A Cabin in The Woods

Mt Hood Cabin in The Woods

Could you feel comfortable in a cabin in the woods like this?

This is just one of the rustic early 20th Century cabins that are situated in the forest around Mount Hood. This particular cabin is in the little town of Rhododendron.

Located in the Mt Hood National Forest you are guaranteed that you won't have a condo built next door. A long term lease comes with the contract when one purchases a Forest Service Cabin.

This particular cabin was built in 1936 and was most likely board and batten construction. It still has the original stone fireplace thought to have been constructed by a local stoneworker George Pinner. Through the years an addition was built to the back which contains the kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom which increases the livability of this vintage cabin. The way that it's configured now it has a master bedroom and two lofts with beds.

The cabin is positioned above a year 'round creek the sound of which can be heard throughout the cabin. It has a deck, part of which is covered, that allows one to enjoy the view in any weather. It's accessible in the Winter and is within a short distance to the small town of Rhododendron and the village's store and restaurants, yet still removed from evidence of the hustle and bustle of the real world.

The cabin is also within a short walk to amazing hiking trails that take you deep within the Mt Hood Wilderness Area. It's also a short drive "up the hill" on Highway 26 to the ski resorts in the Winter or the high alpine hiking trails on Mount Hood.

In this busy world I'm sure that I could feel comfortable in a cabin in the woods like this.

Anyone that's looking to purchase a vacation cabin in or around the Mt Hood National Forest contact my friend Blythe Creek.

Contact me for your real estate photography needs.

Get Into Photography Now

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington film photo

Get Into Photography Now - I’m asked frequently what camera that I would recommend if one wants to “get into photography”. To this I reply that they most likely carry a camera that will get them into photography every day. In this day and age you don't have to wait to get into photography. There’s no excuse not to master your cell phone camera before you upgrade to one that’s more complicated. In photography the kind of camera has never dictated the artistic quality or impact of a skillfully done photograph.

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington film photo
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington film photo

Creating an interesting or artistic image in any medium relies more on an eye for an interesting subject, a basic understanding of light, an understanding of basic compositional standards and the ability to use the tools that they have at hand, the camera. A painter can use crude applications of heavy paint using a pallet knife and create an amazing image while another will use the finest brushes and the smoothest paints to create theirs. Both can be masterpieces. It’s about knowing how to use the tools instinctively through practice. Photography is no different.

Trillium Lake Pinhole Camera Photo
Trillium Lake Pinhole Camera Photo

I don’t discourage anyone from wanting to upgrade to a better camera, especially if they want to work on improving their skill. There’s not doubt that a better camera can yield a better image, especially in challenging conditions such as low light situations, but I do stress that photography is like fishing. Better gear doesn’t always yield more fish, especially in unskilled hands. One of my favorite photographs that I have made was made with a strip of film in a pinhole camera, which is nothing more than a wooden box with a hole in the front of it.

One shouldn’t need a more sophisticated camera until their skill level exceeds the camera’s abilities. In many ways a basic camera such as your cell phone will challenge you and will teach you lessons that you won’t need to learn once you get the better camera. Your learning curve will be smoother and your frustration level lower if you practice first with a more simple device.

Some advice that I do give to those who will be upgrading is to consider some of the intermediate, bridge cameras. Many have quality image sensors while supplying a single non-removable lens with a zoom factor that exceeds most zoom lenses that the average digital single lens reflex photographer uses.

Cell phone photo
Cell phone photo

For those that are upgrading to a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera I stress that unless they’re planning to use the gear professionally, there’s no need to purchase professional level equipment. Many intermediate photographers feel that they need a full frame camera to push their work further, when it’s not usually the camera that’s the barrier. The cost for pro gear is more than one needs to pay as the new sensors give outstanding performance. The cropped sensor DSLR’s perform amazingly well at low light conditions. The lenses filters etc also cost less. The only practical trade off is that you won't be able to print the size of a billboard.

