May Theme Challenge – “Your Local Zoo”

The theme challenge for May 2022 is “Your Local Zoo“. This month the assignment is to go to a zoo near you and enjoy capturing some animals that you may not have had the chance to photograph before. You’ll contribute to supporting the work they do at your local zoo when you pay admission and you’ll get an opportunity to photograph various types of animals up close.

Two well known Zoo’s in Nova Scotia are the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park and Interpretive Centre located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia known for it’s variety of animals and birds native to North America and the Oaklawn Farm Zoo located in Millville Nova Scotia known for it’s various exotic and native breeds of animals, birds and reptiles.


There are many challenges to getting good images while at a zoo and we’ll discuss some techniques that will help through showing sample images which will re-enforce the tips presented. The main problem we face as photographers at a zoo is the wire fencing to make it disappear from our images. There are a number of key elements that will help make better images:
■ overcast weather minimizes the glare on the fencing, or find a spot where the fence is in the shade
■ get as close to the fence as possible
■ wait for the subject to be further away from you
■ use a longer focal length lens such as 100mm – 500mm with a wider aperture such as f/4 – f/8 this will blur out the fence that is between you and the subject, pick the aperture that blurs out the fence but also has enough depth of focus to have the subject sharp
■ use a single continuous focus point and focus in a clear spot of the fence, if your having trouble you may need to switch to manual focus, remember to focus on the subjects eye
■ wait until your subject is away from the fence to the subjects left or right so its out of the image frame
■ also wait until the fence behind the subject is further away too so the fence will be blurred out in the background
■ a tighter crop will also help with removing fencing and other distractions from your images
■ Photoshop may be required to cleanup the fencing that was not removed with in camera techniques as described above, you also may want to completely replace the background depending on the in camera result

The first image of the Siberian Tiger was taken at a low angle, remember its important to get to eye level so the viewer feels connected to the subject. This image was taken at Oaklawn Farm Zoo as the Tiger was pacing around the pen. I used a longer focal length, 400mm, to isolate the head and neck of the subject removing the fencing from the right side of the subject and minimizing the background which is also out of focus due to the focal length, aperture and position of the subject away from the camera and background.

The image of the female African Lion, taken at Oaklawn Farm Zoo, below is a composite image meaning I replaced the background using Photoshop with an image of a field because the Lion did not move a way from the fence background. As in this case if the need arises to replace the background keep an eye out for background image possibilities at the zoo or surrounding area with the same light and colour so the composite will look as natural as possible. Always keep an eye out for possible scenes to use as backgrounds just in case the in camera image did not work as hoped. If you do not have access to Photoshop checkout a free online web browser based alternative called Photopea which will allow you to achieve background replacements.

The horses shown below, taken at Oaklawn Farm Zoo, were composed tightly to remove the surrounding distractions

The next four images shown below were taken at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. This image of the Cougar was using a longer focal length to blur out the fence close to the camera and a tight composition to remove the fence on the right side, however the Cougar did not move a way from the fence in the background, so I used Photoshop to remove the fence.

The image of the Arctic Wolf with the reflection was taken with a longer focal length and composed tightly to remove the fence for the left of the Wolf, however the background was his wooden den and as a result I replaced the background using Photoshop.

The image of the Timber Wolf was taken as the Wolf was pacing around it’s pen and I waited until the Wolf was in a position that gave a clean more natural background before I captured the image. The Timber wolf was in the optimum position in the pen, being far enough away to blur out the fence, a great background, and in good light.

The Red Fox image is a composite replacing the background because the pen just did not have any angles that I could position myself to get a good background. The background for the Fox image was shot at the zoo and used to replace the background using Photoshop.

As you can see from the examples above that it’s challenging to get all of your images successfully in camera, and may require some Photoshop work to get a final image. In any case you can see it’s possible to create successful images. It’s well worth the experience, to get out for some fresh air, exercise, as well as support your local zoo.

Let’s see what Zoo images you create this month.

