Hanging out with like minded people is like therapy. Admit it, you often experience some frustration when you are on an outing with non-photographers. Being able to enjoy a photo walk without having to justify why you need to take your time to get the shot is priceless. Join a group or start your own. The latter option is a good way to make sure that you will show up for all the photo walks!

3- Start a new project

Before you embark on a long project, make sure you’ll be able to handle the commitment. For example, a 365 project is a great way to grow as a photographer but it can also become a burden and be counterproductive. If you end up quitting after a few weeks, you may end up feeling worse about yourself and photography in general. If you decide to go for the 365, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t get to the point where you’ll shoot just about anything to get your pic of the day. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun! You may also consider starting something a little bit more manageable such as a 52-week project, a short term photo essay, a series of portraits of strangers or selfies, etc. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you share with the world! Which leads to the next point…

Some project ideas to help you out

Don't forget that you are your most readily available subject. Have fun with selfies! Here I played with long exposures and ghost images in an old theater.  ©Valérie Jardin

Don’t forget that you are your most readily available subject. Have fun with selfies! Here I played with long exposures and ghost images in an old theater.
©Valérie Jardin

4 – Try a new lens

Rent or borrow something completely different such as a fish eye, a macro lens or a Lensbaby Composer for a few days, see the world differently and embrace the new possibilities.

See a list of the most popular lenses – survey of dPS readers

5 – Share your work, start a blog!

Share your work on social media, or consider starting a photography blog. You don’t need to be a writer to start a photography blog, think of it as a journal in pictures. It’s so much more fun than keeping your images in your hard drive. It will also give you a boost in your confidence and push you to shoot more and better.

This is my personal blog where I write about projects and things I'm working on outside of my photography business.

This is my personal blog where I write about projects and things I’m working on outside of my photography business.

You can get a free, or inexpensive blog using resources like:

6 – Page through a good photography book

We get inspiration online all the time. Everything we do seems to be online. The Internet is a wonderful thing and we are exposed to the work of so many amazing artists from all over the world and in real time. Sometimes we need to slow down and sit down with a big beautiful book of photographs. Visit a real book store or a library for a change of pace and for renewed inspiration.

Valerie Jardin Photography - books-1

Take the time to page through a real book once in a while.

7 – Visit museums

Photography exhibits are a wonderful way to get some inspiration, but do not neglect looking at art in general. Sculptures, paintings, etc. See the passion that fueled the works of art showcased at your local museum.

8 – Teach a child

Give a camera to a child and go on a photo walk. You’ll be amazed to discover the world from a child’s perspective. Better yet, this could ignite a life-long passion thanks to you!

9 – Write a list of techniques you’ve never tried and give it a shot!

There isn’t a single technique that is not explained in detail online, so you have no excuse for not experimenting with something new. You never know, this light painting thing may just be what you need to feel inspired again, so get to work!

10 – Simply pick up your camera and photograph something in your house

There is no reason to stay in a rut, all you need to do is pick up a camera, any camera. You can even stay home and do it. Pick an ordinary object and make it look extraordinary! This simple step will get the creative juices flowing again.

Just pick up the camera and photograph something, anything, around your house!  ©Valérie Jardin

Just pick up the camera and photograph something, anything, around your house!
©Valérie Jardin

Okay it’s your turn

It’s okay to feel down and uninspired, it’s all part of being an artist. Turn it around and use it as an excuse to push yourself and try something new!

Please take a minute to share your experience dealing with creative block and how you found your muse again.


Books mentioned above and in Valerie’s stack:

The post Lost your Photo Mojo? Ten Tips to Bring Back the Magic by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

27 Amazing Macro Snowflake Images Shot with a DIY Camera Set Up

These amazing Snowflake images by photographer Alexey Kljatov have caught our eye in the last week.

By Alexey Kljatov

What particularly impressed us at dPS HQ was the way Alexey shoots the images using a system that is literally taped together components. He uses a Canon A650 (a point and shoot released back in 2007) with old 2nd hand Helios lens from an old Russian made camera.

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It’s quite remarkable that something so cobbled together takes such beautiful images but it illustrates just what can be achieved when you put your mind to it! Learn more about his method here.

Here are some more of his Snow Flake Images.

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

By Alexey Kljatov

The post 27 Amazing Macro Snowflake Images Shot with a DIY Camera Set Up by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Nightscapes: Photographing the City at Night

By Joseph Eckert

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The idea of taking photographs at night can be counterintuitive to the novice photographer. After all, photography is an art, a craft, a technology that is wholly built on light. Film or digital, it doesn’t matter: we need light to make a photograph—it is as simple as that.