Do you still have a film camera? Guess what? Film is cool again. Dust off your old film camera and take some pictures. You can still buy film and you can have it sent off to be developed. You can do it all over the Internet with a little help from the US Postal Service. There are still drug stores that sell and develop film.

The point that I’m really try to make is that if one want’s to get into photography there’s no time like the present. There’s no need to wait. If not having the right kind of camera is your reason for not starting today, you need to get past that. Not having the right kind of camera should not be an excuse. Art doesn’t matter what kind of camera that you use, nor does documenting your children while they grow or any other special moment in your life. Get into photography. Pick up your camera and take some pictures today.

Considering 2016

Mount Hood in Black and White

It’s been another great year here at Gary Randall Photography. I hope that it was for you all as well. After all setbacks are considered, we’re thankful for the growth and progress that has taken place in life and business, including being included as a writer for the Mountain Times.

As I look back on 2016 I thought that I should share a few of the photos that were made and share what it took to get the shot. The photos might not be my most beautiful or technically brilliant but combine my memory of the moment with the resulting image and they’re some of my personal favorites. Consider this a year in review. I hope that that non-photographers enjoy them and that fellow photographers and photographic artists can learn or be inspired to push their work to be the best that it can be.

I hope that 2017 brings good health, happiness and many photographic opportunities to you.  

Mount Hood in Black and White
Mount Hood in Black and White

I started the year out near home with a monochromatic photo of Mount Hood from Timberline Lodge. Although this looks as if it was taken at night it was made on a bluebird day. The snow had been rained on causing these channels of water runoff creating the lineal patterns in the snow. After the patterns were made another snow storm came and covered them back up again but left them soft like folds in fine white fabric.

To get the photo I had to blaze a path through the deep snow to the point of view that I wanted. Of course I didn’t have my snowshoes, but luckily this was only about 20 yards from the Timberline Lodge parking lot.

Processing involved was simple using Adobe Lightroom. For the dark sky I polarized it to a darker blue with my circular polarizing filter. I then localized the exposure and contrast to the blue and darkened the zone to pure black. I then brought the whites and the zones between 0% and 100% to a point where the brightest was at 100% with each level between that would allow for the texture of the scene to be represented. You can see all of the detail including a sandy texture in the foreground of the freshly fallen snow.

Mount Hood Oregon
Moon at Mount Hood Oregon

This photo is one of my favorites from this past year. After getting the previous Black and White  photo of Mount Hood I decided to return again after dark to see what I could do with the scene at night, especially under the moonlight. This photo might be considered an unexpected benefit of looking all around me while I was photographing the mountain. This scene was behind me.

To get this photo I used my tripod to be able to extend my exposure to 20 seconds. I stopped down to f/22 to allow the light to play off of the aperture blades which created the light star from the moon’s light. A snowboarder had cut a line through the scene that aligned with the shadows of the moonlight. I felt that the simple composition created a much stronger image than a wider view of this scene.

Alvord Desert Oregon
Alvord Desert Oregon

Early Spring is a good time to explore those places that heat up during the summer. The Alvord Desert is a great example. The mud tiles of the playa start to form as the mud starts to dry and the skies give you a good chance for a sunset at that time of the year as well.

To get this photo I had set up for a sunset and then waited. The sunset was nice that night, but the color didn’t come on in a dense colorful way until after I watched the “first sunset” fade and I had started to pack my gear into my Jeep. This second sunset is the result of the last beams of light shining from below the horizon and up under the clouds that were in front and above us. Always stay until the end of the show.

Rowena Crest Oregon
Rowena Crest Oregon

As the year progressed the anticipation of flowers increased. Not every year is a good year for flowers in the Mount Hood area, including the Columbia River Gorge. Weather can take its toll on their fragile petals. It can also affect the timing of which bloom when. When it all comes together like it did this last Spring it creates perfect conditions for beautiful wildflower photos. The lupine and the balsamroot bloomed in unison.

