Zippity Zoo Da

by Malinda VanDyne

Taking photos at the Zoo can be relaxing while providing some challenges. Here are a few tips to consider. 

Know the Zoo Rules: Before you arrive, find out the rules. For instance, you cannot use any KC Zoo photos for commercial purposes. While there, don’t block paths or expect people to stop because you want to take a photo.  

Identify a Point of Interest: What about the animal interests you? Be sure to approach your shot to take advantage of your point of interest. Radi is one of my favorite subjects. What interests me about him is his attitude.


Manage Distracting Elements: A good first option is to shoot from angles that have natural looking elements around the animal. If you can’t avoid the distracting elements, try using wide apertures, a telephoto lens, and a tight focus on the animal. This will tend to defocus bars or other barriers between you and the animal. A third option is to use the distracting element as part of your composition. I like the way the barriers in this shot convey a sense of passage.


Focus on the Eyes: When you get the eyes in focus in a prominent place in your photo, it creates a better connection between your subject and the viewer. I had a difficult time looking away from the tiger’s eyes.


Watch for Antics: Animals sometimes do funny things. Be on the lookout for those. For some reason the koala reminded me of a rock star intently focused on his performance.


If you haven’t been to the Zoo recently, consider adding it to your list. 

P.S. You get bonus points if you can name the song that this post title used for a play on words.

Why I Enjoy Landscape Photography

by Malinda VanDyne

What about landscapes draws you to them?

Is it difficult to overcome the urge to kick off your shoes and run across a field of blooming clover? Does the sunlight dancing on a pool of water captivate you so much that you begin to walk toward it? I admit to thoughts like those.

Rather than lose control of the situation, I let my camera be my intermediary. If I can visually capture nature calling me, I not only avoid possible embarrassment, I create a means to relive the memory.


For instance, something about this curved waterfall mesmerized me. It was a challenge to my self-control to not dive into the water. My camera saved me. As I look at the ropey strands of water in the photo, my mind returns to the experience of gazing at the waterfall


Can you imagine the sensation of touching a fuzzy plant? That’s what my camera allowed me to do with this plant from a distance. Now, I have a memory to revisit with the bonus of knowing I did not damage the plant by touching it. 


This is why I enjoy landscape photography. I can appreciate nature without being intrusive. My reward is an assortment of photos that let me repeatedly enjoy nature.

Tips for Photographing Fireworks

by Malinda VanDyne

Taking photos of fireworks provides numerous opportunities to be creative.

  • Look for sources of reflection, such as pools of water, that may provide some visual interest. Notice the reflection in this striking photo from Angi Landis.
  • Fireworks photos can be eye-catching works of art. Cast your eyes on Rodney Loesch’s work of art.

Taking photos of fireworks presents some unique challenges. Here are a few tips.

1-Turn Off Autofocus: The dark sky can confuse your autofocus. Any unexpected source of light will cause your camera to switch focus points. If the fireworks are your only subject, set your focus to infinity.

2-Use Manual Settings: Generally, you’ll get better results using a manual (M) aperture-priority (A) setting. Begin at one-half-second shutter speed at about f11 aperture. Try raising the shutter speed’s length slightly or decreasing the f-stop number slightly (not both at the same time). Begin with an ISO of 100 to 200, then adjust. 

3-Use a Tripod: Because you’ll need your camera shutter to be open for a long time, use a tripod. Otherwise, your picture will blur. If you don’t have a tripod, find a solid surface on which to place your camera and use a cable release or remote control. 

Turning off autofocus, using manual settings, and using a tripod can get you off to a good start. As you experiment, you’ll discover what works best for you. 

Tips for Photographing Butterflies

by Malinda VanDyne

Butterflies are gorgeous creatures who are not inclined to strike a pose for you. What’s a photographer to do?  

  • Pick a location with flower gardens that attract butterflies. The more butterflies that are available, the greater the chances that you will get good photo opportunities. 
  • When possible, choose a cooler day when they are moving more slowly. That will allow you to get closer to them.
  • As fun as it may be, don’t chase the butterflies. Instead, pick a place next to an attractive flower and quietly wait for a butterfly to visit. This does require patience.
  • Wait for the butterfly to move into a position where it is facing the sun. When the sun shines from the side, you will often get harsh shadows across the wings. When the sun is behind the butterfly, you may get flares. 
  • Position your camera’s sensor so it is parallel to the butterfly’s wings. That will help you keep the butterfly’s body and wings in sharp focus.
  • Because butterflies are always moving, you will do best with a fast shutter speed (1/500th sec). 
  • To make the butterfly stand out from the background, use a smaller f/stop. 
  • Watch your shadow. Butterflies enjoy the sun. If you cast a shadow on them, they are likely to fly away from you. 

With some planning and patience, you can take beautiful butterfly photos. 

