There are always going to be moments in a shooter’s life where he or she just feels glum. Non-creative, even. Here are some tips to get the blood flowing!
1 Take a hike!
Summer means hot, but it’s the perfect season for an early-morning or late-afternoon hike. The temperature is most pleasant then, and by fortuitous coincidence, these are also the best times for most outdoor photography: The low-angle sunlight produces long shadows that add interest to scenic shots, and the warm illumination enhances people and wildlife portraits. It’s beautiful early and late in the day, and a wonderful time to explore the world around you with your camera, whether that world is your local neighborhood or a national park. Look for exciting lighting, grand vistas and small details, and try different lens focal lengths.
2 Make an outdoor portrait!
Direct noon sunlight is terrible for people pictures, because its harshness makes subjects squint, and its high angle causes eyes to disappear into black pockets of shadow. But when the sun is low in the sky, your subject can face it without squinting, giving you a beautiful directional light source. Summer provides a longer “window” of early and late light for your shooting pleasure (we’d suggest late afternoon for most subjects, as few of us look our photogenic best first thing in the morning, and the build-up of industrial haze during the day makes afternoon light more red-orange compared to the more yellow light of early morning – important if you’re shooting in color). You can face your subject directly toward the sun for front lighting, or at an angle for more facial modeling (use a white, silver or gold photo reflector or large sheet of white poster board to bounce light into the shadow areas). If you want softer light, try open shade. Or turn your subject away from the sun and use a large reflector to “bounce” light back onto the subject’s face.
3 Get wet!
Summer is the season of water fun, and provides many opportunities to get great photos of these activities. But instead of just shooting as a passive spectator, look for new angles and, when possible, try to get into the action. Here, photographers found a bridge overlooking a kayaker, went for a swim to get a close-up view of a rowboat, and captured a water skier from the back of the tow boat. Be sure to protect your camera from the elements (use a waterproof or weatherproof camera, or an underwater housing – relatively inexpensive ones like those from Ewa Marine provide great protection). Use fast shutter speeds to “freeze” action, or slow speeds to blur it. Try panning the camera to track a moving subject at a slow shutter speed, to really emphasize the subject’s speed against a blurred background.
4 Face the music!
Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor concerts, and with a decent eat and a zoom lens, you can get some nice shots from your seat. Four things to keep in mind: First, some concerts don’t permit photography – don’t try to sneak a camera in to these. Second, concerts that do permit photography generally don’t permit the use of flash. The solution? Fast film – Fujicolor Super G Plus 800 allowed the photographer to catch Carlene Carter in concert with a handheld 35mm SLR and 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. Third, because of the dramatic lighting at concerts, it’s best to use a spot meter (or, as done here, the SLR’s built-in spot-metering capability) to read the main subject, so the reading isn’t adversely influenced by darker or brighter areas of the scene. Fourth, remember to enjoy the music!
5 Bag a beastie!
Professional wildlife photographers spend weeks, months, even lifetimes in the field to get their amazing animal shots. But you can get some very nice ones at your local zoo, seashore or park. You’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking you spent weeks on safari – you just want some great animal shots. Tips: Take a telephoto zoom lens, go early in the day (when the crowds are sparse), check your backgrounds for distracting elements, and look for good lighting. And don’t forget about human “beasties” – they can be the most fascinating subjects of all!
6 Get a (night) life!
Warm summer nights make for comfortable shooting and provide lots to shoot. Great night subjects include city skylines, busy boulevards, neon signs, night lights reflected in glass and water, and night life in general. Use fast film and you can capture the many moods of the night by existing light. Use a tripod and you can make long exposures to blur moving traffic while stationary elements of the scene remain sharp.