To get this photo I got up before dark and drove from my home here on The Mountain over Highway 35 through the Hood River Valley in the rain. I didn’t hurry because of the weather. I did not anticipate a sunrise, but the closer that I got to The Gorge the more that it looked like the clouds might part so I decided to head to Rowena Crest. I arrived just in time for this sunrise. I was also fortunate that there was hardly a breeze in the air which helped me to get this photo without the struggle of needing a super fast shutter speed or an open aperture. This allowed me to get a clear and sharp image through the scene.

Smith Rock Oregon
Smith Rock Oregon

I like sunrises. I just wish that they weren’t in the morning, but that they are limits the amount of people there to photograph them. I love Smith Rock any time of the day. I wanted to get the morning light as it shown onto the rocks I also wanted to take advantage of the foreground in this spot at this beautiful location.

To get this photo I drove out in the dark to the Smith Rock State Park and found these cracks that I found from a previous trip. This photo was all about composition and, of course, the warm light as it painted the side of the cliffs beyond. I set my tripod up to bridge the crack allowing it to move through the center of the photo, and took care not to fall down into the approximately 15 foot drop below. Because the foreground is so prominent I maximized my focus by stopping (smaller aperture opening) down and then made sure that it was in sharp focus.

Wildflowers Washington
Wildflowers Washington

The Columbia Hills of Washington, with views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River beyond, is one of my favorite places to go run through fields of flowers in the Springtime. Columbia Hills State Park is located in Dallesport Washington. It includes the historic Dalles Mountain Ranch and fields and fields of flowers. This old car makes a great subject of interest in photos made of it, especially on a beautiful sunny day with cotton ball clouds floating by.

To get this photo I was able to hand hold my camera due to the bright light of the sunshine. With such bright light my shutter speed was fast enough that it was just a matter of walking around and looking for thoughtful compositions.

Central Oregon
Central Oregon

I’m a guide and photography instructor. I love taking people from all over the world to places in and around the Mount Hood area. Less than an hour away we have a whole different world to explore by heading east toward open skies and Central Oregon. This photo is one that I used to demonstrate my focusing techniques. My goal was to get the wheat in front of the camera as well as the house behind in perfect focus.

To get this photo I set my camera on my tripod to give me a stable platform to allow me to take my time with my composition and adjustments. There was also a bit of a breeze so it allowed me to repeat the shot if it didn’t turn out the first, second or third try. I stopped down my aperture to maximize the focal distance, moved my focus out to infinity and then focused back until the wheat became tack sharp. Set my exposure and took the shot.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2016
Perseid Meteor Shower 2016

Every year I do my best to get a photo of the Perseid Meteor Shower. I enjoy photographing it because it happens in a arm time of the year and I stay up all night doing it. Sitting out on a dirt road in a lawn chair, under a blanket watching falling stars is a great way to spend time.

To get this photo I literally stayed up all night. This is a composite of about four hours of meteors that fell in front of my camera. Each photo is a 30 second exposure which allowed me to give the camera time to catch the falling stars. To get a constant sequence of images to cover the whole time I set the interval timer to take one shot after the other. Once I got back home I selected each of the photos that had a meteor in it and then layered each one on top of another as layers in Photoshop. I then masked out everything but the meteor. I then rotated each one according to the amount of time that had lapsed to compensate for the rotation of the Earth. The last step was to combine them all into one base image of Mount Hood taken that night. There’s a lot of work to get a photo like this but in the end I find it worth the effort.

A selfie under the Northern Lights in Alaska
A selfie under the Northern Lights in Alaska

Standing under the Aurora Borealis is an incredible experience. All of my life it has fascinated me. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Alaska to see them this year as a part of a Photography Workshop that I hosted there.

To get this photo I used my tripod and remote shutter release. Because this was a night with no moon the only light was from the northern lights above me. I put my camera on the tripod, set it to a fairly high ISO, opened up my aperture to about f/3.5 and my exposure to about 10 seconds and then attempted to stand still while the camera exposed the image. I wouldn’t recommend standing in the middle of a road to get a photo, but this was Alaska. We saw no other cars at all that night.