Night, of course, by very definition lacks the pervasive light of day, and therefore doesn’t seem like a good time for photography. In the broadest sense, this intuitive understanding of light and its importance to photography is absolutely correct. Night does represent a more challenging time to take pictures, because we lack all those wonderful photons barreling down from the sun and reflecting off everything interesting and into our waiting lenses.

However, note that I said “challenging” but not “impossible.” Indeed, nighttime photography is not only possible; it is wonderfully ripe for creative expression and can help you create genuinely unique looks in your work.

The Night in General

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Take a moment, tonight, or whenever you have a chance, and go outside into the darkness long after the sun has gone down. Really open your eyes and observe, noting all the differences, all the unique things that set night apart from day. It is as simple as the lack of sunlight, but infinitely more complex than that breezy statement would suggest.

Pay attention to the way the shadows have deepened and pooled, how colors are muted or rendered differently by the artificial light of streetlamps or the exposed bulb on your backyard porch. Notice how things feel, how significant just changing the time of day can be. That old oak tree that seems so friendly and comforting in the day can turn into a gnarled, malevolent specter at night. Or a car that during the day is simple and boring might become a gleaming chariot in the darkness. The possibilities are endless.

The City at Night

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Cities are wonderful engines of creative possibility for the nighttime photographer. We lose the sunlight, but we gain thousands (or millions) of individual points of artificial light of every different color and tonal quality. We can (literally and figuratively) view our city in an entirely new light. The old and staid can become fascinating again as the changes in lighting shift the shadows and alter the textures and wring out, or completely change, the colors.

And all these bright points of artificial light give our cameras something to gather and turn into a photograph.

Great. So…What Do I Do?

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I’m going to try to distill my experiences from my nighttime cityscape photography outings into a series of recommendations, aimed at giving you the best possible chance to get that shot, the one you really want, full of color and deep shadows and crazy lighting that showcases your city in a whole new way.

Bring the Right Gear

I’m not going to categorically deny that you can take great nightscapes with a compact digital camera. I will say that using a point and shoot is going to make getting that fantastic image of your dreams a lot harder.

I recommend the following:

• Tripod, sturdy but lightweight enough for you to carry around easily
• DSLR
• Remote shutter release
• Relatively fast wide angle lens (the wide angle part is optional, but what I recommend to get the most dramatic shots of the architecture and streets of your city)
• Lens hood (to reduce lens flare from outside-the-frame light sources)

Note that I didn’t say “flashlight.” This article assumes you are in the city, which, barring unforeseen power outages, should have light enough for you to see by and make your way around. That may vary by city, however, so bring a flashlight if you feel you’ll need one, or if you plan on doing “light painting” with it.

Know the Gear You Brought

Things will be dark. It’s nighttime. So make sure you know how to operate your DSLR in minimum light and with little fuss. If your camera has the ability, make use of custom modes to have your settings in place and ready to go ahead of time. Also be able to fit your remote shutter cable onto your camera, and your camera onto your tripod, in the dark (and both of those back off again).

Going further, try to get to know your lens(es) and your camera with regard to how they behave in low light. Some DSLRs are better at autofocusing in dim light than others; you may need to manually focus for best results if the AF ends up endlessly searching (alternatively, point the camera the moon or some other distant light, let AF put the focus at infinity, recompose and shoot). DSLRs will also vary a great deal on how well they handle high ISO values and/or very long exposures (in terms of the level of noise in the resultant image). If you are looking to capture fast action in freeze-frame in a nighttime shot, you will inevitably need a high ISO level and probably a very wide aperture lens. Remember, a tripod can hold your camera solid and in place, but it has no effect on the movement of the subject matter.

This brings us to:

Know What You Want

Are you looking for a freeze-frame in the darkness? This is going to be tough – a technologically demanding task for your camera. You’ll have to set the ISO quite high and have a “fast” lens (one with a wide aperture, as noted above, like f/2.8 or f/1.7, etc). The result will necessarily have a very shallow depth of focus with potentially a lot of noise – things to keep in mind as you are shooting. You will also need a high ISO and fast aperture if you are trying to shoot handheld (without a tripod), something that is very possible, especially with newer, less noisy digital cameras, but be prepared to have do noise reduction in post!