With our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a few YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Zoo Photography instructional aids:
5 Tips For Taking Great Photos At The Zoo with Laurie Rubin: by Laurie Rubin [ViewBug] (14min 13sec)
No Fences Ep 137: Take and Make Great Photos with Gavin Hoey: by Gavin Hoey [Adorama] (12min 2sec)
How to Remove Fence Lines: Photoshop Tutorial #49: by Glyn Dewis (16min 5sec)
Remove Fence with 3 Simple Steps in Photoshop: by PiXimperfect (15min 33sec)

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

April Theme Challenge – “The Moon”

Although a bit late, for this month, April 2022, the theme challenge is “The Moon”. This month the assignment is more challenging from a technical perspective and it requires a bit of planning as well as some specific gear. Your goal is to shoot a single image of the moon either on it’s own or in a landscape.

The moon varies in brightness due to the amount of ambient light from the sun. The colour of the moon is determined by the reflected light from the sun including the angle of the sun in relation to the moon and the atmospheric conditions. The best time of day is when the moon is rising as the sun is setting or when the moon is setting just before the sun is rising.

For images of the moon, go out at the edge of twilight. From last month’s challenge we learned that Civil twilight is the most favourable time within the “Blue Hour” to take photos when we observe the most beautiful colourful light.

Here are some specific tips that will help getting a great image:

The location of the moon in relation to the landscape. It is important to pick a landscape that is further away so that you can achieve a sharp landscape and sharp moon.

Choose a longer focal length such as 200mm or longer so the moon will look larger in your image similar to what your eyes see. Also choose a smaller aperture f/8 – f/11.

Adjust your exposure for the highlights which is the moon, the landscape may be slightly darker but if exposed correctly you will be able to increase the shadows in post processing to bring out enough detail in the landscape. Carefully consider your shutter speed because the earth is moving and as a result the moon will appear to be moving so choose a faster shutter speed say 1/60 to 1/125. It may require a higher ISO setting to get the correct exposure.

Shooting in low light and at longer focal lengths such as 200mm etc… it’s important to use a tripod to ensure sharp images. It’s a good idea to turn off image stabilization, however this depends on your gear as some equipment with newer technology may not be required this step so it’s important to know your gear.

Post processing is typically required to adjust the brightness of the shadows to bring out the detail in the landscape.

Let’s look at some image examples.

First we start with closeup images of the moon with no landscape taken with a longer focal length. The first image is taken when the moon is higher in the sky and as a result there is no colour. The second image is an image of the moon that was not at the horizon and a bit higher in the sky but the colour was influenced by the atmosphere due to the smoke dust from the forest fires across Canada that year. The third image is more dramatic due to the clouds and the light off the moon and clouds creating a more dramatic image. Remember to keep an eye on the news and the weather to determine when it is a good time to go out and capture your image.

When choosing a location to include the landscape it’s important to pick a landscape subject that is further away so you can use a longer focal length to have the moon appear larger in your image. You can use the PhotoPills app or the TPE app to help plan. Remember to watch the moon rise/set in conjunction with the sun set/rise during the month to pick the right time to get the best image possible. Each of these images are a single shot and enhanced using post processing to bring out the landscape detail.

Even if you only have a mobile phone and do not have a longer focal length you can get an image where the moon can enhance your image. It just takes timing. In this image I saw the clouds moving and the moon’s position changing in relation to the clouds and was hoping the moon would appear as an eye in what I called the dragon cloud. I took a number of shots so I would not miss the exact moment with the moon in the right position. Although more challenging just be observant while you are out taking images, you never know what you’ll see and capture.

Let’s see what images you create of the moon this month

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

March Theme Challenge – “Blue Hour”

For this month, March 2022, the theme challenge is “Blue Hour”. This is the time of day referred to as twilight which is, approximately, the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset.

Twilight is the duration before sunrise or after sunset between day and night. Twilight goes through 3 stages; civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight. For more detailed information on twilight please visit Wikipedia about Twilight.

In general Civil twilight is approximately 20-30min before sunrise and 20-30min after sunset. Civil twilight is the most favourable time within “Blue Hour” to take photos, because the light from the sun could reflect off any high clouds, if present, that are in the sky which can create result in a beautiful colourful light.

