∞ Photography for Beginners: Spring is Springing

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little bit optimistic in hoping that Spring is around a (hopefully) short corner. But my optimism is due to all the great shooting opportunities Spring brings.

[ad#Google Adsense 300x250 in story]As a photographer, I’m always looking for shots that are easily captured and within the capabilities of both myself, my camera and my budget. Spring makes that easy.

First of all, Spring brings longer periods of sunshine and warmer temperatures, encouraging us to go outdoors and enjoy the season. And, with the flowers, plants and trees coming into bloom, your opportunity for some great shots multiplies tenfold.

Even if Spring hasn’t quite made it to where you live, you can still get ready for it or at least, pretend it’s here. For example, if you live in New York City, check out the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s a really interesting exhibit and the butterflies make great subjects to shoot.

Did you know America has a National Aviary? It’s in Pittsburgh, PA and is home to over 600 birds from around the world. The aviary is such a popular place for photographers, they even have a policy in place for photographers.

Here in Portland, OR, the International Rose Test Garden has over 10,000 roses and is a wonderful place to wander the grounds and be amazed at the variety and color. If there are any gardens and botanical conservatories in your area, give them a call to see when their flowers will begin to bloom.

A wonderful thing about photographing flowers, either in their natural environment or in a enclosed conservatory building, is they tend to stay still. Unlike kids, pets, birds or other animals, flowers allow you to play around with your camera and not worry about them walking off.

This is a great time to learn more about your camera, especially if you have a point and shoot. All P&S worth buying have what’s called “Macro Mode” – generally symbolized on screen or your Mode Dial with a little flower. It can also be thought of as “Close Up Mode.” When selected, it’ll tell your camera’s little brain you want to focus on a subject closer to your lens than normal and allows the camera to make the necessary adjustments.

You’ll have to do a little work on your own though. You may need a tripod (find out if the location your are shooting at allows them) in order to stabilize the shot and because you may not want, or be allowed to use the flash on your camera. Also, read your camera’s manual so you know how to turn on the timer for your camera. Set up the tripod and compose your shot and then experiment with various settings of timers, modes and compositions. But keep an eye around you and don’t block others or monopolize the best shooting locations.

Flowers are easy to shoot well — birds and butterflies take a bit more work. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get close enough to the birds to use Macro Mode and butterflies can be kind of skittish too. If you have a DSLR, increase your shutter speed — for P&S, look for the “Action Mode” usually represented by a runner icon.

Next up, if the birds are flying free, make sure you hold your camera as steady as you can. If you are shooting while looking through the rear viewfinder, avoid holding your arms out in front of you. It won’t make much difference in the zoom and can cause your camera to be unstable. Instability in a camera means blur. Blur means bad shots.

Keep your elbows tucked in to your side or prop yourself against a door or wall if you can. Through the viewfinder, track the bird’s flight and try to anticipate where it’s going to go. Along with having your camera in “action mode”, turn on “burst mode” too. It will allow you to take a series of photographs as quick as your camera can manage. Don’t get discouraged — we see images of birds in flight all the time, but I promise, the photographer rarely got the shot right the first time. Luckily, digital is cheap so fire away!

There are all kinds of other things to shoot as Spring arrives where ever you are. If you’re in the Washington DC area, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a great opportunity to not only take pictures of the blossoms, but to take them with really interesting backgrounds of the nation’s capital. Japan has a similar festival each spring as do many other cities.

If you have kids, take them to a local petting farm or the zoo. Baby animals abound in the Spring and there is nothing cuter or more fun to take photos of than kids and kids!

A fun little challenge you can give yourself is daily photo shoots of flowering plants in your own neighborhood or even your own home. Take one photo each day of the buds of the plant, trying to do it at the same time each day and capture its growth over time.

So, shake off those winter blues, dust off the camera, limber up your shooting finger and get out there!

Shawn King is the Host of Your Mac Life and teaches beginning digital photography classes. Shawn has been told he, has a good eye. He thinks it’s the left one.