SIMPLY DIGITAL - Slow down the pace to enrich your photography


February is the month when we are bombarded with a myriad of new models of digital cameras and accessories that will do almost anything we can imagine.

The media blitz advertising these new digital cameras are packed with slogans like "go mobile, tag easily and share freely." With amazing sensors these cameras can get quality pictures to our social network sites in seconds.

As one who gets asked by family, friends and students at Walla Walla Community College about all this speed and instant camera gratification I have decided this month to slow the pace down.

While the camera manufacturers continue to unveil all the new models I believe its time to focus on just a few simple camera principles, determine if a new camera is really needed and take an inspirational journey.

Let's start by thinking of some artistic imagery to reveal with our cameras and venture out into the frosty weather we have been experiencing recently along the Mill Creek trail behind the community college.

The cool, foggy days are perfect to bundle up and concentrate on photographing some wonderful sights along this trail. Scenic benches are located along the creek, so try sitting down along the trail to reflect on possible scenes and just listen to nature.

While absorbing the sounds of rippling water it's a good time to check a couple of settings on the digital camera. For a photo shoot along trails and streams I like to encourage students to use a 28-200mm wide-angle telephoto lens to capture scenes from closeups of flowers and plants to distant wildlife along the stream.

There are four camera settings I like to focus on while walking a trail; white balance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

Balance light and ISO

Overcast days are great for balanced light and good contrast, and are exceptional for black-and-white photography. I usually set the white balance to "overcast/clouds" because this setting will give the pictures a warmer, textured feeling.

Depending on the amount of telephoto needed the ISO may range from 100-800, usually the closer to the subject a higher ISO is needed.

Aperture, shutter speed

While walking along the trail there will be a need to either slow down or speed up the shutter mode. For example, if you are taking a picture of a flower up close (macro) and using the rippling water in the stream to provide a background then the aperture could be F4 to focus the flower and blur the rippling water background, and with the shutter speed set at 1/1000 the water behind the flower will be frozen and glisten.

Finding wildlife along this creek is easy, as ducks, geese and other birds like to stand on the bank and swim in the water. In some areas the water is moving quickly. To keep the wildlife all in focus set the aperture in the range of F 16-22 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 to capture the fast water and freeze the animal and water motion.

To capture the creek vistas, bridges, barns, trees, windmills and signs, select apertures between F16-22 and shutter speed of at least 1/250 to keep the scenes in focus and to compensate for any handheld vibration if shooting without a tripod.

I found each turn on the Mill Creek Trail provided a new landscape vista to be slowly absorbed and enjoyed.

By slowing the pace down I experienced not only a journey and a oneness with the camera, but experienced an inspirational palate of possible stories right here in our own backyard.

Don Fleming can be reached at, he is also on Facebook and Twitter.


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