A Different Landscape: Photographing Surfers in Oahu

Last October, my wife and I decided that instead of spending the holidays at home, we would take the kids on a vacation to Hawaii for a little fun in the sun. My wife and kids have never been to Hawaii and it’s been a while since I’ve last visited so we thought it would be the perfect time. Besides, I wanted to take some photos of the landscapes to add to my portfolio.

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We booked a beachfront villa in one of those family friendly resorts in Oahu. When we arrived, we were greeted with refreshments and garlands made of orchids. What I loved about our resort was that we didn’t have to wait in the lobby to be checked in. We were lead to our villa as soon as we were handed our refreshments and that’s where we were asked to sign the check-in forms. Since we arrived very early in the morning, we decided to nap a little bit before we ventured out on to the beach.

When my kids decided they had enough time to rest already, we headed for the beach to look for surfing instructors. It didn’t take long for us to find one as they were many of them on the beach. As my wife was signing my kids up for lessons, I turned to look at the waves.

They were magnificent! I quickly understood why surfers from all over the world flocked to Oahu. I quickly turned on my camera so I could capture the scene. The surfers were a mixture of locals and tourists both young and old. One particular surfer caught my attention because he seemed to only be about 10 years old but he was already riding the pipelines like a pro! I was so fascinated by him that I didn’t realize I had taken about 100 photographs of him in under 15 minutes!

After seeing the boy on the beach for 3 consecutive days, I decided it was time I came up to him for a little chat. I learned that he was a local and yes, he was only 10 years old but his father started teaching him how to surf even before he could stand. At some point during our conversation, his dad arrived. I quickly introduced myself and asked if I could take some photographs of them while they surfed.

Upon learning that I was a professional photographer, he invited me to join them to go to another beach where the waves were bigger. He said that it’s where all of the more experienced surfers went and that I would probably get better photos there because the lighting would be better. He even told me I could bring my family along with me if I wanted. Of course, I couldn’t let an opportunity like that pass so after getting my gear from the villa and gathering my family together, we were on our way.

I was able to take fantastic photos of surfers because the lighting was in my favor. I even took some in black and white for a little dramatic effect. One of the other surfers had a surf board that allowed for a camera to be strapped on. It’s a good thing I decided to invest in a professional action camera before this trip. I was able to capture photos of the surfer inside a pipeline. They shots turned out to be unbelievable!

It’s a vacation I won’t be forgetting anytime soon not only because of all the wonderful photographs I was able to add to my portfolio. But also because my family and I were able to make new friends with locals and surfers from all over the world. I can’t wait until the next time we fly back to Oahu.

Basic Gear Every Landscape Photographer Should Have

Landscape photographs are one of the hardest to shoot. Unlike when the subject is human, landscapes aren’t able to project life on their own. It is the photographer’s job to capture a shot that will evoke whatever feeling they are aiming to get out of their audience and make them feel like they are actually seeing the landscape in person. The most challenging part is the fact that landscape photographers rely almost entirely on their camera and skill to be able to capture a particular scene perfectly.

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Although landscape photographers don’t go lugging around a suitcase full of lighting equipment, a few essentials are still required when they go on shoots. Here is a list of basic things I think every landscape photographer should have:

1. Camera

Of course, this is just self-explanatory. After all, how do you expect to capture a photograph if you don’t have a camera at hand? But what I’m talking about is having the right camera for landscape photography and not a digicam. The best camera for landscape photography is one that has an Aperture Priority feature.

Aperture Priority is a feature that allows a photographer to take a clear shot of everything from a leaf down to the ground. Ever seen a professional photograph of an eagle taking a fish out the water and you see that even the tiniest bead of water in the splash was captured in the shot? That’s what I’m talking about. You will never be able to capture something like that with a camera that does not have an Aperture Priority feature.

2. Lenses

The most important type of lens for landscape photographers is a wide angle lens. If you are thinking of what type of white angle lens to get, I highly recommend one that has a minimum focal length of 12mm for APS-C camera bodies and 18mm for full-frame cameras. Don’t worry if you’re on a tight budget, you don’t need a fast lens. My recommendations will be enough for you to be able to take stunning landscape photographs.

3. Tripod

It is very rare for landscape photographers to be holding their cameras in their hands when they take their shots. After all, their subjects aren’t moving objects that they need to follow around for a good shot. They find a spot that will allow them to capture a wide view of the landscape, set up their tripods, and manipulate the settings on their camera before they mount it.

