Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chicago Done Naturally (Post 1 of 10) - General Tips

A while back I compiled a list of places to shoot living things in Chicago. (wow, do I wish photography and guns didn't share a vocabulary A LOT!).

Today I hiked the Magic Hedge, since the weather *finally* broke, and as I was thinking about the post/s I'd be making I realized that 99.9% of the world, heck, probably 99% of CHICAGO has never heard of the Magic Hedge which made me realize I should repost my Chicago Shooting articles here.

So, here's the tips post...

A couple of general things about walking around Chicago with a camera.

I find it really funny to walk through Chicago with my DSLR. So many people assume you’re a professional photographer or a Serious Art Student. Even when you’re my age – and let’s just call that ‘way past your typical college age’.

The good news is, that means they really don’t bat an eye when you sit on the floor in the middle of the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue to get that perfect angle on the tulip in the landscaping plot.

TIP 1: Use their card in your camera.
The quasi-bad news (I usually don’t mind, but I know people who do) is that they’re unafraid to say, “Hey can you to get a picture of me with my baby/boyfriend/bestfriend/American Girl Doll?” I don’t mind taking shots for people, but I hate fumbling around with their camera as I try to find the zoom, the right setting for the light, etc… So, I’ve come up with a nifty trick when this happens. Ask them if their camera uses the same memory card as your camera. For example, my DSLR uses the little SD memory cards that most point-and-shoots use. So when someone asks me to get a shot for them, and we use the same card, I ask for their card and put it in my camera. I can then shoot with a system I’m familiar with, I can use my tripod and they get the advantage of my DSLR’s resolution on their shot. Win-win, right?

Obviously, if you’re on different memory systems, you’re just hosed. :p

TIP 2: Shoot the signs.

One of the great things about digital photography is that even if only one percent of your pictures come out looking stellar, you really aren’t out anything. You didn’t pay for film or developing or anything like that for that shot that’s absolute crap.

Which means, many of us will take 16 shots of something that’s sitting still and being awesome so that we get that one brilliant picture.

The problem becomes that when you get home and you have this brilliant picture of a purple flower… but you have no idea what kind of flower it is. Now if it’s what I call ‘free range wildlife’, you’re just kind of screwed. It’s time to take your best guess and Google a lot. But when you’re at a park where things are put in specific places, they’re often labeled. So shoot the sign. Then you’re not stuck trying to remember if that was a skink or a chameleon or which yellow fish that one is. I have a little file folder on my desktop where I've put all the signs for any location I tend to shoot more than once, so that if I do forget to shoot the signs on a given day, I have a 'master file'.

When I hit places like the Brookfield Zoo Butterflies exhibit, I shoot all the signage first then get to business with the bugs. That way even if I have a hard time trying to tell which orange butterfly I’ve got (some signs are less than stellarly produced, some particular specimens don't look exactly like the sign), I’m only Googling the 6 orange butterflies of the 20 total on the sign.

Besides, sometimes they have amusement factor. Any Torchwood fans in the house?

TIP 3: Pack a lunch.
Most of the places I cover here have enough to do that you'll spend at least most of a day there. And most of them have cafes, but IMHO, they're expensive and the food isn't that good. Remember your junior high lunch room? It's that same kind of industrial food for the most part. I do like to support the places I shoot, especially if they're free admission, but I'd rather by a t-shirt or a travel mug or something than spend my money on their food. Most places have up signs that basically say, "If you didn't buy it here, you can't eat it in our cafe", but if it's a nice enough day to go shooting, it's nice enough to sit on a bench long enough to eat a sandwich or an apple.

Next Post: The Magic Hedge

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