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Get Great Halloween Pictures

Halloween is a great holiday for photography. Kids parade the streets in colorful costumes, decorative lights add an eerie glow to the neighborhood, festive decorations adorn houses, and groups of trick or treaters await the eager photographer ready to capture the festivities. Costume clad kids become the centers of attention as parents across the US help apply make-up, adjust a mask, engineer a make shift prop, or simply sit back and watch their kids undergo transformations from their normal beings only to be recognized by their voices. These are the moments for which photography was created. The majority of Halloween pictures are made after dark necessitating the use of flash or high ISO settings. Flash works well if the action is fast and you need to freeze the moment. If there′s a significant amount of ambient light in your home, setting the ISO on your digital camera to 800 will allow you to capture natural light shots. Light from a flash creates natural color while pictures lit with incandescent bulbs give the image an orange / yellow hue which may act to enhance the scary colors of Halloween. A photographic technique I like to use for Halloween shots is slow shutter synch with flash. In the accompanying image of my son next to the jack-o-lantern, I used a one second exposure to record the candlelight inside the pumpkin along with the lights inside the house. During the exposure I intentionally moved the camera creating the blurs of light. The reason my son is sharply recorded is I had him hold still during the exposure. The flash fired at the end of the one second exposure and recorded the sharp detail in the image.

How to Photograph Rainbows

There’s nothing like dramatic light to take a scenic that’s been shot thousands of times to a new level. Impending storms, shafts of sun spotlighting key compositional elements, fire engine red clouds, all qualify but what rides highest on many landscape photographer’s list of most dramatic are rainbows. They have it all - prismatic color, a stormy sky lit by the sun, early morning or late afternoon light, and if you believe in folk tales, maybe a pot of gold. They’re adrenaline pumping phenomena that rev up many photographers’ juices. With each rainbow I’ve encountered over the years, upon completion of the shoot I look to the sky, wink, say thanks, and rush back to the motel to burn a CD and place it in a safe location. Finding a rainbow requires a number of natural events to occur. First off, the horizon by the setting or rising sun must be clear and the sun needs to be lower than forty two degrees in the sky. With your back to where it rises or sets, turn so your shadow falls directly in front of you so you’re facing one hundred and eighty degrees from the sun. The point at which you now face is known as the antisolar point. This is where the arc of the rainbow will appear providing there is moisture in the sky.  When all factors come together, a rainbow materializes. Understandably, they’re not an every day occurrence. When you’re out in the field and it’s rainy, look toward the horizon of the setting or rising sun. If you see an opening in the clouds, look for a foreground in the direction of the antisolar point that has character or interest and wait. Mount your camera to a tripod to ensure you get a sharp image. If a rainbow shows up, make sure you capture it exhausting all compositional possibilities. Shoot it vertically, horizontally, with a wide angle to take it all in, and with a telephoto to sample portions with the most dramatic color. Use a polarizer to enhance its color but be careful because as you rotate it, you can also eliminate it.  Don’t dwell on this as it’s visible through the viewfinder. Join me on one of my photo tours and I will hopefully be able to show you how to photograph a rainbow first hand.

How to Photograph Fall Foliage

Autumn is my favorite season in which to photograph. A refreshing and invigorating chill permeates the air, and the warm colors of the season, combined with the low angle of the sun, make for extraordinary photographic opportunities. Although the best light occurs at sunrise and sunset, good pictures can be made during mid day hours by concentrating on close ups and backlit leaf studies. As with any photographic journey, the first step is to research the location. You need to know when the foliage usually reaches peak color. Just because peak color occurs in the beginning of October where you live, it doesn’t dictate this is the norm elsewhere. Factors such as altitude, latitude, and micro climates all impact when the leaves in a given area turn. The Chamber of Commerce and the internet are excellent resources. Additionally, foliage hotlines are set up during the season. Many photographers think of the grand landscape when it comes to taking pictures of fall foliage. They are glorious and make gorgeous post card type shots, but don’t overlook the smaller aspects of autumn. A single tree in peak color is a wonderful autumn subject. Move in closer to isolate a colorful branch juxtaposed against a polarized blue sky to create an abstract. Getting even closer, photograph a few leaves or even a single leaf showing its vein patterns. Additionally, while many photographers concentrate on looking up at the color on the trees, I want you to look down on the ground for interesting patterns of fallen leaves mixed in with pine needles and cones. Quite often the "intimate landscape" can net an image with greater impact than the grand one. Backlit leaves take on a glow making them pop right out of your photographs. Try to look for this as much as possible. Take a 360 degree walk around an isolated tree and notice the difference between the leaves when they′re frontlit vs. backlit and you’ll see what I mean. Metering a backlit scene can be a bit tricky so I suggest bracketing your exposures. Also, lens flare will occur more readily so make sure you shade the front element. For information about fall foliage nature photography tours, visit my website at

