Trying Something New

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By Steve Russell

As I have mentioned before, my first and true love in photography is nature photography.  Being outdoors and off the beaten path has provided many hours of enjoyment in the past and will continue to do so in the future.  However, I decided this year that I wanted to try my hand with different approaches and different disciplines and along the way, hopefully learn new skills and techniques.

Two things I learned long ago about nature photography are that it requires patience, lots of it, and the use of a tripod is essential if you want a clear and tack sharp image.  Even with modern image stabilization (IS) it’s nearly impossible to get a sharp image handholding a 300mm lens with a 1.4X extender.  Plus, back to the patience part, I’ve sat quietly for hours waiting for a wild animal to come into view or for the light to be just right.  With the camera on the tripod, you’re ready to press the shutter release when the opportunity presents itself.  All of this is a longwinded way to say that I almost always use a tripod.

Last week, my wife and I travelled to Biloxi, MS for a few days of rest, relaxation on the Gulf Coast, not to mention a little time in the casinos.  During the day, we would take short trips where I tried out some techniques out of my comfort zone, with mixed results. The first trip was to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.  I grabbed my camera with the 100mm macro lens and my tripod and we went on a short hike.  As it turned out, there wasn’t a lot to photograph but being out in the southern wet pine savanna was reward enough.

Yellow Wildflower

These yellow wildflowers were numerous and I decided to take a photo of one of them.  I had never taken a macro shot without using a tripod except when I used a flash.  So, I took the shot handholding the camera. I set the ISO at 200, shutter speed at 1/125 and the aperture at 5.6.  Not a bad result, but now that I’ve tried not using a tripod for macro I probably won’t attempt it again unless I’m using a flash.

Sandhill Crane NWR Bayou

A little further down the trail we came upon this view.  This time, using the tripod, I took 5 separate exposures.  This is my first HDR image.  I think I still have some work to do with HDR this but I will continue to experiment with it.  One thing I did learn, it’s difficult trying to get a good HDR image of a scene like this when the wind is blowing about 10 to 15 mph and the trees are moving.


Believe it or not, I had never taken a photo of the moon but with a full moon the other night I decided to give it a go.  It’s actually not difficult to do.  Since it’s reflected light in full sun, the sunny 16 rule works perfectly.  I don’t know what I’ll do with it but it was fun capturing it.  Besides, I much prefer the Earth rising over the horizon of the moon, but I won’t ever have an opportunity to take that shot.  As an aside, someone actually asked me why I took it in black and white instead of color.  I’ll let you image my answer.

Dauphin Island, AL

On another day while in Biloxi we went to the Bon Secour NWR in Alabama.  To get there, we decided to take the back roads which included a 30-35 minute ferry ride from Dauphin Island, Alabama to Fort Morgan, Alabama.  I took this photo while waiting for the ferry.  Again, no tripod and using my 70-200 mm lens.  This is a different approach for me because it’s more of an artistic compensation instead of an image of something.


Portraiture has always been out of my comfort zone.  I’ve never spent much time and effort on it because it wasn’t what I wanted to do.  However, I took an 8 week class, found a model and “begged” the use of a friend’s studio.  This image was inspired by the iconic National Geographic cover photo of the young woman in Afghanistan.  After looking at this one, maybe I should spend a little more time working on my portrait photography skills.

For the most part, sports photographers don’t do weddings, wedding photographers don’t take nature photos and portrait photographers don’t take commercial photos.  But, whatever your focus or forte is in photographer, every once in a while, reward yourself and try something new.  It can provide a lot of fun and you might even amaze yourself.

When you look at life “through the camera’s eye”, it helps you to appreciate the things you normally would have over looked. It helps to slow you down and enjoy life for the moment. – Scott Rhodes

Photo Credits:
All photos Steve Russell

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  • Dennis

    I love the portrait of the woman. The beautiful, soft light is very effective.rnAlmost as haunting as the “iconic’ image.rnrnRegatds…..Dennis

  • Chris

    “So, I took the shot handholding the camera. I set the ISO at 200, shutter speed at 1/125 and the aperture at 5.6…I probably wonu2019t attempt it again unless Iu2019m using a flash.”rnrnWhat’s hard about shooting 1/125 at 100mm without a tripod? You could have parkinsons and nail the shot. Unless you are using manual focus… I do like your photos though.

  • JTM

    Motivating to step out of the box and/or “nine dots”.

  • JTM

    Exceptional portrait and moon shot.