Civil twilight is also a great time of day to shoot at slower shutter speeds which allows you to create photos that show motion. This time of day is at a lower brightness of light which makes it possible to obtain slower shutter speeds without the use of neutral density filters.

Hopefully viewing the following images will provide some inspiration to pick up your camera and get you out there to create some of your own interesting images.

Here are some examples of the colourful light that occurs on the high clouds in the sky when lit up by the sun before sunrise or after sunset. Typically this colourful light occurs within the time period between 5min to 10min after the sunset and 5min to 10min before sunrise. As already mentioned with less light this allows for slower shutter speeds, and in these cases you can capture the movement of the waves as blurred action which shows motion in your image. the first image captures the motion as the wave is receding and the second image shows the water as the wave is coming in. It’s important to push the shutter at the right time and therefore best to use a cable release. You can also use a 2 second self timer mode but you have to push the shutter 2 seconds before the decisive moment.

A cell phone camera can capture amazing images as well during Civil twilight. The second image of the Moon is a Photoshop “composite” using a cell phone image of the clouds and a DSLR image of the moon taken with a zoom lens as the moon was setting just before the blue hour which was then combined in photoshop, this is why the moon looks large in the final composite image. This moon image, although not similar, was inspired by the scene of Luke Skywalker when on Tatooine looking at the twin suns in the Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope Movie.

Taking images during civil twilight combined with the right atmospheric conditions (land fog caused by cooling air temperatures) can create some dreamy landscapes as well.

Reflections can create interesting images as well. Look in all directions you never know what you’ll be able to capture.

Even when the magic colour in the sky doesn’t happen, take advantage of the low light for slower shutter speeds to create some long exposure images resulting in a dreamy landscape.

March still has cooler temperatures and we still need to be aware of the possibility of moisture accumulating on your camera equipment in certain situations. Please refer to last month’s February theme challenge – “Winter Scene” and scroll down to the paragraph on “Equipment Care” for more information on how to protect your equipment.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a few YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Blue Hour Photography instructional aids:
Getting The Best Photos in Blue Hour: by Nigel Danson (18min 16sec)
The Blue Hour it’s the best time for Landscape Photography: by Gary Gough (11min 26sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

February Theme Challenge – “Winter Scene”

I apologize for posting this months challenge later than hoped, due to recent computer upgrades. For this month, February 2022, the theme challenge is “Winter Scene”. The content here is similar to the Feb 2020 challenge of Snow, Frost, or Ice.

Taking photographs in the cold weather has it’s challenges; keeping yourself warm and comfortable, being careful not to fall, and keeping your gear free from condensation are all important things to consider before going out. See below after the sample images to get tips on equipment cold weather care and proper exposure to get your snow white.

Snow and can create dreamy conditions and it can help remove distractions in the landscape. Go around your area and create some images of the conditions where you live. You can even take a few of the images and create a collage depicting winter life in your community.

With ice it’s a matter of catching the right light and angle to make your images more interesting. The changing conditions cycling through snow, rain, and refreezing as well as the impact the wind has on the final result can create something very interesting.

Taking images at sunset or sunrise when it is cold enough to freeze the ocean can help create interesting images as well.

Create some memories of subjects you see in your community under abnormal conditions such as this fishing boat in the ice. If you know the owner you can always share the photo with them as well.

Equipment care: Taking your camera gear from a warm environment to the outside usually does not cause any issues, however when going from the cold back into a warm environment is where condensation can quickly form on your camera/lens and this is where it can be harmful to your gear eventually causing spots on your external and more seriously the internal lens elements which eventually causes mold. Before going in to a warm environment from the cold, place your camera/lens back inside your camera bag (your bag needs to be padded with zipper closed) this will allow your gear to raise in temperature slowly and therefore condensation will not happen. An additional protection tip is to put your camera/lens in a Ziploc bag, this will allow the condensation to form on the outside of the bag and not on your camera/lens.

Stay Warm: To enjoy your time out in the cold dress in layers with thermal socks for your feet and gloves that allow you to operate your camera and keep your hands warm. If you are in icy conditions use crampons or cleats on your boots, they will keep you from falling so you don’t get hurt or break your gear.

