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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

(Urban) Landscape Photography


On the hunt with a compact camera and big game in mind

Labels: How-ToColumnBasic Jones

Dewitt Jones captured this moment in the urban landscape with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX3.

Ah, there’s nothing like wild nature! Standing alone on some windswept hill staring through your telephoto lens at a herd of elk quietly grazing in a meadow below. Capturing the moment when a snowy egret lands on her nest or filling cards with images as she feeds her young. Snapping a once-in-a-lifetime shot as a brown bear snatches a salmon from an icy stream.

I could wax rhapsodic on experiences like these for hours. Unfortunately, I’m in New York City, here to give a talk to 700 stockbrokers, about as far away from wild nature as I possibly could be. Try as I might, I’m just not a city guy (no disrespect, but large congregations of my own species just don’t do it for me). But my lecturing means I spend a fair amount of time in cities. I had to do something to change my attitude or I was going to become urbanly depressed.

Enter small point-and-shoot cameras. I’ve written a lot about these little gems in this column—how good they are, how they have changed the way I shoot. Nowhere has this been more evident than in my relationship to the urban landscape.

I stare out into my audience of financial folks there in the New York ballroom. Not so different than a herd of bulls (true, there are a few bears among them). Equally fascinating to watch. Seriously. It’s only too much time in the wilderness that has my brain trying to tell me that elk are far more interesting than humans.

I start to reach for the little Panasonic LUMIX LX3 on my belt. “Dewitt! You’re on stage! You can’t take a photo now!” True. I repress the urge. But as soon as the talk is over, I head out on the streets of Manhattan for a little urban wildlife photography.

I set my camera to ISO 400 (more if it’s overcast). I’m not going to make huge blowups of these shots, so I’m not worried about color noise. Besides, there are too many great noise-reduction programs to help with that. Most of the time I set the camera on shutter priority at 1⁄250 sec. Then I set it to manual focus and fix a focal distance so it will be sharp from, say, four feet to 100 feet (this way the camera doesn’t have to try and focus for each shot and delay the shutter firing).

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