Learn to shoot photos like the local pros
May 15, 2015
Summit County is a photogenic place, but if you really want to take your photos to the next level, a little knowledge can go a long way.
A couple local experts, David Schultz and Charlie Lansche, spoke with The Park Record and offered up some tips for us amateurs.
Schultz is an internationally known wildlife and nature photographer who has shot all over the world and is currently an ambassador for Nikon. He runs local photography workshops where he teaches people his craft and takes them to his favorite spots to shoot.
Lansche grew up around photography but has only been "serious" about it for five years. His photos can be found locally at Artique, on the walls of the Mirror Lake Diner in Kamas and at Sundance Resort, as well as at Alpine Art in Salt Lake City. "I love to shoot Western-oriented landscape, wildlife, kind of rural scenes is what trips my trigger," he said.
Get high, get low
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"Don’t just stand and take a picture," Schultz said. "Take a look at it from different angles. Get down low, build the foreground with, say, the wildflowers."
"I see people get out of the car, they stand there next to a stream or something and they’re taking all their photos at eye level, which is pretty normal to do. But just by changing your camera angle you can add a little bit more drama," he said.
Lansche agrees wholeheartedly.
"I hate road-stop shooting, where you stop on the bend in the road where everybody stops to take the picture," he said. "Try to see things differently, get off the beaten track, get high, get low to the ground. Some of my most stunning wildlife shots have been with me lying in the dirt with my chest in the mud and my camera with a low angle looking up at an elk or a moose. And likewise, getting higher, getting elevation and looking down."
"Light is everything," Lansche said. "Understanding light and weather and sunrises and soft light how it illuminates and warms your subject matter."
Sunny days aren’t ideal for dramatic photos. The bright light can be "flat" and doesn’t create shadows that can add "depth" to an image.
"Shooting in the evening or the early morning makes any picture ten times better than shooting it — or a hundred times better — than shooting in the middle of the day in harsh, contrasting light," Lansche said.
"People see a storm coming in and head for their cars. Sometimes that’s when you get some of the most dramatic light," Schultz said. "I’m not suggesting you be out there when lightning is striking, but watch for those weather conditions. I pay attention to the weather as much as anything else when I’m deciding where I’m going to shoot. If I see a big high-pressure system over southern Utah, well I’m not going to be going down there. I’m going to head some place where I know there might be some interesting clouds."
"Sometimes people go ‘gosh, we shot the same picture but mine doesn’t look like yours,’" Lansche said. "Well I shot mine at 5:45 in the morning."
"Chasing light, man, it’s all about light," he said.
Framing a shot
"There’s one rule everyone should be aware of and it’s the rule of thirds," said Lansche.
The rule of thirds is a guideline in which the photographer breaks down an image into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and aligns subject matter along those lines and intersections. "Aligning key elements," he said, "will help balance"
"It’s also important not to be bound by that. You’ve got to understand basic elements of composition but it’s fun to break those elements too," he added.
"I like to try to have people look for items that can frame the central item in the photograph," Schultz said. "One great example that I use is a shot I’ve got of a penguin in Antarctica, and I framed it through a hole in the ice. I found the hole in the ice early in the morning but the light was wrong so I went back later that day and managed to get some penguins to cooperate. It’s just finding those natural features that you can use."
Also, don’t be afraid to turn your camera sideways.
"Too many people forget that their cameras work vertically as well as horizontally, and sometimes composition lends itself more to a vertical shot," Schultz said.
Shopping for equipment
"If you’re getting a new camera or considering a new camera, go to a store and try it," Schultz advises.
He says that even if you don’t understand all the camera’s features, you should be able to navigate the menus and options. Also, be sure that "it feels good in your hands."
"Invest in good lenses before good cameras," Lansche said. It’s nice to have good equipment, but good glass trumps camera in most instances. If you have a great camera and a crappy lens, you’re not going to get the full performance out of your camera."
"If you want to make big prints and you want to make really high-resolution, quality stuff, then equipment matters," he said. "Beyond that, it’s just fun to shoot."
Shoot, shoot, shoot
"If you’re just learning photography, you need to shoot a ton, take pictures of everything. You need to find out what trips your trigger, whether it’s landscapes, or wildlife, or indoor photography, and when you find what you’re passionate about and what you love photographing, that passion comes through in your images," Lansche said.
"If you’re not particularly interested in the subject matter and you’re just taking pictures, it doesn’t always translate. But when you know something and you love something and you’re passionate about capturing it, it tends to come through in your imagery," he said.