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Photography Hacks: The Outdoors
Camille Seaman‘s photography is the kind of evocative, visceral imagery that makes you want to reach out and grab it — puffy clouds in darkened skies and overturned icebergs chilling in near-frozen water (check out our Q and A with her to learn more about the photographer’s life on the road).
We asked this weather-chasing, Arctic-traveling pro for her best tips for anyone — weather-freaks and hobby backyard lightning lovers alike — to take compelling images.
Here are her top sky and outdoor photography tips:
Technology is your friend
For budding weather photographers, Seaman suggests a smartphone-based first step: download an accurate weather app, like Weather Underground. Having live doppler radar sent right to your phone gives you an advantage over going into any weather-related situation blindly. “So you can see if the situation is safe for you to be out in,” says Seaman. “So you have some kind of eyes in the sky.”
Use as wide an angle lens as possible
“Because storms are so big, it’s very difficult to get it all in your frame with a standard — a 50mm lens isn’t gonna do it. 24mm lens isn’t sometimes enough,” she says. “I’m usually using a 14mm. Wide is good when you’re photographing the sky.”
But don’t fret too much over gear
While wider is better, it’s important to remember that a photographer is ultimately what takes the picture, not the gear. “A lot of people get really caught up in the gear — ‘oh if I just had this camera or this lens, then I would make excellent pictures.’
“Sometimes when I’m out chasing, I’m just using my phone and that’s it,” says Seaman.
“If that’s what’s allowing me to have fun and not feel like I’m pressured to make something awesome, it’s really fun to just use a phone, to just play.”
Include context in your images
Sky photography isn’t only an image of the sky with nothing else. “Always include a little bit of the land — don’t just photograph the entire sky because there’s no sense of scale and people don’t know what they’re looking at. They need something to compare things to,” Seaman says.
“Don’t be afraid of including power lines or cars or anything human-scale — a house, buildings — because they help to communicate the size of the storm.”
That said, don’t be afraid to play with those proportions a little. “One [thing] that really drives me crazy is when people always have like 50 percent sky, 50 percent horizon,” says Seaman. “If the sky is the emphasis, show just a little bit of horizon. And if the land is the emphasis, show just a little bit of sky. Those things make a huge difference.”
Add emotion to the photo
“This is a really important one to me: don’t just hop out of the car and start snapping pictures. Always step out of the car and really take a good look around. If you want to convey any sort of emotion in your images, you have to feel it first.
So many people snap away and wonder why there’s no emotion in their images. Allow yourself to be present in the place before you start living the entire scene and moment through your camera.”
Perhaps most importantly: be safe and have fun
“If you’re not having fun, put the camera down. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve watched experience amazing things just through the lens of their camera or video camera,” she says.
“I always say, if you’re not enjoying yourself, put it down, look around. Just watch and observe. Because for every photograph that I’ve made, there’s probably a thousand that I haven’t, and I don’t regret it at all.”
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