And speaking of Alaska, here’s a photo of my workshop members. I took this photo as we were making our way across the ice of the Matanuska Glacier. In all we spent three days exploring this amazing place. As tour leader I was able to lead everyone out to a spot inside the heart of the ice to get amazing photos of a real Alaskan glacier up close and personal.

To get this photo I turned behind me to see them all coming over this crest of ice. I asked them to stop as I set my camera to Aperture Priority, opening my aperture and setting my ISO at about 800 to insure a fast enough shutter and then snapped a series of photos, taking this one as the best of the group. Although Landscape photographers typically prefer to set their cameras manually, there are times when you have to work quick so it’s perfectly acceptable to switch to a more automatic mode such as Aperture or Shutter Priority to insure that you get the photo.

Matanuska Glacier Workshop 2016
Matanuska Glacier Workshop 2016

Tips for Better Holiday Photos

Holiday Photos

With the holiday season here many of us will be taking more photos than we typically do throughout the year. Family dinners, Christmas mornings and, in many cases, the one time of the year that we spend time quality time with our friends and family. Photos of these times can be priceless treasures in the future. Just a little bit of thought and preparation can make sure that you get the shot and make an image that more beautiful or impactful. With this in mind there are a few easy to master techniques that will help you to do this.

Fill your frame - Either move closer or zoom in to fill the frame to exclude all that could clutter or distract from the image. With either a planned group photo or a close up of someone move or zoom in. If you are taking a photo of a child opening a gift, for instance, make sure that it’s a closeup to include their gift and their face to capture the whole context and emotion of the moment. A wide angle view of the room won’t be able to capture the moment in the same way.

_gar3520-2Mind the background - Be aware of the background behind your subject. If there’s clutter or a group of people not meant to be in the frame, for instance, find a nicer background. Move your subject or subjects in front of some holiday lights, Christmas tree or decorations. You can also blur the background. One way to do that, if you have a camera that you can adjust manually, is to open up the aperture, set to a smaller number, which will make the depth of field shallower which will soften the background or stand back from your subject and zoom in. Most of the time this should give you a similar effect.

Use fill flash, or not - A general rule with digital cameras is to use flash if your subject is standing in front of a bright background such as a window. Unless the room is very dark try to get the shot without a fill flash. This will give you a more even tone and natural looking photograph.

_gar3736-2Use the timer and a tripod - You should be in the photo too. It’s most always been the case that, when sharing your photos, you will need to explain that you were there but was taking the photo. Why not be in the shot? Learn how to use the timer on your camera. You can usually set it for anything from 10 seconds to 30 seconds or more to allow you to click the shutter button and casually walk around into the shot with time to smile. It’s usually very simple to set the camera quickly to Self Timer and then back again. Set your camera on a tripod if you have one, otherwise find something sturdy that you can set the camera on while the shot is taken.

Video - You can be a videographer. Most digital cameras these days will allow you to create videos simply. Most cases all you need to do is flip a switch and press a button. Once you are videoing you can zoom in and out. Once you have made your videos you can easily download them to your computer and edit them in various programs that come with most all personal computers. Apple products can use iMovie while Windows users can use Windows Movie Maker and either brands can use many aftermarket programs as well. Both programs are easy to use and have many tutorials videos available online.

I hope that these tips will help you to get the shot that may have gotten away. The most important tip of all is to get the camera out, charge the batteries, learn to use your settings prior to your event and make sure that it’s handy so you can grab it when the opportunity to save a moment for posterity is provided. Time is fleeting, memories are treasures. Take more pictures this holiday season.

Gateway to Cold Spring Creek

Cold Spring Creek

Gateway to Cold Spring Creek

I stand at the window to the light of the universe, the smell of the earth, the sound of a dynamic reality and the sight of beautiful, precious life.
 
This is only one of many spots to get a shot along Cold Spring Creek beside the trail to Tamanawas Falls, a 100 foot tall waterfall in the Mt Hood National Forest on the east side of Mount Hood. As an outfitter and guide, this is only one of the many creeks and waterfalls that I am able to take my clients to.

