Perfecting Nature – Photo Manipulation Basics

The art of photography is different from other arts. This is something you realize when you start to learn photography. This is because photographs don’t come from the imagination. When you take a photo, you have to take an image from real life and immortalize it. The problem with that is real life isn’t exactly known for perfection. This means that unlike painting where the images have to pass through the mind, where it can be smoothed out and perfected, the camera can only copy reality.

The problem with that is the world is so used to perfection. Photography’s limitations are often detrimental for those who seek to create perfect pictures, namely fashion photographers and glamor photographers. This is where photo manipulation comes in. The art of creating touching up photos is something often used in the fashion industry. It makes sure that any imperfections that can be seen on the models in the shoot are smoothed out. This can be a light skin blemish or few wrinkles around the eyes, but the objective is the same: to create a perfect image.

In the old days, photo manipulation needed specialized equipment like airbrushes. However, in today’s modern world, computers are taking over that function. There is a plethora of photo-editing software available on the market right now. Combined with the availability of high-end computers, even the ordinary hobbyist photographer would be able to edit his shots. The boom of the Internet has also helped in this – tutorials are available for free online and some of them are quite accessible for beginners.

To start your journey into photo manipulation you must start by acquiring what you need. Getting a digital camera and a computer is a good start. Film-based cameras are fine, but since most photo editing is on the computer, it would be easier to work with a digital one. Next, you need to choose proper photo manipulation software. There are several freeware packages on the Internet and one of them should be good enough for a beginner. Finally, search the Internet for some digital photo manipulation tutorials to point you in the right direction.

There you are! That’s all you need to start your career in photo manipulation.

Curacao – Natural Photo Wonders

The North and Northeast shore of Curacao are spectacular and a fabulous place to explore and shoot amazing natural wonders. The long north coast of Curacao is constantly hit by the northeast trade winds, which have created a rough coastline of weather-beaten terrain, limestone cliff formations of old volcanic rock and crushed coral.

It is possible to drive along dirt rugged roads and to hike around trails that will take you closer to seaside views and photo opportunities. The trails also provide an opportunity for a glimpse at sea turtles hidden breeding grounds. Seabirds and iguanas are active in the park, especially during the early morning and late afternoon.

Shete Boca National Park is a series of caves, coves and bays carved into the coastline, with waterfront cliffs and platforms. Waves can reach high enough to wash you from the edge of the cliffs. Amazing images can be taken, just make sure you take proper care of your equipment. Lots of wind and ocean water drops are suspended in the air, so your lenses will end up with a layer of salt, be sure to have protective filters not to damage your glass.

The park begins at Boka Tabla, where huge waves thunder into an underground cave. Steps that have been cut into the rocks will lead you directly into the mouth of the cave, if conditions allow, you can sit on the very edge and watch the surf roll in. With the proper exposure settings or the use of fill in flash you will be able to take great shoots.

Boka Pistol is a must, huge waves burst into the sky with gunfire like explosions. Hike for a while and find amazing panoramic overviews from the flat limestone hills and end up in Boka Wandomia and its natural bridge.

Another impressive natural attraction is Watamula in the extreme north of the Caribbean island of Curacao. Watamula is a large hole, formed in the middle of volcanic rock formations, connected to the sea at its bottom. Due to the force of the waves, air is pressed in and out of the rugged terrain and tunnels that interconnect, producing a breathing sound. Watamula is also known as ‘The Breath of Curacao’. In the same area you will find a spouter hole where the waves cause water to be expelled up into the air in the shape of a fountain. Prepare your camera and be sure to carry enough memory cards, you might spend all day shooting different shapes and forms.

Christoffel Park, last but not least is a the largest National Park in Curacao with hiking trails flanked by up to ten feet cactuses, weaving through bromeliads, orchids and surrounded by goats, iguanas, dear and numerous birds, as well as caves and beaches that end up at the peak of Christoffel Mountain, the highest elevation in Curacao.

If you ever have a chance to visit Curacao, do not think twice about it and do not forget your camera, the diversity and photo options are everywhere you go.

The Nature of Great Nature Photos – 5 Tips to Improve Your Outdoor Photography

“We cannot command nature except by obeying her.”

Francis Bacon

Whether you’re taking a picture of a geranium in your backyard garden or a grizzly bear in the Rocky Mountains, capturing a great photo outdoors means working with Mother Nature, and not trying to impose your photographic will upon her.

