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07.10.2012

I’ve been reflecting on some of the most popular photography subjects across my career—images used most frequently in books, magazines, calendars, greeting cards, postcards, and advertising. Here they are:

  1. Flowers
  2. Sunrises/Sunsets
  3. Wildlife
  4. Fall Foliage
  5. Waterfalls

What’s useful about this list? It’s a reminder. Photography is communication, and if you want to continually capture the imaginations of viewers, you can’t go wrong with these subjects.

Sunflower, Helianthus sp., Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, and other prairie flowers. Guy Denny Prairie, Knox County, Ohio, USA. Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod; Manfrotto Proball 468RC head. 10mm, 1/4 second at f/16, ISO 100. Gitzo GT4223 tripod, Image processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop, NIK Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied. © 2012 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

1. FLOWERS

With stunning colors, symmetrical shapes, graceful lines, and soft textures, posies make perfect pictures. The romance surrounding flowers—such as the rose symbolizing love—means that your flower images are sure to tap into viewers’ emotions.

Strong depth of field is often crucial for close-ups of buds, so use a lens that excels at close focusing (I use the whole range of SIGMA  macro lenses, with a particular fondness for the 105mm and 150mm macros). And anchor down with a sturdy tripod. I use a Gitzo GT2541EX. On the other hand, don’t forget to try out shallow depth-of-field. Shoot fast glass wide open or barely stopped down to create a strong point of interest. Dedicated macro lenses typically provide good sharpness even at their widest apertures.

2. SUNRISES/SUNSETS

Most people see the world under rather unphotogenic light: the blue/white glare of midday. Photographers, who sacrifice an hour or two of sleep, can offer viewers new looks at the landscape by capturing the golden hours of the day.

McClures Beach, Sunset and Waves, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA. Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX APO DG HSM Macro lens. Gitzo G2228 tripod, Manfrotto Proball 468RC head. 400mm, 1/640 second at f/8, ISO 400. Image processed in Adobe Camera Raw, Photomatix (Exposure Fusion), and Adobe Photoshop, NIK Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied. © 2012 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Begin shooting about 1 hour before sunrise. Look for silhouettes, and expose for the sky. As the sun breaks the horizon, expose for the landscape. HDR can help you get more even tones between the land and the sky. Let your shutter take a rest 1 hour after sunrise. Follow the same guidelines but in reverse for sunsets.

3. WILDLIFE

Few people get a chance to encounter wild creatures the way nature photographers do. Shoot a lot and share a lot. Viewers will love to see the intricate details of subjects that they may only experience from a distance, if ever. Long lenses (300-500mm) are best. My go-to long telephoto zoom is the SIGMA 150-500mm.

Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis ssp. nannodes), Bull, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA, USA. Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM APO lens. Gitzo G2228 tripod, Manfrotto Proball 468RC head. 400mm, 1/160 second at f/8, ISO 100. Image processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop, NIK Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied. © 2012 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Make sure to keep your long glass stabilized. While using tripods is crucial for all of the five subjects, super support is needed for wildlife photography. I use a Gitzo FT2532S with a Wimberley WH-200 gimbal head.

4. FALL FOLIAGE

Who can resist the spectacle of fall foliage? With leaves changing to bright yellows, eye-catching oranges, and fiery reds, otherwise humdrum landscapes come alive. Beautiful views transform into magical vistas. Sometimes North Americans take autumn color for granted. The United States and Canada get to experience some of the world’s best leaf colors. To plan your fall foliage foray, consult “peak color” maps, such as this one.

Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn, above Telluride, CO, USA. Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens mounted on a Nikon D2X. Sigma 77mm Circular Polarizing Filter. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod, Manfrotto Proball 468RC head. 13mm, 0.8 seconds at f/16, ISO 100. Image processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop CS5, NIK Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied. © 2012 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

5. WATERFALLS

Photography typically involves stopping time: seemingly “freezing” a moment. This may involve capturing a flower at its peak or memorializing the moment when a bear captures a migrating salmon. Waterfall photography often involves capturing greater spans of time. Long shutter speeds blur water and magically change cascades into near dreamscapes. You can also opt for fast speeds, stopping water droplets in motion.

Cohoes Falls, Cohoes, NY, USA. Sigma 18-125mm f/3.8-5.6 DC OS HSM lens mounted on a Nikon D2X. 34mm, f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO 400. Gitzo G2228 tripod, Manfrotto Proball 468RC head. Processed in Adobe Raw Converter and Photoshop. © 2012 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

To capture a picturesque plunge, make sure to take a sturdy tripod, a cable release, and filters. My kit includes wide and super wide lenses (such as the Sigma 18-50mm and 10-20mm), a Gitzo GT2541EX tripod, and a SIGMA polarizing filter. I often also carry one or two neutral density filters for even longer shutter speeds. For more information on exactly what shutter speeds to use, check out my “Shutter Speeds for Waterfall Photography.”

Unique and intriguing subjects are always fun to shoot, but you can’t go wrong with old standbys. These five photogenic subjects—flowers, sunrises/sunsets, wildlife, fall foliage, and waterfalls—please year after year.

David FitzSimmons is Sigma Pro photographer, a free lance writer, and an educator. See David’s macro techniques in his new, five-time award-winning picture book CURIOUS CRITTERS or visit www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.


Upcoming 2012 SIGMA David FitzSimmons Photography Workshops

  • July 14, 2012 – CURIOUS CRITTERS Photo Workshop at Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie, PA. For more info, call (814) 833-7424
  • August 25, 2012 – CURIOUS CRITTERS Photo Workshop at National Center for Nature Photography, Berkey/Toledo, OH. For more info, call (419) 407-9757.
  • September 29, 2012 – Landscapes of Presque Isle Photo Workshop at Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie, PA. For more info (814) 833-7424.
  • October 19-21 – Seascape and Wildlife Photography Weekend at Point Reyes National Seashore, CA. For more info (415) 663-1200 ext. 373.

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