White balance is best set for the weather condition; use sunny, cloudy or custom. If you are not sure use auto but the result may not be as good (depending on your camera) as my previous suggestions.

Exposure: The challenge in taking a photograph in snow, frost or ice conditions is getting the right exposure. If you let your camera automatically pick the exposure you will immediately see that the snow, frost and ice is more gray than white. This is because the camera’s auto exposure is based on 18% gray, which is the amount of light reflected from a 50% gray surface. To solve gray looking snow, frost and ice, set your “exposure compensation” at +2. If you see the “highlight alert” on your display then back off the exposure compensation by -1/3 at a time until you no longer see the “highlight alert”. You will then have the proper exposure for shooting with snow or ice conditions.

The same exposure technique goes for manual mode, set your exposure until your camera meter shows +2. Then take a photo and see if you see any highlight alerts, if you do then back off the exposure by -1/3 increments until you no longer see any highlight alerts.

Your final best exposure for auto or manual exposure is usually closer to +2 than +1.

You can review the blog articles on exposure compensation and highlight alert if you need help.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a number of YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Snow, Frost or Ice Photography instructional aids:
How to take amazing photos in the snow: by Gavin Hoey (3min 53sec)
Landscape Photography Tips & Techniques, Winter Freeze: by Thomas Heaton (15min 55sec)
Snow Landscape Photography Tips: by Micael Widell (10min 17sec)
Landscape Photography in the Snow, Winter in North Yorkshire by: First Man Photography (11min 5sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

January Theme Challenge – “Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch”

The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch in Nova Scotia is held each year during the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February. You can visit during the week on your own when there are less visitors. 80% of the Poultry farmers are in this area for Nova Scotia and supply the Eagles with dead chickens each day. The Eagles are typically fed around 9:00-9:30am. There can be hundreds of Eagles at this location during the winter months. Many photographers and viewers come to see the Eagles every year. The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch Viewing site is located at 1770 Middle Dyke Rd, Centreville, NS B0P 1J0 (45.15342713667335, -64.49383798667183).

This is an opportunity to see the majestic Bald Eagle, although this event has received criticism in recent years it is still very amazing to see and provides photographers with the ability to get fairly close to capture amazing images.

Part of being a photographer is creating images on assignment whether you are hired by someone or you have your own idea for an image that you have wanted to create by setting a goal for yourself to make it happen (self assignment). This month I encourage you to travel to Sheffield Mills to see the Bald Eagles in action. Create an image or a short video of the bald eagles. For tips on taking images of wildlife refer to the September 2020 theme challenge on backyard wildlife. Do some preparation by looking up the location on google maps (see above embedded map), check the weather forecast, make sure you are dressed for the cool temperatures and pack the camera gear you will need. Spend the time, the eagles don’t always come close right away, be patient and you will be rewarded with not only great images but you’ll also have an exciting experience. Don’t be intimidated by other photographers with expensive gear, use what you have and concentrate on getting the best images possible and don’t forget to enjoy the experience. Weather you have a kit 55-250mm lens or an iPhone you’ll be able to capture some images. Consider using your phone to take a video.

Here is an example video of a Bald Eagle eating in a tree. The video was taken with a Canon 7D and a telephoto lens.

If you do not live close enough to be able to visit Sheffield Mills you can still create an image for this months theme challenge by taking images of local wildlife.

Important note about looking after your camera gear in cold weather; Usually when you bring your camera gear from the cold into a warmer area such as a vehicle or building moisture will appear on your camera and lens which is not desirable. It is important to put your camera and lens into your insulated camera bag or tightly wrapped in an insulated blanket or jacket before getting into a vehicle or building. You can also use large ziplock bags (make sure the bag is properly sealed) while outside for your camera and lens so the moisture will accumulate on the bag and not your gear.

For some history of the Sheffield Mills Eagle watch check out my photo essay below. Also consider creating your own photo essay.

