Photo Tips and Tricks

Put a ghost in your ghost town photographs...and other easy tips to create cool pictures

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You don't have to be an Ansel Adams or a Berthold Steinhilber, with their expensive equipment and their assistants, to take wonderfully evocative photographs. Outdoor photography is about more than capturing an exact likeness; it's about exploring and expressing the silent mystery of the landscape.

Below we've assembled several techniques, from experimenting with Polaroid film to making a pinhole camera, guaranteed to transform your photographs from everyday snapshots into real eye-catchers.

But before you click the shutter, take the time to create a unique composition. Move your camera and practice taking pictures to the left and right of, and even up, down and diagonally from, your subject. Walk around until you find an interesting montage of light and shapes. Work also with the unpredictable gifts of nature: if it's overcast, raining or dusk when you visit, don't fret; you may be pleasantly surprised with your results. Don't be stingy with your film. Shoot several rolls, and remember to keep your arms tucked in for steady shots.

Create a Dreamscape with Polaroid Transfer

Polaroid transfer prints are made by applying a Polaroid negative to non- photographic paper, such as watercolor paper. It's a great way to capture the otherworldliness of a place like Bodie or Chloride.

All you need is a Polaroid camera, some color peel-apart Polaroid film (usually 3x4, 4x5 or 8x10), watercolor paper, a container of hot water and a roller.

About ten seconds after you take a picture with your Polaroid, peel apart the film and place the negative directly onto watercolor paper that has been dipped in water and blotted dry. Don't touch the negative, as heat from your fingers will create fog marks on the film. Using a roller, press the photograph onto the paper. After about two and a half minutes, pull away the Polaroid negative and see what image is left behind on the paper.

Depending on the type and thickness of the paper, you may get anything from a photographic image to an impressionistic arrangement of subtle, attractive colors. Remember to carry a plastic garbage bag for disposal of wet negatives. Also, avoid skin or eye contact with the residual processing fluid.

Web resources
For more information about Polaroid transfer, visit The Light Factory and Polaroid.

Get That Old-Fashioned Look by Hand Coloring Photographs


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