August finds us in Fair season and Shenandoah County’s is scheduled August 23-30. For the shutterbug, the fair offers endless opportunities to photograph; daytime, nighttime, indoors and out, the possibilities are endless.
For photographers and casual shutterbugs this is the perfect time of year to get outdoors and capture this special season. An excerpt from the April 2013 issue of the "Mountain Courier" published in the Shenandoah Valley, VA.
A Fall View of the Valley
A few ideas for capturing fall color throughout the Valley. An excerpt from the October 2010 "Mountain Courier" published in the Shenandoah Valley, VA.
Winter Camera Care
When photographing in the winter, make sure to take some precautions to protect your camera from damage that cold weather can cause. An excerpt from the "Mountain Courier" published in the Shenandoah Valley.
Winter White Snow
Snow often fools our camera meters which results in dark photos with washed out gray looking snow. There are many ways we can correct for this and capture the snow as white. An excerpt from the"Mountain Courier" published in the Shenandoah Valley
Capturing the Shenandoah County Fair
August finds us in Fair season and Shenandoah County’s is scheduled August 23-30. This annual event, loved and anticipated by many, began in the early nineteen hundreds as a way to bring farmers together and to showcase area farming, livestock and agriculture. Most of the activities centered around this and although today’s Fair continues that tradition, it has evolved and now offers a wide assortment of entertainment as well, such as tractor pulls, carnival rides, circus tents, concerts and more.
For the shutterbug, the fair offers endless opportunities to photograph; daytime, nighttime, indoors and out, the possibilities are endless.
Daytime Shooting Tips: Explore the fair during the day and capture folks enjoying themselves eating ice cream, watching the tractor pulls, or with your own children at the Petting Zoo or Kids tent. Shoot the colorful signs and banners, explore the livestock barn and the agricultural exhibits. Any camera will do.
- When you’re shooting outdoors during the day, chances are you’ll find the sky a white sea of haze so compose your frame without it for a stronger image.
- If you struggle to see your LCD screen in the bright light, look for a Hoodman Loop. It’s my favorite accessory for image review on bright sunny days. (www.hoodmanusa.com)
- Speaking of bright sunny days, don’t forget the Circular Polarizing filter (for those with interchangeable lens cameras.) These filters remove glare, make your reds, greens and blues more saturated, add contrast and overall just improve the look of your outdoor scenes on sunny days. Some compact cameras may have a ND (Neutral Density) setting and this may be helpful.
- Telephoto lenses with a focal length of 105mm, 135mm or greater, are helpful to fill the frame with your distant subject. They’re ideal for candid photos of people or close-ups of anything that you can’t physically get close to but want to make larger.
- A wider lens, anything from 50mm or smaller, is good to capture an entire scene like the length of the track of the tractor pulls, the view of the Fair’s main drag, or the wide range of the midway. The smaller the millimeter the lens, the more you’ll be able to fit in the frame.
- No need for the tripod during the day, it will only get in yours and other’s way and it’s plenty bright enough to hand hold your camera.
Indoors: My favorite times to shoot at the fair are in the morning and at dusk. Not only is the light better but it’s not so hot. Mid-day finds me indoors at the Livestock barns. This in itself offers so much to photograph, the young farm kids being my favorite. They love their farm animals like pets and their innocence and lack of inhibition is a joy to capture.
Don’t bother using the on-camera flash in the barns, most likely it will be too bright and spoil the “look” of the scene. Instead, set your ISO to 800 or 1600 (even 3200 might be needed depending on the camera and/or lens). Setting the ISO to a higher number allows the shutter speed to be faster which prevents blurry photos. As a rule of thumb, keep the shutter speed at 1/60th of a second or faster if hand holding.
Nighttime Shooting Tips: Shooting at night can be a lot of fun but can be frustrating if the photos aren’t coming out right. Here are a few tips that might help. Best results can be achieved when using the manual exposure settings.
- A tripod together with a cable release or self-timer is a must. You’ll want to capture long exposures at night and will need to keep the camera steady. Monopods won’t work for this.
- Try shooting the Ferris Wheel for 1 to 2 seconds to capture the motion of the lights. The photo here was captured at ISO 64, aperture f22 and shutter speed of 1.3 seconds.
- The neon lights of the midway make a colorful photo. On a tripod and in the Manual mode, try setting your ISO at 400 or 800, the aperture at f5.6 and the shutter speed around 1/15th of a second. If the photo is too bright, make a faster shutter speed of 1/30th or close the aperture to f8. If the photo is too dark, try moving either of those settings the other way to 1/8th or f4.
- Plan a few shots at civil twilight just after sunset when the sky is a beautiful royal blue and the artificial lights stand out like gems.