Below are a few sample images taken in 2020 and 2021.

f/8, 1/2000, ISO 640, @516mm
f/8, 1/2000, ISO 1600, @600mm

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints and ideas.
Birds of Prey Photography and iPhone Video instructional aids:
How to Photograph Eagles and Birds of Prey: by Tim Boyer Photography (15min 22sec)
10 AMAZING iPhone Videography Tips: by Think Media (11min 41sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

November Theme Challenge – Blue

f/8, 1/200, ISO 100, @100mm

We had some computer problems this month limiting the time to put this challenge together, good thing we have OS mirrored backups using Macrium Reflect free version which allowed us to recover the “C:” drive and get one of our systems up and working again. (This is not a sponsored add but just wanted to say it’s a great product).

We are going to keep the challenge simple this month as we will be making photos of subjects that are the colour “Blue”. It might still be a bit of a challenge finding “Blue” subjects with all the autumn colour still left, but I am sure you’ll be able to find appropriate subjects.

With this challenge you can either stay inside and do some still life photography or head outdoors and seek out some subjects to photograph.

Below are examples to spark some ideas.

Still Life; The “Blue” mailman toy above was shot using flash and a snoot, however you can accomplish the same thing with a table lamp and a piece of white paper to roll into a cone to create a DIY snoot (just remember to use an LED bulb in the lamp to keep the temperature down because we don’t want the paper to burn). You’ll have to photograph your image at night and use a tripod or something to put your camera on to keep it stable and use the 2 second self timer mode as your shutter speeds will be low. The concept was to light the mailman as if he were lit with lights on a stage. Because the light will be harsh position the toy to minimize the shadows on the face and body to make any remaining shadows pleasing. I hope you have as much fun as I did creating a similar image.

Vehicles; There are many vehicles out there that are blue, but find something unique and take your time with the composition including thinking about the focal length that best suits the situation. With the old blue trunk on the left it was shot using a zoom lens at 50mm which meant being a bit closer to the truck to exclude a lot of the background. With the car it was shot from across the street with a zoom lens at 180mm so the composition would include the street light, tree(s), sidewalk and house to enhance the image. Focal length does make a difference so think about it when composing your image to maximize the story/impact.

Boats; In the image below there was a blue boat tied off the wharf just begging to be photographed. Embracing the orange and red colours of the trees and the building it helps make the blue boat stand out in the image.

The Blue Hour; Not only finding blue subjects but shooting them during the blue hour can create solid images as well. This image is a bit busy but there is the rule of odds (three blue boats), reflections due to the calm water, and the pink sky providing a contrast in colour to the image.

let’s see what images you create this month and have some fun.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

October Theme Challenge – Resilience

f/16, 1/13, ISO 100, @24mm

This month we will be trying to evoke emotion in our images by seeking out subjects that show “resilience”.

From the Webster Dictionary; resilience – an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.

Now not every subject would show the ability to recover easily, in many cases it is, could, or would have been hard and/or take a long time to recover from a difficult situation.

Take the plant that is growing on the side of this building, for instance, it’s something you don’t expect to see. You wonder how it grew, how long it took and how it’s able to stay attached to the building. It provides a bit of mystery to the image.

Many things can be thought of as resilient. Although the examples shown below are subjects that can be found easily in our daily environment there can be a deeper meaning to resilience such as; the impact on people, nature, infrastructure and the economy due to climate change, or the impact on people due to a lock down caused by a global pandemic such as Covid-19, and even the impact on people due to terrorism, civil unrest or a war. Images to express this type of resilience would typically be portrayed in a photo journalistic manner and in most cases require a collection of images to convey the story or invoke a call to action. Portraying this type of resilience is beyond the scope of this monthly theme.

Below are just some examples for ideas.

Rocks with Plants/Trees; With plants/trees growing out of rock crevices, how do they get enough nutrients to survive in this situation? How big will they grow and how long will they last? These are just some of the questions or feelings your images could say. There are many opportunities for this type of image, so just go out with your camera and keep an open mind.

Animals; Many animals work all day long gathering enough food to eat to just survive. The Kingfisher shown, for example, captured a field mouse which are in their diet but you typically see them diving for fish, however in the wild they eat when they can and what they can. The seal resting on the rock has a scarred tail, maybe from a boat or from fishing gear, but it is still surviving. The Owl hunts in any kind of weather because it needs to eat to stay alive. The Mother fox still has to get enough nourishment to feed it’s young, it must be difficult to feed so many pups. Go out as often as possible to see what you can find.