Weird Photography Tricks

by Malinda VanDyne

What are two constraints to making the most of your photo shoot? Sometimes your budget does not permit you to buy that special piece of equipment that you need for a shot. Other times, you rush out the door and forgot to bring that one perfect item with you. Here are a few weird tricks that can help. 

Insulator Reflector Board

For about $5, you can purchase an insulation board with reflective silver backing. Cover the back side of it with white duct tape. You can use one side to reflect silver and the other side to reflect white. An added benefit is that the board is lightweight. 

Paper Bokeh

For an inexpensive, fun bokeh effect, use a piece of black paper. Cut the paper to the size of the front element of your lens. Use a knife or razor to cut out a shape (triangle, oval, heart, square) in the middle of the paper. The cut-out shape should be about the size of a nickel. Note that the effect will only work with a large aperture. 


Lampshade Tripod

If you want to take an indoor group photo and don’t have your tripod, what can you do? Remove the shade from a lamp. Screw your camera onto the lampshade-holder. The thread size of the bolt on a lamp shade is the same size as the filter thread on tripods. 

PEZ Dispenser

Sometimes, it’s a challenge to get children to smile at the camera. If you put a PEZ dispenser on the hot shoe of your camera, it may get you some smiles. You can also promise to give them a little candy if they cooperate during the photo shot. Note that you will need to trim the base of the dispenser so it fits.  

Whether it’s lack of money or forgetting to bring a piece of equipment with you, weird tricks can be your best ally. If anyone dares to criticize you, politely inform them that you are not weird. You are simply creative.

What's Up with Mirrorless?

by Malinda VanDyne 

In a DSLR camera, a mirror inside the camera body reflects light coming through the lens up to a prism and into the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens, and the light hits the image sensor to capture the final image. 

In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and onto the image sensor which captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen.

How do DSLR and mirrorless compare?

  • Autofocus Speed: DSLR cameras used to have the advantage because they use phase detection which quickly measures the convergence of two beams of light. Mirrorless used to use contrast detection which is slower, especially in low light. Since mirrorless cameras now have phase detection, neither type of camera hathe advantage.
  • Availability of Lens: Currently, DSLRs have access to a wider ranges of lenses; however lens choices are quickly growing for mirrorless cameras.
  • Battery Life: If you don’t use the LCD screens to preview and view images, DSLRs offer longer battery life. Otherwise, battery life is similar.
  • Image Quality: Until recently, mirrorless cameras had small image sensors which couldn’t capture as much light. Now, the chips are more sensitive and capture as much light as those in DSLRs. 
  • Image Stabilization: Image stabilization technology is equivalent in both types of cameras. (There are a few mirrorless cameras that offer 5-axis image stabilization which is superior; however, they are costly, $2,000+.)
  • Previewing Images: If you shoot mostly in good light, both types of cameras will perform well. If you often shoot in low light, a DSLR will be easier to use. 
  • Shooting Speed: The simpler mechanics of mirrorless cameras allow them to shoot more photos per second at higher shutter speeds. 
  • Size and Weight: Generally, DSLR cameras weigh more and are bulkier than mirrorless cameras. You can carry a mirrorless camera more easily and fit more gear into your camera bag. 

If you’ve already invested in a DSLR camera system, it’s unlikely to be helpful to switch to mirrorless unless size, weight, or shooting speed have become an issue for you. If you’ve invested in a mirrorless camera system, you’ll soon have more options for lens. Having competition between the manufacturers of DSLR and mirrorless cameras will benefit all of us as it drives innovation for both.  

When to Use Black-and-White Instead of Color

by Malinda VanDyne 

When should a photographer use black-and-white instead of color? 

This is another case that hinges on the photographer’s personal preference; however, there are some factors which can make black-and-white a good choice.

Consider choosing black-and-white if any of the following conditions apply.

  • When the busyness or brightness of color in your image overwhelms your eyes 
  • When color is not key to the message you are trying to convey 
  • When your image has interesting lighting or stark contrasts in tone 
    • Ansel Adams said he could “convey a greater sense of color with well-executed black and white images using only light, shadow, and even subtleties in texture to express the qualities of the photo.” 
  • When your image has texture: wood, metal, stone, plants, human skin 
  • When you want to express a mood that is somber, etherial, nostalgic, or brooding 
  • When your image has blur or grain 

Color is a good choice in the following circumstances.

  • When the colors are key to the message you want to convey 
    • In black-and-white you suggest, in color you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty.” -Paul Outerbridge
  • When color sets the mood for the image:
    • Red = power, excitement, urgency
    • Green = balance, harmony, stability 
    • Blue = soothing, calming, trust 
    • Purple = creativity, imagination, royalty
    • Yellow = energy, happiness, caution
    • Orange = energy, inviting, freshness
  • When color indicates season or time of day
    • pastels = spring
    • warm, earth tones = autumn
    • vivid, bright tones = summer
    • stark colors = winter 

For fun, pick a few of your color photos and convert them to black-and-white. Show the color and black-and-white versions side-by-side to a few people. Ask how their reaction to the photos differs.