Monday, July 20, 2009

Family Portraits Outdoors on a Sunny Day

We had a family reunion this past weekend and as usual we finally got around to shooting group pictures of all the families that attended. Fortunately I was able to prevent what would have been a disaster. The day was a bright sunny one with harsh light and deep shadows. The place where we held the reunion has lots of trees and shady spots and I encouraged everyone to set up in one of those with a large tree as a backdrop. I worked out great. The family popirazzi got all their pictures without people squinting into the sun.

This is important to remember. Don't shoot portraits in direct sunlight if you can do it in the shade. People won't be squinting and colors and light areas won't be blown out. Remember to use the appropriate white balance too. Pose everyone as you wish but watch for bright spots where the sun breaks through the trees or branches. Don't allow these bright spots to land where they shouldn't. They will attract the eye and may cause distraction from you theme or main subject.

Go to my website at to see samples of my work .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three Tips for Shooting a Full Moon

Here are a couple of tips that I use when I want to shoot pictures of the full moon. The will help you get those dramatic shots that make people ask, How did he do that? I picked these tips up from magazine subscriptions I subscribe to.

Tip One: Suppose you want to get a picture with a huge moon just as it rises above the horizon. This can be very dramatic. Smoke and other pollutants can make the moon appear blood red as it first appears or as it sets. The best way to make the moon appear large is to use a telephoto lens zoom lens. I generally use either my Sigma 70 to 300mm or my Nikkor 18 to 200.

Tip Two: If you want to get all the detail of the moons craters and shadows, use your long lens and set your exposure to 1/500sec at F/11. The moon will appear bright and clear and the background will be dark.

Tip Three: This is my favorite. Shoot pictures when there are clouds moving across the sky illuminated by the moons light. I also like to silhouette trees in front of the moon with moving clouds passing by in the background.

Experiment with other exposure settings so you stop the clouds and also cause them to blur. Getting moon reflections in a pond or lake can be especially rewarding.

I hope you find these tips fun and useful


Sunday, July 5, 2009


Did your fireworks shots come out? Lots of camera's have a special fireworks setting for capturing those fantastic shots, but it doesn't always work as you expect.

Because I use digital SLR's I set my camera to manual, selected a small aperture, set the shutter to bulb, the focus to manual and focused on infinity. The moon was out and I eventually focused on it, but since I was not using a tripod the images of the moon were blurry. I should have been using a tripod. I also used a zoom lens and tried several different focal lengths.

My wife uses a Nikon P80 though and manual settings do not work for her. She needs the camera to help decide what settings to use. The P80 has a fireworks setting but she found it didn't work for her. She got better results using the "Night Landscape" setting.

My grandson was using my old D70 with a zoom lens too. This kid always amazes me with what he captures and his fireworks shots were no exception. We set his camera to manual, turned off autofocus, set the shutter to bulb, and the the aperture to a small f/stop. He had a little trouble with focus early on but got it with a little help from me. I think he got more good shots than I and we were shooting the same scenes.

My intent with this post is simply to point out that even if your camera has a setting for everything, it may not capture the image as you want it. You don't have to simply accept what it does. Change the settings until you get what you want, not what the camera thinks you want.

I hope you found this post helpful and interesting. I also want to invite you to visit my website at, and my galleries at

Thanks for visiting
Dwain V

Photography Tips

Here are a few things you can do to improve your photography that will apply regardless of what camera you use. These are the basics that every photographer should know and do to get reasonably good pictures out of any camera.

Make sure you have a clean lens. Don't just blow the dust off, but use a clean cloth suitable for cleaning lenses and do it right.

Set up so your camera is stable and won't move as you press the shutter. You can do this a number of ways. If you will be handholding the camera, hold your elbows in against your sides, and stand with your feet apart with one slightly forward of the other. You can also lean against a solid object like a light pole, tree, building or whatever. The best method though is to use a tripod or monopod. I have both but I like to carry the tripod best. If I want to use it as a monopod I just extend only one leg and us it as I would a monopod. I'll add instructions about to how to use these tools later.

Finally the "First" basic thing you need to do is read your manual and learn what all the parts of your camera are for and how to use them. If you understand how your meter works and what white balence is you'll go a long way to getting that shot you want when the light is wierd and you are wondering why your pictures are all dark or yellow instead of like what you saw on the monitor or in the viewfinder.

I'll expand on all these topics in the coming weeks and months so you'll want to check back and see what I've added from time to time.