Outdoor Photography Tips

Capture the beauty and excitement of your hiking, fishing, camping, and boating trips with these tips for taking pictures in the great outdoors.

| June/July 1992

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    When shooting outdoor sport photography, try to catch people in candid shots, doing something involved with the sport—appreciating the view when hiking, for example. They will make for far more interesting photographs than shots of a family group or friends staring at the camera
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    Include shots of the angler casting and launching boats, and fishermen on streams.
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    To get a good action shot of fishing, have the angler reenact landing a fish, splashing water to create the excitement of the moment.

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The versatility and variety of sports provides an endless opportunity for outdoor photography. Unfortunately, most of us get out our cameras only after the action is over to record a fisherman with his catch, a tired hiker with his pack, a camper in front of his tent. All these pictures are good, but they tell only a small part of the story of the outdoor sports of fishing, hiking, and camping. By following the outdoor photography tips offered here, your pictures can capture some of the excitement and beauty that draws you to your favorite outdoor sport.

The best photographs will include all aspects of each sport, from start to finish. Outdoor sports involve people, so be sure to involve your family, friends, and even casual acquaintances in all your photos. Catch people in candid shots, doing something involved with the sport—they will make for far more interesting photographs than record shots of a family group or friends staring at the camera. Each photograph should have a reason for being taken and should show a part of the sport that will be immediately obvious and interesting to a viewer. Although "people shots" will comprise a large part of an outdoor sports album or slide show, take care to include other types of shots as well.

Once I viewed a long, professionally taken slide show of an outdoor sport. The geography and people were exotic, the shots were properly exposed, and well taken and composed. But almost every one of them was of people or scenery. The camera was rarely, if ever, focused closer than 15 to 20 feet. It lacked detailed shots of the equipment, hands rigging equipment, how the equipment was used, setting up camp, close-ups of small details of equipment, and techniques and details of the faces of the participants. In short, the photographer did not use the camera to its full range of capability. As a result the show was stilted and stale.

In many other cases, photographers will stick to details and to people, but leave out the long-range scenics of the countryside, geography, and terrain. Try to include many different types of shots, from many angles and viewpoints.

There are different ways to treat any outdoor sport. You can concentrate on one trip, especially if it is an extensive one. Plan to use your camera before the trip begins by photographing the planning stages—packing, checking maps, and buying supplies. Continue using your camera throughout the trip to record the important people and those detail and scenic shots that will present a complete story of the trip to any viewer.

Tips for Fishing Photography

1. Backs and bellies look alike on all fish, so have your subject hold the fish with its side clearly visible. Make the catch an important part of the subject by having the fisherman hold the fish out in front of him, or to one side. Don't have the fish held at arm's length, particularly if using a wide-angle lens, because the fish will become too large in proportion to the angler and will look unnatural. Also, as pointed out by my friend Cliff Shelby, the fingers holding the fish will look as big as ballpark franks, so keep hands out of the photo. Avoid cluttered backgrounds. In black-and-white photography, avoid backgrounds that will hide or disguise details of the fish. Fish held to the side against the sky or a dark fish against a white background will make the best print. In color slides or color prints, look for a background that will have a strong color contrast with the shade and color of the fish for the same dramatic effect.

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