Trailside Photography

As a hobbyist (as opposed to a professional photographer), one of the things I like to do is go for a hike and keep my eyes open for things that could make a good photo.  Since I live in Washington, the scenes I see when hiking have a ton of detail – too much detail. Too many leaves, branches, logs, bushes… If you take a picture of all that together… Well, it’s just boring.  The viewer is going “What? Am I supposed to be looking for a hidden Navy SEAL in this photo?” 

So what’s the remedy? I always remember that photography is a subtractive art, not an additive art like painting. You start with your surroundings and crop out all the distractions until you have a clear focal point and a clean shot. Here’s some examples from my last hike:

Backlit Leaves 1

Backlit Leaves 1

 

Backlit Leaves 2

Backlit Leaves 2

The idea with these photos was to capture the evening light shining through a break in the forest canopy and lighting up the leaves. Because it was already about 7:30 p.m. the forest around the leaves had darkened and provided a contrasting background. 

Multi-color Berries

Multi-color Berries

These berries were completely in the evening shade and I had to set my ISO speed to 1600 to keep my shutter speed short enough to avoid motion blur. You can see the “texture” if you look closely at the smooth areas of the photo, but the quality is acceptable for me. 

One other trick that I like to try now and then is to spot meter on the darkest part of the picture while in an automatic exposure mode and lock in the reading (* button for Canon dSLRs), re-frame, and shoot. This causes an intentional over-exposure of most of the photo, giving it a mystical, almost fantasy look.  Of course, this technique isn’t effective for all photos, so I shoot, check my rear screen, and adjust my technique or perspective to get the look I want.  If you have a camera with Live View and have the patience to set it up on a tripod, Canon’s “Exposure Simulation” can show you what the photo will look like before you shoot it.  I used a hand-held, quick metering technique because the light was changing fast. So here’s what I managed to capture on my hike:

Forest Light 1

Forest Light 1

Forest Light 2

Forest Light 2

 

I hope you enjoyed these photos and got some inspiration for your next hike or photo hunt!

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