Each year the Fair holds a photography contest, find out more about entering your best shots on their website. The deadline is usually some time in the third week of August. http://www.shencofair.com
If you’ve enjoyed the County Fair but are looking for more, consider visiting the Virginia State Fair in Caroline County which runs from 9/27 thru 10/5.
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by Marie Joabar
If your gear has lay dormant thru the winter this is a perfect time for some spring cleaning. Wipe down the exterior of your camera body, lenses and filters. Empty and wipe down your camera bag and take the opportunity to get reorganized. Spring is the time to start fresh! For photographers and casual shutterbugs this is the perfect time of year to get outdoors and capture this special season.
If you are using an SLR, carry a range of lenses from wide angle to telephoto to capture just about any scenario you might encounter. Spring is the best time for macro photography and a dedicated macro lens is ideal (although close up filters or extension tubes can suffice if you're on a budget). A circular polarizing filter on a sunny day will saturate colors and reduce glare or unwanted reflections. A tripod would insure tack sharp images and is highly recommended. Last but not least, carry some sort of weatherproof case or rain cover for your gear just in case, you know what they say about April showers.
There's so much to shoot right now it might be hard to decide where to start. Bright and colorful flowers are always a popular choice and can brighten an otherwise dull scene. The natural gifts of budding green foliage, patterned bark on trees and soft moss on stones, all have interesting textures and present creative opportunities for great photographs. Get out early to capture the warm morning light, side lit light beams through a wooded forest, dew glistening on spider webs, misty dawns and glorious sunrises.
Waterfalls flow strong and full in the spring, seek out your favorite and shoot it in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun over exposing it. Streams and the abundance of wildlife that visit them make for great photo opportunities. When shooting streams and rivers, try to avoid composing from one bank looking straight across to the other. Instead, achieve a more dynamic sense of space by shooting upstream or downstream or try to get the water flowing from one corner of your shot to the opposite corner.
With the backdrops of colorful flowers and green foliage, this can be a great time to capture special friends and family framed in spring and especially of young children playing and enjoying being outdoors again.
No matter what you like to photograph, spring offers something for everyone. Dust off your camera and enjoy creating beautiful and memorable images of spring!
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A Fall View of the Valley
by Marie Joabar
October finds us surrounded by spectacular fall color regardless of where we are in the Valley. Whether we look east to the Massanuttens, or west to the Allegenys, we’ll view the mountains carpeted in rich shades of gold, scarlet and bronze, with an occasional splash of red. Although many people flock to Skyline Drive to take in grand views of the Valley below, there’s something to be said for standing down here in the center of it, totally immersed.
Photo enthusiasts will grab their gear and venture off in search of fall’s bounty; a colorful tree lined path through the woods, gold and orange leaves against a crisp blue sky, or a creative grouping of gourds, pumpkins and mums arranged around dried corn stalks.
Tree Lined Path - Mt Jackson
Autumn’s display usually starts with the yellows and golds of the Poplars and Hickories, and progresses to the oranges and reds of the Maples. Finally the Oaks kick in and boast shades of rusty bronzes and deep reds. The show started a bit early this year, perhaps due to the drought. I was surprised to find so many trees near peak while hiking in the Great North Mountains in early September. Typically, the opportunity to capture fall color in the Shenandoah Valley runs from late September through the first few weeks of November. This year, it may end sooner than normal just as it began sooner than normal, we’ll have to wait and see.
Below are a few ideas for capturing fall color throughout the Valley.
• During early mornings, especially in the fall, frost can often be found blanketing ferns and wildflowers, and morning fog or mist can be captured rising from nearby streams, ponds and lakes. Act fast though, once the sun rises higher, the frost melts and the fog dissipates.
• Look for ways to incorporate water into your photos; colorful fall leaves can be captured floating down a stream or swirling in an eddy, a still pond or small lake may offer beautiful reflections of trees along its banks.
• Find a scene with contrasting colors for a dramatic photograph. Look at a color wheel and notice those that are opposite each other. Think about purple asters mixed with yellow mums, bright orange maple leaves against a clear blue sky, or a stand of brilliant red Sumacs near a forest of deep green Pines.
• Fall is a wonderful time to photograph your family and friends. Find a pretty setting in which to frame your mother, father, wife, etc. Capture your friends walking down a trail lined in red maple trees. Photograph the fun your children are having as they jump into a pile of just raked leaves. Experiment with this: use a fast shutter to freeze them as they jump, then take the same shot again, this time with a slow shutter to purposely blur their motion.
Take advantage of the warm, golden light during the early morning and late afternoon. As with most landscape photography, these are the best times to shoot. Not only is the color of the light the most beautiful, but your subject will be lit from the side since the sun is lower in the sky. This makes for a more appealing image without harsh shadows or over exposed areas.