Life where you least expect it; How does a tree die and then a new tree start growing out of it? Even an apple tree growing out of the beach rocks, again how is that possible. As you find these types of subjects it will make you even more aware of your surrounding environment and maybe leave you in awe of nature.

Man Made Structures; Up to this point we have discussed living things, however man made structures can last a long time even though they show their wear. The image of the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse before it was recently painted, shows how these icons of the rugged shoreline have survived for many many years providing a beacon of safety for the ships that passed by. Many old barns still stand even after many years of neglect, it makes you wonder how they were constructed to be so resilient.

Stretch your mind and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

September Theme Challenge – “Water”

f/11, 1/100, ISO 640, @150mm

This month I encourage you to use water in your images. Water can either be the subject or be used to help add more interest to your images, for example the grass and sky reflection in the calm water shown in this photo.

Water can be calm which allows the use of reflections to add more interest to your image, or be turbulent created by water movement, wind or storms. Water can also be in the form of rain or artificial form a water hose as an example.

Just think of all the creative possibilities that water can bring to your images.

Below are only some examples for ideas.

Waterfalls; Now that the rainy season has begun, you now have the opportunity to photograph some water falls. Remember to not only capture the entire waterfall but also to isolate some detail using a longer focal length lens to get capture that dreamy image. It doesn’t matter if the waterfall is big or small there is always an image to be made while at the same time enjoying the sounds of the water and wildlife. Refer to the November 2020 Waterfall Theme Challenge for some additional ideas and techniques.

Waves; Now that the hurricane season has begun there is an opportunity to capture some large wave activity, just keep safety in mind when you are close to the shoreline it can be very dangerous. Just use a longer focal length lens and stay back a safe distance and its a good idea to have someone come along with you. You can also capture some unique images of the waves created by a boat, with the image from the wake of a boat at golden hour you can end up with a timeless photograph. It’s also possible to use slower shutter speeds and use a panning technique following the wave to create something a bit different, a slower shutter speed of around 1/15 sec or slower and place yourself along side the waves instead of in front. Refer to the December 2019 Seascapes Theme Challenge for some additional ideas and techniques.

Long Exposure; To obtain a long exposure we need to lower our shutter speed which can be a challenge if you do not have some of the special equipment required such as a tripod, remote trigger, and ND (Neutral Density) filters. If you do not have ND filters the slower shutter speeds can be more easily obtained when the lighting conditions are low, such as in the early morning or late in the day when the sun is below the horizon which is referred to as civil twilight. This is when the sky can light up and be completely magical. The ISO is typically set to 100, with shutter speeds from 0.5sec to 5sec and an appropriate small aperture f/11 – f/16 to help obtain the right exposure and for the appropriate depth of field. For the streaks as the water is receding you need to pick the right time to press the shutter. If you do not have a remote trigger you can use the 2sec timer function in your camera it just takes a bit of practice to get used to when to push the shutter.

Water Drops; You can take advantage of photographing subjects with water drops on them after a rainfall such as flowers, windows, or flat colorful surfaces. Capturing water drop splashes can also be a lot of fun to try and there are many ways to accomplish these type of photos even with out special equipment. Take the time to watch the videos below about water drop photography which cover a DIY method and with using special equipment. There are many ways to do this with minimal gear but it does take patience so have fun giving it a try.

Stretch your creativity and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below shows YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Water Photography instructional aids:
How to Get Started with Long Exposure Photography by: Mark Denney (15min 26sec)
How To Photograph Water Drops At Home by: Gavin Hoey (6min 53sec)
How to Do Water Drop Photography, Testing the MIOPS Splash Kit by: First Man Photography (18min 21sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

August Theme Challenge – “In Your Community”

f/8, 1/80, ISO 3200, @35mm

This month I encourage you to go out in to your community or any town close to home and see what you can find. This month is an open category which basically means go out and make an image of any subject of something you enjoy or challenge yourself to try something you haven’t photographed before.