Sunset on Songo Pond, Bethel Maine

For this image of a sunset on Songo Pond, I made sure to set the TZ-3 so the flash was forced off. The silhouette of the tree helps create a sense of scale and place. I also gave the shot more weight to the bottom, creating a sense of the distance of the mountains. Wait until the right moment when the sky might seem just a bit too dark, which can give you richer colors, then make sure to steady the camera on a tripod, railing or anything handy since the shutter may be up to 1/2 second. Since the TZ-3 has built in stabilization, it′s also possible to be very still and hand hold the camera, as I did in this photo.

Michael in the canoe, Maine

For a fun alternative, I used a very low angle, tipped the camera and switched to black and white. Try new ways of looking at a subject...don’t even look through the viewfinder. Black and white and other alternative color settings on the TZ-3 can make an ordinary photograph look creative.  

Balancing the family vacation and photography

Photography is a lonely art. It is best practiced when you have time and light. But doesn’t it seem that it is only on vacation that we have time and light AND a mind that is more relaxed and open? Travel or vacation photos are a source of great memories and inspiration. They offer an opportunity for a change of scenery, a different pace in which to create, and hopefully the time to follow one’s instincts or interests. However, when on a family vacation – with significant others, perhaps a child or two in tow- how can you have your own creative agenda and meet the expectations of the family? There are several ways to do this. One is to include the family in the photos. Have children play on playground equipment, play hide and seek in a park, or treat them to a banana split – all can lead to new picture ideas. Have a significant other read in the park, or run up the hill and follow with your camera. Have family members shop in the street market and photograph them while they barter or deal with a new currency. Or send them off on their own to allow you time to do your own photographing and exploring your photographic curiosities. Place a time limit on yourself. Tell the family, “ I will meet you in 90 minutes”. Then go off, but be sure to be back on time.  Perhaps they might like a day on their own to explore maritime museums or to go sailing while you prefer dry land. You can also get up extra early and go out for an hour on your own as the sun rises for that special light or go out after dark and wander an hour while the family stays put in their campsite or hotel room. Finally there are photos to be made while wandering with the family. Have your camera with you, but keep in mind that your priority is being with your family in your new environment. Include them in pictures or ask them to pose a certain way for you. They may tire of that but while they sip a cold drink, try different exercises. Can you make an abstract photo from that scene? Can you record that break as a journalist might? Or make it a graphic image? Enclosed are two photographs made on vacation with family. One was made while a traveling companion was just around the corner, and one was inclusive on a walk. The first photo: Domme afternoon, was taken in the small town of Domme in the Dordogne region of France. It was taken with a Panasonic DMC-TZ3 with the color set for sepia tone. My vacation partner was around the corner and this town seemed to cry out for sepia. The second photo was taken in Vitrac another small town in the Dordogne region of France. This photo includes my travel partner who gets tired of posing and being asked to move this way or that way; here she could just enjoy the walk in the woods. She is included, but not as a collaborator. This photo was also taken with the Panasonic DMC-TZ3 with the color mode set to black and white.

Tumbledown Mountain, Weld Maine

Leading lines are a great way to draw attention to the subject you want to highlight. In this case, I used the cracks in the rocks and the green scrub brush growth to lead the viewers eye to the mountain top. By also putting the mountain in the top one third of the photo, the composition is more pleasing and it gives emphasis to the leading lines of the foreground rock.  

Bird photos and patience

Patience is key! I set up this shot with the camera zoomed out and rested on a railing which was close enough and high enough to get this image straight on. The female bird came back to feed her fledgling numerous times, but I was patient and kept shooting until mama turned her head just right and the fledgling’s mouth was wide open. I used the camera with the flash turned off, so that I wouldn’t startle the birds, and framed the birdhouse to the right to give the image a good balance. Keeping the subject to the left tends to lead the viewer’s eye into the shot, since we read left to right.  

Tricks from the Pros


I attribute the long reach of the Panasonic-LUMIX TZ3 lens along with the built in stabilization to get this shot. I also set the point-and-shoot′s LCD screen to "brightest" to be able to carefully compose the photograph in the bright sun at Yellowstone National Park. © Russ Burden, Denver DPA Instructor

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