From Scott Hamilton
Having the camera handy
As you say you need to take a lot of photos to get a few good ones. You will only do this if you camera is easy and quick to get to. Have it stored outside your main dry bag in a double dry bag system. Have a pak or microfibre towel handy to dry your arms to avoid dripping on the camera.
Not all photos need be works of art
Photos that document the journey and the people with you are just as interesting as beautiful landscapes. Don't work too hard at taking excellent photos all the time. Take plenty of happy snaps.
Depth of field
With taking canyon landscapes mostly its desireable to have a good depth of field, ie. as much as possible of the image in focus. This means a small aperture and consequently a longer exposure is required. Semi-auto modes on compact cameras generally have settings for macro, portraits and landscape. Use the landscape mode.
There is no point in taking a technically good photo if it isn't interesting to look at. Think about the composition. There are lots of tricks and guidelines that can make a photo interesting to look at. Having a subject with a nice background is a good start, rather than just having the nice background. The subject can be anything to highlight or focus on in the fore- to mid-ground of the shot. Other tricks include framing the subject with the canyon walls or other natural features. Use a path or the creek to lead the eye. Look for contrasting colours. Look for light playing off objects.
Often perspective is lost in canyon landscapes, the viewer imagines that a canyon wall is a lot shorter than it is, so including something of known size in the photo, like a person helps to convey the correct perspective. You can cheat with perspective too, by taking the photo from different angles, very low to the ground making things look larger, or from high above making things look smaller.
Study professional landscape photographers photos (eg. Steve Parish, Ken Duncan) and try and understand why each photo is appealing. There is also a lot written about compositiion in photography literature.
The digital dark room
With digital photography the fun doesn't stop after the photo is taken. Wonders can be done manipulating the image on the computer. Cropping and rotating can improve a composition. The most dramatic improvements I find though is with balancing colours. Even a program like Ms Photo Editor works wonders with correcting white and colour balance.
From David Hood [http://www.emeraldimages.com.au]
A couple of comments.
- The flexible leg tripod you show is a bit of a pain. We, use a minature Manfroto tripod that has rigid legs for better stability. I have also occasionally carted a full sized tripod as well, which I did in Blue Creek one time. One gets better angles that way.
- Flash on compact digitals is definately not much good unless you want to illuminate in the dark. However, I still use slides and a flash on the camera combined with a slow shutter speed, can produce interesting results. Also, using the camera on B and firing the flash by hand, usually upwards or at an angle, or getting someone downstream, and out of sight, to do the same also makes some good results. I haven't played with one, but I suspect you could do the same with pro-digitals provided they have appropriately slow speeds.
- Slides still produce the nicest results, especially on misty days, however we have some nice action shots taken with an Olympus C5050 5MP digital in a waterproof housing.
- Slow speeds >1 second, make for nice waterfall and swirl patterns in the water. Sometimes, a slow speed and tripod to keep the background in focus, but with a moving abseiler can produce a form of dynamism in the pictures (i.e. like Umberto Boccioni paintings in the Futurism genre). Especially when the rope whips.
- Fast speeds make for nice effects when you have close ups of people abseiling waterfalls to catch the droplets and spray, and often their facial expressions. I have some nice flash pictures as well, taken with my FM2s which have a flash sync of 1/250 sec so you get this effect.
- Best time for photos is really early or late in the day. The lighting is quite flat and you don't get nasty contrasts. Also low speeds are the go so you get the nice water effects. When on the Forbes, Hastings or Blue Ck, which are all camp trips, I try and take pictures at dawn or dusk to get nice effects in the rainforest river canyons. Film users beware of reprocity failures though!
- I have used Photoshop since 1996 for manipulating slides and digitals, but the simple fact is you cannot fix everything. Overexposure is almost invariably fatal, whilst there is often still detail hiding in underexposed areas. On some pictures I have resorted to using the clone tool to get rid of overexposure. I have also removed things from photos such as a 10m long water pump inlet pipe in the canyon at Wombeyan, and also people who were in the way at the time the pic was taken. I like making abstracts out the photos with the various filters as sometimes you make a nice image out of a crap photo. Posterise, Solarise, Glowing Edges, Pallet Knife and Dry Brush all seem to work well with canyon images. The Zoom-Radial Blur is good for motion shots. And sometimes I have even switched peoples heads on the pictures to see how observant they are....
From Roger Barnes [http://roger.mindsocket.com.au]
If the camera lets you do manual focus, it's a good idea in dark canyon environments because the AF in digicams is pretty unreliable. Just set it to infinity in most cases.