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The Joy of Nature Trails

July 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I love nature trails.  Even when I manage to walk them up and down and not see a single wild animal beyond birds and squirrels, I still love them.  There's just something about the smell of the trees, and the usual chitter that comes from the woods that makes it all worth while.

Now, I haven't been able to go out on the trails in some time, especially between the heat, the storms, and just a generally busy schedule.  It's still one of my favorite things to do though, especially if it's a trail in or near a National Historic Site.  Last Spring I went to Fort Dobbs ,which has a short trail (only about a mile and a half, if I recall correctly), but it still intrigues me to think about what that forest looked like 250 years ago during the American Revolution when it was still being fought, but that probably just the History major in me talking.

One thing that I have found shooting in the woods is that it can sometimes be very tricky to get a proper exposure.  If you'll recall the Photographer's Triangle (ISO, Speed, and Aperture) needs to be set in balance in order to get a properly exposed picture.  Typically on a sunny day you use what is called the "Sunny 16" rule, which is typically and ISO 200, at 1/250th of a second, at f/16.  This is the general rule of thumb on a sunny day to get a properly exposed photograph.  Now this does not mean that you have to shoot at those settings, but by utilizing the Photographer's Triangle you are able to adjust accordingly.  If you need a speed faster than 1/250th of a second, let's say twice the speed at 1/500th, you will need to open up your aperture to f/11 (which will allow twice as much light in).

In the woods you will have to make sacrifices based on what setting is the most important to you.  Do you want a fast shutter speed to catch the deer that might run by, or the heron taking off on the lake?  Then you'll have to raise your ISO and/or open up your aperture in some combination to compensate. 

Keep in mind that your aperture setting also controls your depth of field so if you open it too wide, you may stop the deer in it's tracks, but if you don't nail the focus where you want it, the deer will be blurry. 

If you want to make sure the deer and everything around it is tack sharp, you want a smaller aperture for the wider depth of field.  That means you'll need a lower ISO and/or a slower shutter speed.  Now if you combine the slower shutter speed to catch the deer running while utilizing the panning technique, you should get a nice sharp deer with a nicely motion blurred forest behind it.

With ISO a faster ISO will let more light in which will allow you to use faster shutter speeds and/or smaller aperture settings, but at the expense of more noise or grain in your photo.  The upside to this however is that with today's digital cameras noise is less prevalent at higher ISOs than it was with film, and some cameras actually have a "High ISO NR (Noise Reduction)" setting which will further help with higher ISO shots.

Anyway, that's all for this week.  Hope you found it helpful, and I'll see you next week.


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