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Doug Leier, Published September 04 2012

Leier: A few tips for great outdoors photography

Fargo - If you hunt or fish, chances are you take pictures of your catch or bag.

Ever had one of those “can’t miss” shots and later, when you enlarged the image on your computer or television screen, found yourself wondering why the end result was nothing like it appeared before you took the picture?

If you’ve taken pictures or video of outdoor outings for any appreciative amount of time, no doubt this scenario has played out at least once, if not several times. It’s kind of like a hunter missing a deer standing broadside at 75 yards, or an angler losing a whopper walleye at the boat.

If you’re like me, your reaction to such events is something like, “OK, I messed up that time. What can I do so it doesn’t happen again?”

The resources I often rely on for help are the folks who produce a good share of the images and video for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. So I asked Mike Anderson, Game and Fish videographer, and Craig Bihrle, Game and Fish communications supervisor – who’s published hundreds of photographs in “North Dakota Outdoors” magazine over the last 25 years – for some insight into things all of us, regardless of the type of equipment we own, can do to improve our images and video.

For both photo and video, the No. 1 thing to watch out for in most cases is to hold the camera steady. Use a tripod, bean bag, or brace against any kind of solid object, and if none of those are available, just concentrate on hold the camera steady.

Here’ some other ideas to consider as you head to the fields and waters this fall:

Make sure the horizon line is straight. This is more important with video than still, as it’s relatively easy to straighten a still image in the computer.

If people are your subject, in most cases make sure their faces are easily recognized and well lit. And have them take off their sunglasses so you can see their eyes.

When shooting video, hold a shot for at least 10 seconds, and slow down when panning or zooming.

Early morning or late evening light is usually better for filming/photos.

Good audio is important when filming video. If you’re using a built-in camera microphone, closer is better and try to block the wind in some way.

Most of the time have the sun at your back, unless you want silhouette shots.

Try using a flash or camera light outside when your subject is in shadows.

I’ll be honest. My images often don’t turn out like I envision they will, but the nice thing about digital imagery is that you can view the image on the spot and make adjustments as necessary. Kind of like a mulligan in golf.

Unlike years ago, you don’t have to wait for film to be developed, and once you have your digital equipment, shooting one or 100 images costs the same.

I’m sure some people reading this have never taken pictures on film, but trust me. For amateurs, digital imaging has made hunting and fishing “shooting” cheaper.


Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com