Hi I'm New (And I have pics of my latest adventure)

5:31 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Hi
I have been checking out gear reviews on Trailspace for a few months now and figured I'd join the forum.
My name is Eric, I'm 30 and live in Pittsburgh, PA. I like to go on backpacking adventures any time I have a few days off. My most recent trip (Just got back a few hours ago) was to the Otter Creek Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest WV. There is a like to the pics below. The quality of the pictures isn't the best, I really need a better camera and a few photography leasons.

http://flickr.com/photos/18931025@N00/sets/72157600358232619/

8:03 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Eric -
For someone who says, "I really need a better camera and a few photography lessons", you sure have a good eye and a lot of good photos. Two things I would suggest are a light tripod or monopod to steady the camera for those low light-level shots (for backpacking, I like the Leki photo/hiking pole), and more use of available light and less of the flash (the tripod or monopod would help here). I think you are doing just fine with the camera you have.

You can learn a lot about taking photos by just looking at lots of them. There are a number of excellent outdoor photographers these days to use as examples, which I know you can get in the Pittsburgh area. Outdoor Photographer magazine has lots of good examples, though they tend to spend a lot of time on using Photoshop. Instead of reading all the details of how they processed the image on their computer, look at how the photos are composed and try to imitate them. You will soon develop your own style incorporating things you pick up by looking at lots of good examples.

One other clue - try to have your photos tell a story. You already are doing some of that, as the link shows. Getting in close, like you did with the stove and flower shots, helps tell single aspects of the story that you put together with the whole series.

Keep it up, and just get out there and shoot photos. Remember, all the digital images you shoot are recycling electrons.

8:17 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Thanks for the pointers Bill. I think a tripod would be a good investment for me. I had a lot of my photos turn out blury from not holding the camera steady and some turned out really dark when using the flash. I see what you mean about using natural light.

Now to google that tripod

thanks again
eric

8:27 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Welcome to the forums, Eric! I immediately looked at your pictures and really enjoyed them, especially the ones of the rushing water. Keep it up. Like Bill said, you can't waste digital pictures.

You might be interested to know that the Leki Sierra AS has a camera mount: http://www.trailspace.com/gear/leki/sierra-as/

As does the Komperdell Guide Antishock:
http://www.trailspace.com/gear/komperdell/guide-antishock/

There are probably others as well.

8:40 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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I have had a list of backpacking gear to buy and have bought almost everything on it. Oddly enough, trekking poles and gaitors are next on the list. I will definatly consider the poles mentioned above.
When I first got into backpacking, I didn't understand the meaning of trekking poles, after Otter Creek I know now how essential they are in some terrain.
Thanks again everybody:)
eric

8:54 p.m. on June 14, 2007 (EDT)
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Eric, I'm a big fan of trekking poles and routinely recommend them to people, not only for better balance, but even more importantly for the wear-and-tear on your knees from which they save you.

If you're interested in the subject and haven't read them already, there have been several lengthy discussions on trekking poles in the Backcountry Forum in the past six months:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/backcountry/topics/35908.html

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/backcountry/topics/37439.html

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/gear-repair/topics/37638.html

9:07 a.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Alicia -

I was a big nay-sayer regarding trekking poles - I admit it - well - last weekend I gave 'em a shot (not real trekking poles - not yet - but a pair of cut down X-country ski poles that were languishing in my shed) - OK - I'm a convert - I admit it - I was being wrong-headed and stubborn. Fairly short dayhike (9 miles, varried terrain) - but my 48.5 year old knees felt GREAT where normally I'd be ready to ice 'em.

Eric - welcome aboard - and great pics - I don't live THAT far from the area - guess I'll be heading out for a long weekend! (always looking for new places)

Peace

Steve

11:04 a.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve, oh good...another trekking pole convert!

My 3-year-old has also joined the ranks. He thinks it's fun to use one of my poles shortened all the way down.

11:14 a.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Alicia - I'm still not a fan of the carbide tip scars that trekking poles leave on the rock surfaces - but at my age change and acceptance of "new things" can be a slow process!

Ahh - three year olds - I recall a hike when our middle child (now nearly eighteen) was three - at a lunch stop she took great delight in throwing a rock at my head (she hit it) - our son (then six) thought the blood was kinda cool - my wife (I will not state her age under the inevitable threat of death) fell down laughing. At the time I didn't think it was that danged funny - but when I read it in her "memories" book that she wrote as a senior in highschool it did, at long last, seem kinda funny.

Enjoy 'em while they're young - when they get older they get really expensive! (this fall I'll have two in college).

Steve

11:50 a.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Steve, I understand your concern about trekking pole tips. I put the rubber caps on the ends of my poles. It can reduce traction somewhat, but I think the trade-off is worth it: not scarring rocks and not having to listen to the clanking noise of the tips hitting rocks.