Landscape Photography Ethics and Stewardship

Columbia Gorge
Oneonta Gorge Landscape Photography Ethics
Oneonta Gorge Crowd
Landscape Photography Ethics and Stewardship of our public lands.

If you haven’t noticed lately, our public lands have become quite popular in the last decade. Many of the folks that are visiting them are inspired by the photos posted on social platforms such as Instagram or Facebook.

We have all seen that epic photo of someone standing on a hill in the foreground with their hands up in the air as if victorious after an epic journey. Behind them you see a sweeping view, idyllic light and a towering snow capped peak in the distance. These photos inspire those who yearn to express the human spirit of adventure and exploration. It also causes an increased number of people trekking to these locations. When I post a photo online the most asked question is usually, “Where is that?”

No longer is there an attitude that you should go out and explore the world and find these places. In this day and age it’s about the image and not the adventure. The location that’s easy to get to and to take a striking photo of especially. The result of this is that these iconic, beautiful and many times environmentally sensitive locations are being overrun by folks that may be inexperienced in the outdoors. Many that I have met seem to have the attitude that they are in a landscaped and maintained city park or, with some, an amusement park for extreme outdoor sports. At the end of the day it really is but a way to make an awesome photo to post online in attempt to feed their own vanity.

This may sound harsh, but as a professional outfitter and guide as well as a photographer and social media practitioner I experience this frequently. You may think that this is about me railing against the virtues of humility but it is not. The purpose of this is to point out that this activity on public land is causing it harm. With the increase in use of the trails and facilities it is more important than ever before to realize our effect on the land. Therefore I feel compelled to make a list of suggestions that will help to minimize the effects of this increased usage. This applies to us all, not just photographers.

Opal Creek
Opal Creek

Don’t create new trails in established trail areas. Stay on the existing trails. If you can see that someone has already been to an area, look for a trail to it before you cross virgin territory. I was at Elowah Falls one day and observed two photographers looking down and over the embankment to a spot in the creek below. As I approached I could tell that they were considering trailblazing their way to it. I walked up and started a friendly conversation about how beautiful it was there. I told them that there’s a great little trail just behind us that will take them there. They thanked me and took the trail. They were unfamiliar with the location, but if they would have taken just a few more minutes looking they would have found the trail.

Pick up other’s trash. We’ve all heard the saying, “Pack it in. Pack it out”. In this day and age it should be, “Pack it in, pack it… and other less considerate people's trash, out. I always carry a kitchen trash back and some ziplocks in my backpack. They can come in very handing for this and other purposes. If you’re hiking with a dog pick up the poo with a plastic baggie and do not leave it along the trail with the intent of picking it up on the hike out. Put it in it’s plastic bag and then put that into the trash bag. If you’re still worried about getting poo in your pack, double bag it.

Don’t pose in sensitive areas. I have seen people standing in or erecting their tents in places off trail just for a photo. This sends a message that this location is fine to walk to which will cause damage in time. Choose a location that a trail already accesses.

Be original. With the sheer amount of people accessing these areas think about why you would want to go to the same location to get the same photograph. This mindset creates a herd. And with any herd it causes a swath of wear to these places. I’m not saying not to go but think about all of the other less photographed areas left to explore. If we as photographers seek out new locations it will scatter the herd and at the same time you will create more unique photographs.

Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge

Buy trailhead or commercial use permits. There’s a purpose to purchase forest passes or commercial use permits beyond paying another tax. It’s also a way to help regulate the use of these areas. If you’re hiking frequently consider a season pass. It’s convenient because you don’t have to buy one every time that you go hiking, and it saves you a lot of money. I’m one of a mind that this land is ours to use freely, but in the 21st century we have a few harsh realities that a permit system addresses.

Volunteer. The Forest Service or many social or civic clubs have ways for one to volunteer to clean trails and trailheads. This gives you a chance to give back all that our public lands provide. Contact the US Forest Service office to inquire about how you can help. Join a meetup group and go out for a walk with new friends and teach by example how easy it is to clean a trail as you hike.