So many factors come into play when taking a nature photograph… sun, clouds, wind, rain, sleet or snow… and if you’re photographing animals in their native habitat, you’ve got noise, odors, and movement to deal with.

It can get complex, but the enjoyment you’ll get by taking nature photography seriously will far outweigh the extra time and effort you put into it. Rather than just clicking a snapshot of your sugar maple in all its fall glory, you’ll have a photo you’d be proud to hang on your wall as a piece of art. Or, you might even become so good that you’ll find yourself selling some of your better photos.

After all, everyone loves a great nature photo. It’s easy for viewers to put themselves into the picture. Even if they’ve never been to the mountains, people enjoy looking at pictures of mountains because it transports them, at least for a brief moment, to a peaceful place.

So in order to help you get the most out of the time you spend outdoors with your camera, here are five fundamental tips for taking better nature photos. As a photographer, I’ve learned that if you approach your outdoor photography with the right mindset, you are certain to succeed — oftentimes in ways you never expected.

Understand the nature of nature. There’s an old saying, “You can’t fight Mother Nature.” Plan on working with the elements of the natural environment you photograph. A backyard squirrel might not blink at the sound of your shutter. But a rarely seen black squirrel sitting in the woods 50 miles from the nearest road might run upon hearing the same click.

Animals, trees, bushes, grass… everything associated with nature functions uniquely in different weather conditions. If you’re looking for a “money” shot, you need to understand the conditions you’re working in, and the subject matter you’re photographing.

I recall walking along a large pond in a forest clearing many years ago. I was looking up for a shot, but saw nothing remarkable. Then I looked down and realized there was a fantastic shot right at my feet. It was of some green algae that had formed in the corner of the pond. It was a beautiful color, and contrasted nicely with the water. It ended up being one of my most popular shots.

Be prepared. Study the area you plan on photographing, even if it’s your own backyard. Watch how the light plays on your flowers at different times of the day, and under different cloud conditions. Pay attention to the patterns of birds. Animals are creatures of habit, and weather and light are somewhat predictable.

The same goes if you plan on venturing out into the wilderness. Get familiar with the local surroundings by talking to locals, watching weather reports on the Internet or TV, and by just taking some time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings.

Know you’re equipment. If you’re trying to get a close up shot of a deer in the wild, even if you’re using a telephoto lens, turn off your autofocus, autoflash and motordrive. Get to know your camera settings, from the f-stop and shutter speed to the ASA and ISO settings.

Experiment at home and in the field. After buying a new camera, I like to take number shots just around the house, in a variety of conditions. Spend about an hour or so walking around your home and yard, instruction manual in hand, and try out all the features. Use different exposures and settings. Do this as a refresher from time to time as well. It is well worth the effort.

Be patient. Natural events happen when they happen. You are not going to rush that beaver out of his watery den any faster. The perfect glint of sunlight playing off your prize rose bushes will not happen any sooner or later than you want it to. Keep your camera at the ready, and don’t force the shot. You may arrive five minutes too late for a great shot, but you may be five minutes early for the perfect shot.

Have an outcome in mind, but be ready for the unexpected. If you go out looking for cardinals in the forest, you’re likely to find some. So be ready by having a telephoto lens, a tripod if necessary, perhaps a birding book to help with recognition, and something comfortable to sit on. Take food and water. Picture the shot you want in your mind’s eye. You’ll often get something close.

But don’t close your mind to other possibilities. The sun may be absolutely perfect at that time of day, and you could get a stunning picture of rays of sunlight piercing the forest canopy. Ansel Adams’ famous “Moonrise over Hernandez” was taken while he was driving down a highway. He stopped the car, jumped out, grabbed his camera, took one shot… and nailed it because he was ready for the unexpected.

I had a similar experience. It was night, and I was just walking around the area I live looking for a good picture. I had been walking awhile, ready to give up and go home, when a flash of light caught my eye. I came upon a construction site of a multi-story building. The welders were getting in some overtime, working on the 8th or 9th floor. The sparks from their welding were arcing out from the side of the building and down to the ground. It made for a beautiful picture, and one I would have never gotten if I hadn’t been ready for the unexpected.

When it comes to photographing anything in the great outdoors, don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking you can control your subject matter. All you can control is your equipment and your knowledge about the subject matter. So with the right camera, an understanding of nature, and some patience, you’re likely to get the recognition you’re looking for as an outstanding outdoor photographer.