Thanks for sharing your own memory of hiking with kids! They keep things interesting.

12:06 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Alicia - any time spent outdoors with kids is sure to be a good time (even if only in retrospect) - the stew dumping onto the dirt, the pocket knife through the tent, the socks dropped down the outhouse, dirt in the pancakes, getting hit in the head with a rock .... then come the little girl with the crayfish clinging to the palm of her had, the little boy "holding it in" 'cause he saw a bear outside the tent when he got up to go, sunsets, fresh trout - it's all good -

The really neat part is when the kids recall it when they're older -

Steve

6:49 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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I got one blister on my hike and its on my hand from the hiking stick I picked up off of the ground. Do trekking poles ted to blister your hands at all? I'm guessing they don't.

7:12 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Hey Eric!

Welcome to the board!

Where in the 'Burgh are you from?

I am a native of Bethel Park. Now live in Orlando.
Alumni of The Art Institute of Pgh (Photography/Multi-Media)
and Slippery Rock University (Psychology of Advertising).

I'll be hiking the Allegheny National Forest 2nd week of July.

Go Stillers!

8:42 p.m. on June 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Hey Ed
I grew up around Ambridge in Beaver County and now live in Bloomfield behing West Penn Hospital.

I was just up the ANF a few weeks ago to hike the Ministers Creek Trail. I would recomend it if you havn't been there before.

eric

and no everybody Ed did not spell Stillers wrong:)

3:00 p.m. on June 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Eric, You shouldn't get blisters from the grips. Lekis have cork grips. I usually use them in winter, but I have gloves on then. You might have been sweating and causing your hand to slip on the wood. A trekking pole grip will be quite different. I think there is some kind of a cream you can put on your hands to toughen up the skin; maybe Bill knows what it is.

As far as tripods go, I picked up a cheap and pretty lightweight Hakuba that will hold a medium sized SLR or a small digital camera with no problem. Got the tripod at a second-hand shop and the removable plate online. It works great. I used it to take some night shots in my neighborhood.

There are lots of online sites to learn photography, but study some of the old masters like Ansel Adams. You won't be able to duplicate his work with a digital camera, for lots of reasons, but now, with Photoshop and so on, you can do a lot. Also, for color, look at David Meunch or the late Galen Rowell's work. Head for the nearest Barnes & Noble and check out the photo section-you'll find some good inspiration there.

There are some beautiful places around Pennsylvania, especially in the western part of the state, so you don't have to travel far to get some nice shots.

12:29 a.m. on June 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Thanks Tom! I work at a bookstore (Half Price Books) I'll have to check out the photographers you mentioned. When using a digital camera does it help to study non digital methods? I really want to lear more of the basic stuff like compression, shutter speed ect.

6:54 p.m. on June 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Take a film class - because film doesn't give you instant feedback, you have to "know" ahead of time how a particular shot is going to come out - that is to say, you have to at least be able to have a reasonable idea what the different settings will result in for your shot. You should get a great feel for the different effects and nuances your final shot will have, especially if you learn what different aperture, shutter speed, film speed, etc settings will create - especially since many digital cameras allow you to manually set them if you want.

The other thing, which you seem to have grasped, others have mentioned, and was the most valuable thing I learned in the one photography class I've taken (back just before or right as digital cameras were coming out), is to tell a story - and that takes the patience of taking a moment to look at the scene in your viewfinder (or LCD screen). I've found that if I take that moment, I sometimes discover I may be cutting something off weird or the shot is framed awkardly or it's really not that great of a shot after all...

It also helps to check other people's work out, too, as mentioned already. A hiking buddy of mine is an excellent photographer (though he insists he's not good enough to publish), and watching him set up his shots and talking with him about what he does has taught me a few things as well. Plus he's commented on some of the photos I've taken, which has given me some things to consider as well.

Usually it never hurts to learn the basics (which is pretty much true for just about everything in life!).

1:45 p.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Tom,
My Leki hiking pole/monopod (Sierra Photo) has foam handles, not cork.

Eric - I would add Elliot Porter to your list of photographers whose work is well worth studying. He did a lot of work in the eastern US, although he is best known for his Grand Canyon and other western US images. It is well worth taking a workshop with one of the more famous outdoor photographers (I was lucky enough to know Ansel Adams and spend time with him, myself). But do watch out for the too-many workshops by people who aren't much more than amateurs themselves. Taking photos and having them critiqued by the top photographers is very instructive.

