If you think images found on this website have exceptional clarity, then
perhaps you would be interested in reading my tips and suggestions for
photography. If you want to learn more about tips and tricks for digitizing
the images and placing them here with quite small file sizes, then please
go to my Information page. Below you'll find my
tips for both general photography as well as weather-specific advice.
- Practice, practice, and more practice.
- Know your camera and all bells and whistles.
- Use a tripod!
- Buy the best lenses you can afford. Forget all the marketing hype about
which brand is best for camera bodies. All the big names are superb:
Nikon, Canon, Pentax (I use these), Minolta, etc. Worry about
the lenses much moreso and buy nice ones - they're worth it.
- As often as practical use f-stops closer to the middle of the
lens range. Just because a fancy lens goes to f2.8 doesn't mean you
should shoot everything at that aperature. The extreme aperature
settings on lenses produce the lowest quality optics for that lens.
- Use professional-grade film. Grocery store film generally is not
handled with proper care as far as temperature and humidity concerns.
I won't recommend slide over print film necessarily - it all
depends on your goals and uses for your photos. I almost exclusively
shoot Fuji Velvia but expect to migrate significantly to the brand new
Fuji Provia 100F.
- If possible shoot with shorter focal length lenses. Big zooms are
certainly necessary for wildlife photography (particularly to avoid
encroaching on an animal's space), but telephoto lenses have
contrast loss. Instead use shorter lenses and try getting closer.
- Buy high quality filters but use them sparingly. A simple UV filter
can protect your lenses from scratches and damage from poor handling
(but I recommend removing it for long exposures). See the Weather
section below for more tips on filters.
- Find and use a good local photo lab for development. You'll pay
more for a good lab (over drug store prices) but film and developing
are cheap compared to those possibly rare, incredible photos.
Weather Photography Tips
Unfortunately photographic film is very intolerant of wide ranges
of brightness: most films can "see" detail in only 5 to 7 f-stops range
from highlight to shadow. Contrast that with human eyes which have a range 10 to 50
times as large. If you have ever photographed a scene that was partly in shadow and
partly in sunlight and remember vivid detail in both portions yet the picture was
nearly whitewashed in the sunlit portion and black in shadow, then you know the
In my opinion, weather skyscapes present some of the most
challenging issues in landscape photography. Often the sun is in or nearly in many
photos. This presents the biggest problem for modern auto-everything cameras.
Your camera's light meter is attempting to render everything in the scene as if
it reflected 18% of the incident light. This corresponds pretty closely to the
amount of brightness of a clear blue non-hazy sky 90° from the sun.
Pointing your camera toward the sun will cause the camera meter
to go off the high end of the scale. By adjusting (reducing) the aperature back to
so-called "normal" exposure (by increasing the f-stop), the resulting
image will be underexposed. In these cases, you actually want to overexpose the
scene such that the sun is rendered nearly white not the 18% gray your meter
would attempt to make it. The best advice for shooting into the sun is to meter the
scene without the sun in the viewfinder, get your shutter/aperature combination and
lock them, then place the sun back into the field of view and shoot. Herein lies
a basic exposure rule stated best in Galen Rowell's book (see below):
expose for your most important highlight! If that is some incredible cloud
structure, then expose for it; if some meadow of flowers is your most important
highlight, then expose for it. Such a simple yet effective rule. Other tips for
- Practice, practice, and more practice. This one is worth repeating.
- A polarizing filter can deepen a blue sky (maximum effect is 90° from the sun)
but is often not necessary at all. These filters will have no effect at all directly
toward or 180° away from the sun.
- A graduated neutral-density filter (I purchased a soft-edge 2-stop
version from Singh-Ray) can
aid significantly in high-contrast scenes like the three photos here. Without
such a filter, the ground would have been rendered in deeper shadow for the same
- Bracket whenever shooting high-contrast scenes. If possible,
spot meter multiple portions of the scene and bracket according to these
measurements. In some instances I have encountered, bracketing as widely as
two or three stops is necessary as opposed to a more typical bracket of only
a third or half-stop.
- Carry a chamois (I carry a 6 inch square piece) with your equipment to wipe
any water immediately off lenses and other gear. I also carry a nice
Lenspen for quick dusting and cleaning.
- Use fill-flash. If your foreground is close enough, your on-camera
flash may help balance a scene even in daylight. I used this technique to
help brighten the grass and tree trunk at the bottom.
- More tips to come ...
Rowell, G.A., 1993: Galen Rowell's Vision: The Art of
Adventure Photography. Mountain Light Press.
Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Werner Publishing Corp.