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A beginners guide to using digital cameras for camping photography

Elvis Elvis

Camping and taking pictures often go hand in hand. Taking pictures of where you have been, what you did, and people you met give you a great record to look back on during the winter months and incentive to plan for the upcoming camping season.

During the past few years since we acquired our first digital camera, I have taken more pictures than I had taken in the thirty years prior to 2002. My wife is still our official photographer, but I am quickly becoming a big fan of digital cameras.

The main reason I like digital photography is the on-the-spot results I get because of the digital camera’s built-in screen where I can see the picture just taken. If the picture is too dark, too light, blurred, or whatever, I can immediately decide to delete it. If its a great shot and I want better coverage of the subject, I can take additional shots of the same area or object without worrying about running out of film, or I can take the same picture again with different settings until it turns out the way I want it.

Wasting film is no longer a concern with a digital camera. No more buying rolls of film, no more paying for development of film, and no more trotting back and forth to the store to take film in or pick pictures up. There are arguments to be made on both sides regarding the costs involved using digital photography versus the more traditional film cameras, but for convenience I’ll take the digital camera every time.

 A beginners guide to using digital cameras for camping photography

Some of the other advantages to using digital are:

While many users will be content to leave the camera on the full automatic setting and just point and shoot (the method used by yours truly), others like do a lot of experimenting with different settings, different light, etc. This can be done at no cost since there is no wasted film or developing costs as you would have in film cameras.

After downloading your pictures from your camera into your computer and by using one or more of the photo-editing programs available, you can crop, remove red-eye, change colors, or alter them in a number of different ways.

There is a time-saving element of using digital cameras resulting from not having to wait until the roll of film is used before having it developed. You can download a bunch of pictures from the card in the digital camera and then reuse the card over again.

There is even an environmental advantage to using digital since there is no developing process requiring toxic chemicals.

Downloading your photos:

Downloading from the camera to the computer can be done using a cable connection to the Universal Serial Bus (USB) in the back of your computer. Another downloading option is to put the camera in a docking station which can be connected to your computer. The docking station will organize your pictures and move them from the media card in the camera to your computer.

Another way to transfer the photos from camera to computer is by using a card reader. The card reader is connected to your computer, usually through a USB, and the media card is removed from the camera and put directly into the reader. Card reader can usually read different card sizes and formats.

Photo printers are yet another way to transform your digital data from the camera into pictures. These are used without having to go through your computer by either connecting the camera to the photo printer by a cable or docking the camera directly into the printer.

Distributing and displaying photos is also made easy with digital photography.

After you download the digital images in your camera to your computer and have edited them to your liking, you can either produce your own prints on a color printer or send them to an on-line service to have them printed on photographic paper.

You can insert the photos into emails to friends and family.

Use the pictures in a document or insert them into a web page like this:

Our RV watch-dog pretending to be asleep

Send the photos into photo contests and win vast amounts of money: or not A beginners guide to using digital cameras for camping photography

Use the photos for marketing a product or service by having them printed on T-shirts, flyers, coffee cups, etc.

Use available software to make a series of your pictures into a slide show.

Store them in your computer for use as a photo album.

CAUTION NOTE: You may find, as we did, that you tend to accumulate a LOT of pictures in the storage of your computer. Either devise some logical way of cataloging them or download some software to arrange them in some order that you prefer.

Some tips for better outdoor shots:

These are some techniques that we have read somewhere and have tried with reasonable success.

If you have time, use a tripod. Setting up a tripod is not practical most of the time if you are on a hike, but if you want a good set of sunset shots for example, get set up a bit early and use your tripod. We found that regardless of how steady you think you are holding the camera there is often some blur in the pictures. Using the timer on your camera instead of actually pushing the button down to take the shot will also reduce blurring in your photos.

Lighting: there are as many theories about lighting and photography as there are photographers. Generally we try to keep the light (the sun) at our back when taking pictures outdoors. This puts the light striking the subject and is better in bringing out color and shades. This also allows us to use auto-exposure settings on the camera. The downside to frontal light is the pictures may lack a sense of depth because all the shadows fall behind the subjects. The professional photographers claim that early morning sun gives the best lighting and taking pictures at high noon is not so good because some definition and contrast is lost.

There are exceptions to this if you want the effects of silhouettes in your picture such as landscapes, beaches etc. In these cases you can use sidelighting to emphasize the three-dimensional aspects of objects. Good opportunities for experimenting with sidelighting often come late in the day when shadows are long and colors tend to be richer.

If you want the perception of more depth in a picture, try using backlighting. Backlighting is when your subject has the light falling on the back of it (or them, if people). This produces silhouettes and halos ( or light rims) especially if the backlighting is behind something translucent like hair or other fluffy material. It also creates shadows that fall from the background towards the foreground which exaggerates both depth and distance.

Campers often run across animals during hikes or canoe trips. If you are stalking an animal in an attempt to get close enough for a good picture there is no point in staying hidden from the subject. The animal likely knows you are there anyway so you may as well be seen. Approach the animal slowly and without any sudden movements and very often you can get the shot you want. I have seen my wife and her sister sing to a number of deer feeding in a meadow. After a short period of time the deer actually came closer to the girls and seemed to enjoy the entertainment. Unfortunately, neither of the ladies had their cameras with them at the time. This is not a recommended practice for bears, wolves, moose, etc. Nor is it recommended if you have a singing voice like mine.

Backgrounds: The background of your photos can make or break the picture. For example, it is best not to photograph a humming bird against a background of small red and green flowers because the hummer will get lost in such a background. On the other hand if the humming bird is photographed against the background of a soft white cloud, the bird will stand out against it and you will have a much better result.

There are very many technical things you can do with f-stops, apertures, double exposures, lens, filters, etc. that are beyond the scope of this brief overview. The best advice I ever had after getting a digital camera is to go out and experiment by taking as many shots as necessary untill you get the pictures you want. It does not cost much and you dont waste film.

And so we wave goodbye.