While I learned a great deal by using a view camera and by working in the darkroom with the various films and chemicals (under Adams' tutelage for at least a short time), I believe that the instant feedback of digital offers a lot to the learning experience. As Lizard says, though, you need to think about what the shot will come out like compared to what you want to say with the picture. An exercise that used to be standard in workshops (especially those oriented toward view cameras) was to take a piece of black cardboard and cut a frame in it that was the shape of the frame of the camera (8x10 inches for the typical 4x5 view camera, or a 2x3 ratio for the 35mm camera frame, which is what the length to width ratio for most digital SLRs - so 6x9 inches for example). Then walk around in the woods looking at things through that frame. Move it in and out from your eye (one eye, since the camera has effectively one eye), and study what the image will look like. You will have to learn by practice how the color your eye sees translates into the color of the image (and the altered color after you make a print following processing with Photoshop). I used to work almost exclusively in black and white, which takes even more practice to visualize. One thing you will find is that both media (film and digital) are more "contrasty" than what the eye sees. That is, not as great a range between the darkest parts of the image with detail and the lightest parts with the detail washed out.

One thing I would forget about right now that you mentioned is compression. If you shoot jpeg format, you have no control over what your particular camera does to do the compression. You just have to live with it, although you can sort of control it by using the histogram to see what is happening (if your camera allows you to see the histogram). What you should first concentrate on is getting a roughly right exposure, but mostly composition (which you already have a basically good eye for), which will include the effects of shutter speed vs aperture (shutter speed to intentionally freeze or blur motion and aperture to control depth of field) and lens focal length. On focal length, view that as a way of cropping the picture in camera. It is NOT a means of moving in close or back farther - only "leg zoom" can move you closer or farther. The perspective and relation of objects in the frame stays the same as you shift focal length ("zoom"), with change being only what you include and exclude.

A good starting approach is to concentrate on still life and fairly static objects that give you time to contemplate the picture. As you get experience, you will be able to do the same thing with dynamic subjects - animals that are moving, people in action, etc. What Cartier-Bresson referred to as the "decisive moment", that fleeting moment that tells the story you want to tell. One of my favorite photos by Adams is Moonrise over Hernando. Even though he shot it with a view camera that required stopping the car, getting the tripod and camera out and mounting and aiming them, he caught the "decisive moment" that a minute before or a minute after vanished. Looking at the photo you would think it was a carefully composed photo done with great patience, rather than effectively a "grab and shoot".

2:27 p.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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I'm no photographer - never made any claims to be one - but even in this digital age - if you have the time and a little extra money - treat yourself to some black and white film, some developing chemicals and a basic enlarger to make prints - there's just something special (at least to me) to black and white photos - and if you're doing the developing and printing you have a lot more control than you'll ever have with digital and photoshop (well, maybe that's a stretch) - plus when I did it (back in the dark ages of the mid 1970's) it was a heck of a lot of fun.

Just one old fools opinion -

Steve

6:31 p.m. on June 18, 2007 (EDT)
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Hey, I have an enlarger in the closet (Beseler, top quality), unused for, ummmmm, decades, and a Nikkor developing tank, and trays, and all sorts of darkroom gear. I stuck it back in the various boxes and into the closet when the People's Republic of Palo Alto (a "liberal city" by city ordnance, and that's serious and not a joke) declared photochemicals to be hazardous materials, not to be dumped down the drain, including the wash water, and therefore no home darkrooms allowed. Kodak moved their Northern Calif labs out of Palo Alto shortly thereafter, thanks to the requirement of processing the waste water to drinking-level standards. Well, yes, the dissolved silver salts do indeed cause serious harm to the wetlands.

Anyway, I might just be persuaded to sell the whole lot cheap to someone who can use it (you pay shipping). Then again, it does make a great antiquities exhibit, along with my 4x5 view camera. Oh, the enlarger is 35mm and 2-1/4, not big enough for 4x5 negatives.

I keep hoping to find some way to get back to the darkroom. As someone said earlier, there is a lot of satisfaction to making a great print that Photoshop just doesn't give. But I disagree with Steve - I can do anything in terms of processing the print in Photoshop that I could do with the chemical darkroom, except that what I get is an inkjet print, not a silver print, and not a print toned with selenium toner that has that deep, rich look than an Ansel Adams original print has (hmmm, selenium is one of the major contaminants of Central Valley wetlands, and has been killing off lots of waterfowl, including migratory birds).

6:59 a.m. on June 19, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill wrote "But I disagree with Steve - I can do anything in terms of processing the print in Photoshop that I could do with the chemical darkroom"
Well, buddy, you just have superior photo shop skills (actually, darned near anyone has better PS skills than I do) - I've developed fairly sophisitcated graphic systems for engineering applications (like back the 80's rotating complex solids with perspective lighting, creating cockpit reflection analysis systems, those sorts of things)- so I'm happy to figure out the math, design and write the code - but don't ask me to use the stuff!
I'm a musician (there's that danged math again!) - it's my daughter who's got the eye for visual art!

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