None of these points are abstract or obscure concepts. This was how my parents raised me as we hiked on Oregon trails as a boy. I’m not one to claim that we’re doomed in this day and age because of the deterioration of society. Even when you toss that out of that argument there’s one glaring fact that can’t be ignored. There are more and more people coming to these places and just that fact alone dictates that we treat our trails and public land with even more respect.

Landscape Photography Ethics and Stewardship should be all of our responsibility.

The Perseid Meteor Shower 2016

Perseid Meteor Shower 2010

This is a composite that took 360 images taken as 30 second exposures over a three hours period of time layered over a single 30 minute exposure.

The secret to this shot was to be patient for three hours as the camera snapped away its 30 second exposures first, and then in post processing the additional patience to sort through the 350+ images to separate the frames that held a meteor, and then to mask out all but the meteor in the shots prior to layering them onto the base image. But that wasn't the end of the process. Once the meteors were layered over the base image I had to rotate them to align with their point of origin. Over the course of three hours the Earth rotates and so the point of origin changes. To correct for this I had to use Polaris as a pivot point and then to compute the time in relationship to the position and then rotate the meteor to correspond with that position. In all there is over 8 hours of time spent to create this image.

The point of origin is close to the position of the galaxy Cassiopeia and Perseus, thus the name of the meteor shower. When you go out to get your meteor shot make sure that you have a clear view to the northeastern sky that's not affected by the lights from a city. The meteor shower will be the most intense during their peak August 11-12 after midnight. It is estimated that we could expect up to 200 or more meteors per hour this year, but one never knows until it happens.

To get your photo set up your tripod and mount your camera. Use a programmable shutter release and set it to take 30 second exposures one after another. This will allow you to be able to capture every meteor that will fall within the frame of your camera in that three hour period of time. Don't move it while you're getting your shots. You want all of your frames to be the same. I chose to shoot for three hours but you can shoot as long as the sky is dark and your battery and memory lasts.

Remember when you are shooting 30 second exposures that you will need to open your aperture and raise your ISO to allow you to expose the night sky. When shooting the 30 minute exposure you will be lowering your ISO and stopping down to about 5.6 or so. It all varies on how much ambient light in the sky.

Once you return home you will need to use Photoshop to allow you to import the photos with the meteors in as layers, and mask out all but the meteor. Sometimes changing the blend mode will help to blend them more naturally over the base image. For the base image choose one of your best ones for static stars or create a single star trail photo for a different effect, like I did with this one. Once they are all masked and layered over, locate the pivot to the center of the rotation of the Earth which is Polaris. Rotate the layer until it is moving away from the northeast sky and the Perseus galaxy. I used a formula that allowed me to determine how many degrees that it had moved in the time that it was taken and move it roughly that many degrees. If that's all just a little too much, just layer them and call it good. It will give you a chaotic display as if they are coming from all points of the sky, but it's still very cool.

I hope that this helps. Even if you don't get a photo it's such an amazing experience to be able to go out into the night and stare at the sky and count falling stars.

Thank you for your support and thoughtful comments.

Mount Hood Wildflowers

Jacobs' Ladder

Well it's shaping up to be a great year for wildflowers on Mount Hood. The flowers are about gone at the lowest elevations but they're moving their way up the side of the mountain. We had a great year for snow and a wet and cool Summer so far, generally speaking. The flowers seem to be taking advantage of the conditions.

I started this year in the Columbia River Gorge photographing Rowena Crest and Dalles Mountain Ranch on the Washington side of the river. I photographed balsamroot and lupine there. In time the dogwood and rhododendrons in the forests became my game and my primary pursuit, as well as the bear grass. This year's bear grass bloom was a fraction of last year's amazing bloom. It was incredible last season but a bit disappointing this year and understandably so considering it's irregular bloom cycle. Now that the rhododendrons are about finished my next wildflower pursuit are macros of the little flowers that tend to be a bit more singular in their dispersion. These are the ones that I enjoy photographing close up. At this time the lower meadows are blooming and in time the upper alpine meadows will be covered with flowers as well.