Using a Circular Polarizing filter on a bright sunny day is one of the easiest ways to improve fall photos. This filter reduces glare making colors more vibrant, especially the reds, greens and blues. An Enhancing filter is another great tool to have in your bag for fall color. As the name implies, use it to enhance the red and orange colors of fall leaves or autumn scenes.
Whether or not falls colorful leaves are able to cling to the trees into November remains to be seen. In the meantime, dig out a sweater, grab your camera, and find your favorite way to capture autumn’s display.
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Winter Camera Care
by Marie Joabar
Winter is upon us but the cold weather shouldn’t prevent you from getting outdoors to photograph. Just make sure to take some precautions to protect your camera from damage that cold weather can cause.
The biggest threat to your equipment is condensation that forms when you bring your camera into the warm indoors after being out in the cold. This moisture can cause damage to the electronics inside the camera. To prevent this, when bringing your camera indoors, give it time to gradually adjust to the room temperature. Keep it inside the camera bag and leave it closed for several hours or until the camera has reached room temperature. (By the way, in the summer, reverse the order if you are going from an air conditioned house to the humid outdoors; leave it in the camera bag until it gradually acclimates.)
If condensation forms on the camera, stop using it immediately. Remove the battery, the memory card and lens cap, and keep compartment doors open until the condensation evaporates. Avoid using it again and especially don’t take it back out in the cold until all the moisture has dried as it may freeze and do irreparable damage.
Battery life is greatly reduced as the cold quickly drains the power from the batteries. Keep your spare battery in a pocket close to your body. If the battery in your camera runs low, replace it with your spare and warm up the one from the camera to get a bit more life from it. I don’t recommend tucking your camera inside your jacket to keep it warm between shoots as the rapid fluctuations in temperatures may cause condensation to form. Just leave the camera in the cold while you are using it in the cold. Powering it off when not shooting will help extend the battery life.
To protect from snow or rain keep a plastic bag with you or inside your camera bag. If it suddenly rains or snows while you’re out shooting, put the bag around the camera to keep it dry. There are products designed specifically to cover a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens which allows you to continue shooting but any plastic bag is better than no plastic bag when you are caught off guard in rain/snow. A lens hood will serve to keep water or snowflakes off the front lens element so you can continue shooting.
Now that you’ve prepared your equipment for the cold, put some thought into keeping yourself warm. One of my favorite things to carry in my camera bag is a couple packs of hand and feet warmers. It’s much more enjoyable to be out photographing in the cold and snow when I can feel my fingers and toes.
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Winter White Snow
by Marie Joabar
There’s no crystal ball to tell us how much snow we’ll get this year but if my snow globe is any indication, we’ll surely see at least a few inches. Exposing for snow can be tricky though – most cameras will underexpose snow scenes giving us photos that are dark, with gray looking snow. This is especially true when snow makes up the majority of the scene.
What we see as a beautiful snowy scene, the camera reads as a sea of brightness and determines less exposure is necessary. This is because the camera’s light meter is designed to measure the light reflected off a subject and while most subjects reflect the same amount of light as medium gray, white subjects reflect twice as much.
It can be pretty easy to correct for this in order to capture the snow as white and avoid getting images that are underexposed and washed out.
• First, set a low ISO. Try ISO 50, 100 or even 200 if that is as low as your camera can go.
• FOR DSLR OR POINT & SHOOT CAMERAS IN AUTO MODE Look to see if your camera has a Snow/Sand setting (usually found as one of the Scene modes). This setting is designed to properly expose for scenes which have subjects that reflect more light than normal. If your camera doesn’t have Sand/Snow setting, try locking the exposure on something other than snow - aim at something neutral in tone, depress the shutter button half way and keeping the pressure on it, recompose, and then depress fully. Since this may lock focus as well, it’s best to aim it at something at the same distance as your subject.
• FOR DSLR OR POINT & SHOOT CAMERAS IN ANY OF THE MANUAL MODES In Aperture or Shutter priority, or in the Program mode, use the Exposure Compensation (represented by a +/- symbol) and turn the dial to the + direction by 1 to 2 stops. You’ll see 0.3 for one third stop, 0.7 for two thirds stop, 1.0 for one full stop, 1.3 for one and one third stop, etc.
In full Manual, simply change the shutter speed or aperture until the exposure scale in the bottom of the viewfinder reflects 1 to 2 stops over exposure. (On this scale, each of the little pegs usually represents 1/3 of a stop. Dial it until is shows 1 to 2 full stops over zero).
Have fun photographing your favorite subjects in snow. Capture your kids as a colorful blur of bright jackets and hats as they fly down a hill on their sled. Use your macro setting or macro lens to reveal the tiny, frozen details of sparkling snowflakes or find a magical winter landscape scene of the Valley blanketed in snow.