If, instead, as is more commonly done, you want to create light trails from passing cars or use long exposures to really capture the fantastically different nighttime lighting, you can get away with using much lower ISO (e.g. 100) and a smaller aperture (f/8, for example) to enlarge your depth of field and minimize the ISO-induced noise. This will mean, commensurately, a longer exposure time: the shutter will remain open longer, letting those light trails form and also filling the frame with more detail as more photons are gathered by the imaging sensor. Bear in mind, however, that most DSLRs have an automatic shutter time cutoff of 30 seconds, so if you need longer to get a proper exposure you’ll need to know how to use the Bulb mode on your camera (where the shutter speed is determined by how long you hold down the shutter release button). In either case, you will need a tripod, because the exposure time will be much too long to keep still when hand-holding.

Also, keep in mind a fact of all digital sensors (so far): the longer the shutter is open, the more noise creeps up, regardless of ISO setting. To combat this you can set your camera to apply in-camera noise reduction. Many DSLRs do this automatically on longer exposures, and usually the time it takes to apply the NR is equivalent to however long the shutter was open. This is important to remember when you are out and about, because it means your camera is unusable for however long the NR is being applied.

Know Your City

Every city is different, in layout, points of interest, people and the overall character, and all of those elements (except the layout) change, sometimes drastically, when night falls.

You should be at least decently knowledgeable about the city you are attempting to shoot in before you make an excursion at night – or, at least, be with someone who does know. Big cities present nearly endless opportunities for architectural and artistic delights, delights that change and morph and become radically different when no longer lit by the sun, but by artificial lights. However, big cities can also be more dangerous, particularly at night, and especially for a photographer who is lugging around two to ten thousand dollars (or more) worth of equipment with them.

Therefore, for reasons of safety and for practicality, get to know your city before you tromp out with DSLRs hanging around your necks, tripods in hand and release shutter cables dangling. Go out in the day and get to know the streets and where the interesting buildings and parks and monuments and statues are; go out at night, without your camera, and see how all of those things look in the light of night.

Then, when you do take all your equipment out for the shoot, make sure to keep your eyes open. Be cognizant of your surroundings. Walk confidently, even assertively, so as not to be pegged as a tourist, mark or target for potential predators. Work in a group, or at least go with one other person who can watch your back, even if that other person is not a fellow photographer.

Or, do as I often do: go at times when most of the rest of the city is asleep. There are such times, even in those big cities that “never sleep.” When? I’ve found early—and I mean really early—Sunday mornings are the quietest possible times to tramp around the downtown. At 3:30 or 4:00 AM, after bar-close but well before sunrise (for most of the year), the night is just as dark and the light just as good—unless you are trying to shoot nightlife and people and cars, rather than architecture and light and shadow.

Shooting in the early morning also lets you capture a series that progresses from a pure black sky (or one with the moon and stars) to one of deepening purples and blues as the sun begins to rise, and finally gives you a chance to partake in the Magic Hour of sunrise itself. Yep, it means an early morning on a Sunday, but it’s the best time to go out if you want to encounter as few people as possible.

Know the Weather

Another important consideration in nightscape photography is the weather.

Cities at night can look absolutely amazing after a downpour has left the roads wet and gleaming with columns of reflected light. Snow can render a city almost post-apocalyptic at night, blanketing everything and colored by the lights of storefronts and parking lamps. But rain and snow, as they are coming down, are not great for cameras or lenses (or photographers, for that matter) if you aren’t probably prepared.

So be aware of what the skies are doing, and plan ahead. If it’s going to rain, bring waterproof clothing for you and protection for your camera. Watch the weather reports on the night you want to go out and see if you can time it so you hit the streets just after the rain has stopped, so you capture all the magical wetness without it fouling up your camera or lens. If it’s snowing, be prepared for the cold and, again, protect your gear.

Conclusion

Eckert_NightScape_5.jpg

Nighttime cityscape photography can be a fantastic avenue for creative expression, and a way to make your images pop with unique feeling and life. The light and the shadow behave differently without the sun overhead, and the world, as a result, changes in tone and mood and expression. Streets turn black and shiny and are broken by orange circles of light from streetlamps. Shadows pool in alleys and the corners of buildings, and are stretched into new, looming figures and shapes by the bright light from a gas station or convenience store.

As a photographer, out at night in the city, the most important thing to remember is to stay safe. After that, keep your eyes open and your imagination working, and go after those amazing low-light shots. Try new things, bend and break the rules, have fun, and let the magic flow.