Here are a few photos that I have made so far this season. Most are close up shots, I love macro photography, but I plan on getting up to those upper meadows soon for some nice photos of Mount Hood so I hope to have more landscapes with nice flowers in the foreground. We'll see how that goes.

I have plans for a wildflower workshop next Summer. I hope to be able to use it as a venue to show my macro photography techniques. Stay tuned for news about that when I post next year's schedule. Look for it soon.

Thank you for all of your support everyone.

Accessories That Make a Difference For Your Camera

Camera Accessories
Camera Accessories

Last month I shared a few thoughts to consider when choosing the right digital camera for your use. I mentioned how one can easily get by with just their cell phone camera, while others will consider much more when deciding on a camera and will decide on a Digital Single Lens Reflex or Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses.

This month I want to cover a few basic accessories that you will need sooner or later when taking photos with a DSLR camera.

First a couple basic lenses. I recommend a wide angle to mid range zoom such as an 18-55mm and a 55-200mm will also come in handy. Many times a camera kit will come with both lenses as a package. One can get spend a bit more and get an 18-200mm. Then you will have the most common range in a single lens.

A good backpack. Your backpack will be your first line of defense from damage to your gear. Make sure that you get one that’s well padded and has partitions for your body and lenses. I like to make sure that I have one that has an extra compartment for a lunch or a jacket.

A solid tripod.. A tripod is used as a steady platform to place your camera one while taking a photo, typically during a longer exposure. You usually don’t need to use a tripod if your shutter speed is fast enough to keep the shot from blurring due to motion. Examples of when you would want to use a tripod is if you’re taking a photo in dim light, or if you are taking a longer exposure of a waterfall for instance. Don’t scrimp on a tripod. You don’t need an expensive one, but don’t get a cheap wobbly one that will fail in the field or shake at the hint of a wind.

A couple of words about filters. The only filter that I can’t live without is a circular polarizer to reduce glare or to enhance the blue of the sky. Many people use a UV, or Ultraviolet filter, but because digital cameras have a filter on the sensor to do it, a UV filter is now used to protect the front element of the lens. A warning about using filters at night or with bright lights. You can get light refracting between the lens and the filter. City lights are a good example where you would want to remove your filter.

Good cards. Get good memory cards that have good read/write speeds. It helps the camera write the photos to the card quicker as well as downloading to your computer. A fast card will help a lot if you’re doing a burst of a continuous sequence of photos. A better care will be less apt to fail on you. There’s nothing worse that losing a whole memory card of irreplaceable photos.

Camera Accessories
Camera Accessories

Camera strap. A good camera strap will save your camera from hitting the deck. If you’re walking around with it, sling it around your neck. I buy neoprene straps with buckles that allow me to remove the strap from the camera while it’s on the tripod. It keeps the strap from getting caught on my arm and knocking the tripod over, plus if it’s windy it keeps the camera steadier without the strap flapping in the wind.

A remote shutter release. It’s very easy to get shake and slight motion blur in your photos by simply pushing the shutter button down while mountain on a tripod. A remote shutter release will keep this from happening. You can get them that connect via a wire or via remote. I use the wired type because I find them more reliable.

A good computer and storage. These days the digital cameras are making some amazingly fine and detailed photos, but that quality can come with a price. Processor speed, memory and storage will be taxed if you have an older computer. Make sure that you have plenty of room to store your photos on your machine, and consider backing them up to a separate external hard drive in case of computer failure. I recommend deleting any photo that you deem a failure to save hard drive space. Today’s cloud storage services provide a great place to backup your photos. Another practical solution is to sign up to sharing sites such as Flickr or even printing sites such as SmugMug to store your photos.

The bottom line concerning accessories. My approach to photography, and most things in life, are to keep it all simple. You don’t need a truck full of doo-dads, gizmos and what-nots to take a good photo. You best accessory to your photography is going to be your knowledge of your camera and how to use it on manual to have control of the light that makes your photos.

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