The reason they do this is because most landscape photos are taken under high ISO settings. This means it takes a lighter longer for the camera to focus before it captures much like how it is when you take a photo using the Night Mode in your camera phone. A mounting a camera on a tripod before the shot is taken ensures that the details in the photo will come out crisp and sharp despite low lighting conditions.

Aside from these three things, the most important thing you will have to take with you when you take photographs of landscapes is your skills. Having the best camera, an expensive lens, and a tripod will mean nothing if you don’t have an eye for composition, this means you have the instinct to tell when the scene and lighting will come together for a breathtaking photograph.

Secrets to Taking Perfect Landscape Photographs

Ask any photographer around and you will get the same answer – perfect lighting is the most important aspect in photography. It doesn’t matter if you have the latest and the most expensive camera if you don’t know how to play with light. This is even more true if you’re into landscape photography.

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Most amateurs underestimate the amount of skill needed in landscape photography. You see, when you take photographs of landscapes, you don’t have lights that you can set up and adjust according to your needs. The only type of lighting that you have is natural light or the light you get from the sun. Another thing that you need to understand is you can’t rely on photo editing software programs to add drama to your shots. Otherwise, it would look fake. The key to becoming an expert in the field of landscape photography is being able to take dramatic raw photos of your subject. Here are a few of my trade secrets:

1. Study your chosen location

Before you start snapping away, make sure to do some research on your chosen location. Use the internet to your advantage by looking up photography blogs that have already featured that spot. Most photography blogger give bits of information regarding the location which includes a description of the lighting condition. If you’re lucky, you may even come across tips on how you can work the natural lighting to your advantage.

2. Do an ocular inspection

If your chosen location is only a few stone throws away, make an effort to do an ocular inspection at the exact same time you are thinking of doing the shoot. You can even bring your camera with you so you can do a few test shot shots which you can study once you get home.

On the other hand if it is a destination shoot, I highly recommend you arrive a day or two before the scheduled session so you can pay the area a visit ahead of time. It may seem like a waste of time but it will actually save your more time, energy, and resources if you already have a plan of action before you officially start shooting at a location.

3. The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour is what photographers call the times of the day when the lighting is perfect – dawn and dusk. More often than not, the lighting between sunrise and sunset is too harsh and flat. This results to washed out photographs and we all know that nobody wants to look at those. Of course, there are locations that give photographer the opportunity to shoot perfect landscape photos no matter what time it is. This is why it is important to do some scouting before the official schedule of your shoot – so you know how the lighting is during certain times of the day.

However, keep in mind that you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. No amount of research and planning can bring out the perfect light is nature doesn’t want to give it you. But don’t give up. Some of the best landscape photographs were taken at the least expected moment during days when it seemed like the light was just not in the photographer’s corner.

Travel Advice For Working Parents

My job as a photographer brings to many different parts of the country and this is always difficult for being away from my family. Because my assignments are often booked at very short notice I have never been able to plan a trip for the whole family around one of my assignments. I have also been very afraid of the whole hassle of air travel with kids because I see how stressed parents often become at airports.

Last month though I took an opportunity to bring my wife and kids along on assignment, because it had been booked 5 months ago. Initially we were very stressed about the whole thing but we found some excellent family travel advice and we followed it extensively. The trick essentially was to plan for every little aspect starting months in advance and tracking progress in a spreadsheet. On the day we actually departed we had several pages printed out with tons of check marks indicating that we really had planned for everything.

The last thing left was actually navigating the airport and I have seen many families struggle with this. On many occasions I have talked to other parents at airports to see how they handle the different aspects especially security. One thing I had figured out was that we would need an umbrella stroller for travelling that would speed up the process of clearing security.

The advantage is that you can fold down the stroller into a very small package that fits into standard security machines. This will greatly speed up the process and will not require you to go to designated machines to accommodate oversize items. From what I heard many parents say, having to face multiple queues will add stress as you are constantly aware that you need to get to the airplane on time.

Despite all the planning and organization we were very nervous on the day of travel, but it went without a problem. We all arrived in one piece and my camera equipment survived as well. The way we had planned it was to arrive on a Friday and I was going to be working the following Monday to Wednesday. This gave us two and half days as a family to get used to our new surroundings and my wife would then be able to handle the kids on her own during the day for 3 days.

What I found really surprising was that my productivity on assignment was increased significantly and my client was incredibly delighted that I was finished by the Wednesday morning. I essentially put it down to the fact that I was pushing myself to complete work for each day so that I could spend more time with my family. I was happy, my wife and kids were happy and my client was happy too.

Because the whole experience went so well we are already planning our next trip around an assignment that I might be taking in New Hampshire later this year. I really hope that I can get the dates confirmed so that we can follow the same planning process as described above.

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