You might be surprised just how much you like what you come home with.See more of Joseph Eckert’s work his website.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Nightscapes: Photographing the City at Night

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Railroad Safety for Photographers

by Lori Peterson

If I walked into your yard and just started taking photos, would you call the police or would you just ignore it?

If you have a studio and I waltzed in with my camera and models and started shooting my latest and greatest session, would you have me removed immediately?

Chances are that after initial shock wore off you would be calling the police and asking them to get me out of your studio or off of your property.

It might an extreme example, but realistically this is what happens when a photographer brings their client, props, and their camera onto railroad tracks to shoot.

Railroad tracks are private property. They are not public property. It is illegal to shoot on railroad tracks. You can see what your particular state says about even being on the tracks by going HERE.

You might say “Well, these tracks are abandoned”. Unused tracks are not abandoned. They are still owned by the railroad company and you are still trespassing.

Ignorance of the law will only get you so far when you are confronted by a police officer or a tragedy because you didn’t follow the law. It is virtually impossible for the railroad companies to cover every inch of track with signs that warn them that they are trespassing.

railway photography safety

You might say “We can hear the trains coming.” Not all trains will sound their horns. Trains cannot stop as quickly as a car. It takes approximately one mile for a train to come to a stop. Trains travel between 79-125 mph even though it may not look like they are going that fast.  If you are driving 125 mph and a child ran out in front of you, would you have time to react to stop in time to not hit the child? No, you wouldn’t. Now think about all the cars that are attached to that front of the train. The force of the trains coming to a quick stop in time to avoid a tragedy is unimaginable. Even moving at a slower speed it would be very hard for a train to come to a complete stop to avoid hitting people who are on the tracks.

railway safety photography

I recently had an exchange with a photographer and we talked about her shooting on active railroad tracks. Her response when she found out that it was not only illegal but dangerous was “There are about 6 other photographers that take pictures in this location that I know of. As far as accidents, the trains have came many times while we are out there & the lights and little gate things come down way in advance.”

Where is the logic or the pure common sense in her defense of being on the tracks? There is none. She clearly stated that she was on active tracks and she clearly dismissed any danger. In her portfolio there are images of small children on suitcases and several props around them. There are images of pregnant women lying down on the tracks. Client safety clearly is not a priority.

Trains can move in two directions. The railcars can be pushing the locomotive instead of the locomotive pulling the railcars. Someone in the locomotive might see you on the tracks, but by the time they communicate with the back of the train that is pushing those railcars it would be too late.

When you bring clients onto railroad tracks you are putting them at risk and you are putting yourself at risk. You or your client could get hurt or killed. You are also putting the people who are operating that train at risk. The potential pile-up when they have to abruptly stop means you are putting more people at risk. A train derailment can mean chemical spills and property damage to any nearby homes. A photographer causing accidents on the tracks would be responsible for the any injuries or deaths, derailments, chemical spills, property damage, delays in shipping, etc.

Photographers will imitate other photographers. Client education is a key component when it comes to railroad tracks and safety. If your client asks for a session on railroad tracks, explain to them about the laws and the fines for being on the tracks.. As the photographer, you are the one ultimately responsible for the photo shoot. If anything happens it is your business, your finances, and your name on the line. Photographers need to educate other photographers that shooting on tracks is NOT acceptable and then they need to work on educating their clients that shooting on tracks is dangerous on too many levels to get that clichéd image.

For further reading about railroad safety and photography:

Amtrak’s guidelines for photographers is outline on their website

If you are found shooting in areas that are owned by Amtrak that are considered a part of their restricted area, and this includes the tracks, you can be subject to fines, arrest, and seizure of your camera and equipment.

Union Pacific has very specific policies regarding their tracks, whether they are active or inactive. They not only fine photographers who trespass on their tracks, but if they find the images online, they will request that they be removed.

Operation Lifesaver has published an article regarding railroad track safety and it can be found HERE.

Download a pdf copy of Why Photographers Must Stay Away from Train Tracks HERE

Lori Peterson is an award winning photographer based out of the St. Louis Metro Area. Her dynamic work ranges from creative portraits to very unique fine art photography. Lori’s work can be seen at www.loripetersonphotography.com and also on her blog at www.loripetersonphotographyblog.com. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LoriPetersonPhotography.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Railroad Safety for Photographers

The post Railroad Safety for Photographers by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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