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What else could it be? Nature photography. I would hazard a guess that more people consider themselves nature photographers than would classify themselves as any other type of shooter. There’s an unending wealth of opportunities out there for those of us who love to take our cameras into nature in any of its many forms, flora, fauna, landscape vistas, skies, trees, ranges, etc etc. And it’s a constant learning opportunity for the photographer who needs to deal with ever-changing light sources as well as trying to capture that shot that will make people sit up and take notice. It’s extraordinarily difficult to produce something out of the camera that truly reflects the glory of what we’ve seen while out walking, or sailing or climbing, or even from inside our cars as we take yet another magnificent drive through whichever country we happen to be in.

I have to remember that this is a blog post and not an essay; I could ramble on for pages on where I’ve been , where I would love to have gone, where I still plan to go. I’ll keep it short and just add that yesterday I took a walk on the Hockley Valley Trail just north of Toronto. I hadn’t walked here previously, but set off at a reasonably early hour in order to try to get the best light I could. It’s a sacrifice that I was willing to make! At one point on the trail I came across a potential shot that I’ve had on my bucket list for ever – the sunbeam through the trees. As I shot and then moved around the light, more beams and angles came into play. I took a number of shots before I thought I had enough, and then took a few more just in case. When I walked back along the same part of the trail a couple of hours later the beams had completely disappeared. And that is why we go out in the early morning. And yes, I know, the sun is blown out. I said it was a bucket-list shot, not a perfect shot.

Hockley Sunbeam photography

Sunbeams photography

This shot is a more painterly photograph of the fall colours that are now beginning to appear in Southern Ontario. While Algonquin was at its peak this weekend, our neck of the woods is a little more sedate in its rate of change. I expect to head out over the next couple of weekends, weather permitting, but this one was taken at a pond on the Hockley Valley trail. The painterly style isn’t produced by camera movement or any Photoshop filter. It’s the photograph of the reflection of the trees in the water, flipped 180 and then cropped. Easy and real.

Reflections photography

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Light Someone recently asked me which was more important to producing a good photograph, light or a quality lens. The answer is simple, but not always obvious. With a poor lens and a good light a photographer can produce a worthwhile picture. With bad light and the best lens / camera combination, it is much more difficult to come up with a final product that satisfies the shooter.

The very word “photo” comes from the Greek for light. What photographers do is understand the effect of light on a subject, they manipulate light through the use of flashes, reflectors, snoots, softboxes, they measure light with meters and in camera, and they turn light to their advantage.

To understand the use of light you can read any number of books or articles by masters like Joe McNally. While we snappers might never produce something of that quality, if we start to understand how light can be used to our advantage then we can’t help but become better photographers.

The pictures below are from a lighting course I took at a local college. We spent 10 evenings on lighting under the tutorship of an experienced commercial and fashion photographer. We studied how the camera sees light, how to expose for snow or black, how to use light to emphasise texture, how to use fill flash, a vital introduction to how light works and how to shape it.

Using sidelighting to emphasise texture


Backlighting, used to produce edging highlights


And top-down lighting…


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