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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ask The Pros!

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Q. I will be in Moab, Utah, this weekend and want to shoot the full moon rising at Delicate Arch. I have an Olympus 510 with three lenses (70-300mm is my big one). Any tips for shooting the full moon against a colorful surrounding? Thanks!
—Kelly Horne

A. Kelly,
The moon is really tricky. It’s a small object in the sky that’s usually very bright compared to the landscape. Remember that the moon is getting hit by full sunlight as bright as daylight, yet the dusk landscape, for example, is getting dark. Many of the shots you’ve seen with a large moon were done as double exposures in the days of film or with two shots in digital then merged in Photoshop. One shot is of the landscape shot normally; the moon shot is done with a telephoto lens to make the moon look big.

It’s possible to get a large moon and the landscape in one shot, but conditions have to be just right in order to do that. You have to do this when the moon is near the horizon right at sunset. Then the sun will be lighting your scene and the moon in the same way, allowing an exposure that captures both well. You also need a telephoto (300mm would be okay) to get the moon large enough to see.

It’s possible to simply get a moon in the shot. In that case, it might be a white spot because it’s so bright for the exposure. The key to this is to get the moon large enough (i.e., use the right focal length for it and the scene) and have it appear in an interesting part of the composition. The latter isn’t always easy, as the moon won’t simply move into the position where you need it! Finally, you can shoot HDR (high dynamic range). With HDR, you take several exposures, one to get the moon at the proper brightness, one to get the landscape at the proper brightness and one or more in-between. Then with a program like HDRsoft’s Photomatix or LR/Enfuse, you bring that range of exposures into one photo resulting in an image closer to what you actually saw compared to the limitations of the camera.
—Rob Sheppard

Q. What is the most important piece of gear you carry into the field?
—Joe Castillo

A. Joe,
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not camera gear. As a photographer working outdoors, being comfortable in whatever the elements bring my way is very important. I need to stay dry, warm or cool, and be protected from insects that can be deadly as well as annoying, and from sun that can cause cancer. The gear also has to perform in off-trail situations, and protect me from sharp rocks, thick brush and stream crossings. With that in mind, my most important gear is my clothing and boots. I think I know almost as much about foul-weather gear as I do about camera equipment, and I probably have almost as much money invested in the clothing as I do in cameras and lenses.

A unique perspective is one tool for visually communicating the wonders we’re so fortunate to witness, as you can see in this image of foliage in Vermont.
Skimping on this part of your equipment can be life threatening. It pays to research these products and spend as much as you can afford. Running a strong second as critical equipment is a tripod. I think most serious photographers are getting the message that a tripod is not a pain-in-the-neck cross to bear, but an integral part of the image-making process. Also, with the digital revolution, it’s difficult to do HDR, focus management and digital pans without one. With ballheads and the great quick-release mounts now available, using a tripod is easier than ever. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get great images on a regular basis without a good one.
—Tom Till

A. The thing between my ears! Successful photographers have to think, analyze and find solutions on the fly to the problems in front of the lens. Wildlife photographers have to do this not only for the photographic craft, but the biology they’re seeing, and translate all that experience in a single click to their audience. And, of course, connected to that brain has to be a heart. Passion is the key to grabbing the viewer’s heartstrings!
—Moose Peterson


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