Photography has never been more popular and the latest advancements in digital camera technology has made it possible for even the most inexperienced photographers to make great images. Yet, despite the ever increasing plethora of options and settings available on most modern digital cameras, the vast majority of users only make use of a fraction of the creative spectrum their camera is capable of. Perhaps the old adage 'the camera is only as good as the photographer' is true after all?
When walking a long distance trail, a camera is an essential piece of kit when it comes to making memories of your adventure but unless you are a serious photographer, the chances are you're going to be carrying a small, light-weight point and shoot or 'bridge' camera so what can you do to get the best from your gear while you're out on the trail?
- Consider the horizon: Being out walking is all about witnessing spectacular scenery (Matt: good place to put a link to a good view on a trail) but images of amazing vistas often look a bit odd when the camera has been tilted to one side to make the image. Use visual cues to get the orientate your camera when making images. For example, standing water in a loch, lake or reservoir should be horizontal in the picture but remember trees and fence posts are necessarily perpendicular to the horizon!
- Look for 'leading lines': The footpath extending out into the distance can often act as a great 'lead-in' to an image, a natural way to draw the viewer into an image so don't be afraid to use it in your pictures.
- Consider what's in the foreground: In the absence of any leading lines, think about including something in the foreground to anchor the image. It might be a patch of colourful vegetation, a rock or fence post. Images lacking this visual point of reference leave the viewer wondering where to look.
- Are you up early or out late? It's widely accepted that the quality of light is best both just after sunrise or before sunset due to the angle of the sun in relation to the horizon. So, if you find yourself in a particularly photogenic area at these times, make the most of the soft, warm light and long shadows.
- Understand (and then break) the 'rule of thirds': The idea behind this rule is that a pleasing or strong composition can be achieved by dividing the frame into thirds both vertically and horizontally and then placing the subject or focal point of your image at a point where these divisions meet (see the illustration). Of course, rules are made to be broken so don't settle for just one image of your scene. Adjust your composition and make multiple pictures, after all your memory card can probably store hundreds of images.
- Don't be afraid to make lots of pictures: Nowadays, memory cards are cheap and an 16GB SD card will hold hundreds, if not thousands of images depending on the resolution of your camera and the old fear of wasting film is no longer an issue so there's no excuse not to make full use of the advantages digital photography offers us and make lots of images, even if a large number of them are consigned to the recycle bin.
- Try out manual mode: Take a little bit of time to understand some of the basic principles of how your camera operates. A few simple concepts such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO make up the majority of the technical aspects of photography. Combine your understanding of these with your own style and you'll be well on your way to creating great images.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that these tips will make you an award winning photographer overnight. No amount of quick-wins or tricks can substitute the benefits of practice and experimentation so don't be afraid to make images at every available opportunity. You'll often be surprised at what you witness when you have your camera at the ready!
This article was first published on the BookMyTrail website blog - bookmytrail.com