Time to practice what you have learned so far; exposure, composition, finding a interesting subject, timing, and making use of the available light. Similar to previous challenges, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will work. Depending on the gear you have it will allow you to take different images.

Below are some examples for some ideas.

Wildlife; This time of year there are lots of animals and birds to photograph. Getting out more often with your camera is the key. With some animals it depends on the time of day and sometimes being in the right place at the right time. Foxes can be found anytime of day usually around feeding time. Beavers are usually around early morning or late in the day when the light is challenging, which may require pushing your ISO higher and lowering the shutter speed which then requires you to push the shutter at just the right time. There are also many birds and butterflies as well, so just get out and you won’t be disappointed. Get down low as close to eye level with the subject, sometimes its not possible but just try to get as low as you can.

Boats; There is a lot of boating activity this time of year and with the right equipment or access you can get some great images of sailing boats and kyaks. It’s typically ok to photograph people when they are in public places as long as the photos are for personal use and not for stock photography. However, if its possible, ask the person(s) first and offer an email with the photo (remember to carry a few introduction cards with your email so they can contact you).

Interesting Subjects; Go out for a stroll and see what you can find in your area, even a town near by. It’s always interesting what you will see. The image of the Blue Cadillac below was taken with a longer focal length across the street to get the right composition. The image of the excavator was taken with a telephoto lens as well with a tripod as it was just prior to sunset. The image of the garage with painted sunflowers was taken with an iPhone when there was dramatic clouds, leave enough room when taking your photo so you can make vertical perspective adjustments during post-processing to straighten out the building removing the lens distortion.

Flowers; There are lots of flowers. Take your time choosing the right aperture and composition to get a clean background. You can also take colored sheets of paper to hold behind the flower to get a nice background as well. Remember to try Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) which also helps with blurring the background. Try not to move the camera too fast, you still want to be able to recognize the subject.

Sunsets or Sunrises; Go out when the sun is rising or setting to get that golden light. Make use of reflections and think about creating a story, such as the image with the tree stump symbolizing the end of a life with the end of day and the reflection reminds us to reflect on a life to remember.

Stretch your creativity and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Photography In Your Community instructional aids:
Photography Tips: How to find photos when the location’s ‘boring’ by: Mike Browne (11min 50sec)
Making Photography In A Small Town by: Evan Ranft (10min 30sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

July Theme Challenge – “Embrace the Fog”

This month I encourage you to go out in Foggy conditions, which is usually the best early in the morning. Sometimes fog can enhance the rays of light, create an atmosphere, and help isolate subjects from an otherwise chaotic scene.

You may not tend to want to go out and take photographs when it’s foggy, but if you give it a try I think you will come back with images different than you typically take. Go out and experience the quiet and cool of the fog, see what happens to the light as the fog starts to lift as it creates amazing effects, and take advantage of the opportunity to isolate your subject.

Similar to previous challenges, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will work. Depending on the gear you have it will allow you to take different images.

Let’s take a look at some image examples.

Boats and Wildlife; With boats you do not always have the perfect location from the shore view to isolate the subject. The fog also provides a dreamy feel to the final image. Wildlife set in the early morning fog also provides a minimalistic image.

Enhance the Light; As the morning sun breaks through the fog you can see the rays of light which is enhanced due to the sun back lighting the fog. It’s important in the photo below to place the sun partially behind an object to help reduce the extreme bright light of the sun. The Star burst of the light can also be enhanced by choosing a smaller aperture, this allows the light to bounce around the aperture rings in the lens creating or enhancing the star burst effect while the fog helps spread the light into rays.

Isolate your Subject; With the images below, typically without the fog the backgrounds are too chaotic, but with the fog it’s much easier to isolate the subject. The fog provides the means to remove distractions from your composition. Take a series of images in this situation because the amount of fog can change with each photo, you can then choose which image you like the best from the images you have taken.

Let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Photographing in Foggy Conditions instructional aids:
How I Photograph Foggy Landscape Photography by: Michael Shainblum (13min 30sec)
How to Take THE BEST FOG Photos! Photo shoot training, editing suggestions by: Tony & Chelsea Northrup (4min 46sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.