L.A. Zoo

Why Panoramic Photos?

Panoramas are wonderful for capturing sweeping landscapes and creating a journey through the photograph. Since they are a different shape than the average photograph, they are more eye catching and push the viewer to engage with the photograph in a different way. Panoramas were used almost exclusively for landscape but with the broad accessibility of being able to stitch pictures together in camera, they can now be used for so much more. If you're photographing a larger crowd, shooting in a tight space or just trying to help people see an ordinary object in a different way, you can use panoramic photographs to do that.

Special Tip!

If you're camera has a panoramic setting, try shooting subject matter you would have never thought of using with a panoramic photograph: try taking a portrait of a loved one, shoot documentary photographs at 3rd Street in Santa Monica or photograph your pet zebra.


HDR Photos

We all love Ansel Adams for a variety of reasons: his beautiful beard, his rugged good looks but most likely it may have something to do with his photographs as well. One of Adams' greatest contributions is his mastery of the tool of photography. The challenge with photographing is that our eyes and brains are much more sophisticated at rendering light than our cameras. One of the biggest short comings of a camera compared to our big brains is that it can't see into the darker areas and lighter areas in a bright environment like we can.

However digital photography has made getting great images much easier through HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques. When composing an HDR photo, you won't need to choose between exposing your photo for the brightest areas of the subject or the darkest areas. You can take several photos at different exposures and then compile them to create one image that combines the best exposures for each area of the photograph. And the best news is you wont have to bring your pack mule with you to photograph like Adams did; unless of course, you like the company.


Most DSLRs have the option to bracket exposures (if you don't know what this means, come to the HDR class in May!). Try to set your exposures around 2/3 to 1 stop apart in bright situations to have good options available. And don't over do it, if someone can tell you're using HDR then it's too extreme. You want them seeing your picture, not your technique.

Want to know more?

Robert Vlach will be teaching a class about panoramic photography on Saturday, May 3 from 12-2pm, and he will be teaching a class about HDR photography on Saturday, May 10 from 12-2pm. Click on the title of either class for more information and to register!


Night photography Los Angeles
Freeway shot from the City Lights Bus Tour at Paul's Photo.

City Lights Shooting

Photographing around town after dark

“Street Walking” at night is lots of fun with a digital camera.  Photography after dark while on vacation, in the city, at your favorite theme park or by the coast can yield fantastic results.  Let the movement and the color be your subject.  Look for the brilliant neon, flashing and moving signs or swiftly moving traffic.  Techniques are simple… let’s learn to do it! Most beginning photographers worry about shooting at nigh... it’s just like daytime except dimmer!

Low light photography requires one of two techniques… hand-held photo or tripod shooting.  For hand held pictures choose a high ISO film setting (ISO 1600 or 3200 on your digital camera) and use your lens at the brightest lens opening (2.8, 4.0 or 5.6).  With a compact camera zoom to the widest position where the lens is the brightest, turn off the flash and shoot!  For better color, more creativity and all around better photos tripod shooting is best.  Use 100 or 200 ISO setting sturdy tripod and remote release.  You may find your camera making exposure from 1 second to 30 seconds on the average scene.  Choose aperture priority with F-stop 8 to have the majority of the scene in focus and shoot!  The longer shutter sped will creatively blur moving items and equalize the “twinkling” lights.

night photography los angeles
Photographers in action during our City Lights Bus Tour.

Check the light for color and effect.  Daylight, tungsten or fluorescent lights will affect the color of your end result.  Your camera is most likely set to AUTO white balance.  “White” light bulbs with film come out orange, to correct for this choose the “tungsten” white balance to make white lights white.  Play with Tungsten , Fluorescent and Sunlight white balance settings as well as Auto to achieve the color you desire.

To make your photos more “exciting” choose to add a star filter.  A Hoya Star-6 filter, Promaster Cross-Screen or Lee Multi-Star add the “extra spark” to your City Lights photos by turning every pin-point of light into a star!

Photographing at night is a great adventure.  On most of our photo outings we’ll do a night shoot or go out after dark… just for the fun of it.  Try these tips next time you have a chance and don’t forget to send me a copy…. Sharing photos is the most fun of all!

redondo beach pier
A shot from our Night Photography Fotowalk at Redondo Beach Pier.

Here’s a check list to make it simpler!

1-    Use a tripod and remote release.  Our exposures will be 1 to 60 seconds!  Make sure the tripod is level and steady

2-    Matrix light meter

3-    Program exposure mode for beginners or Aperture priority if you’re comfortable!  Remember, F8 and be there!

4-    ISO 200 film or setting on digital cameras

5-    Turn OFF the flash, use the ambient light only

6-    Turn OFF Stabilizer or shake reduction

7-    Test Auto and Tungsten white balance on digital cameras… see what looks best!

8-    Fill the frame with your subject.  Avoid lots of “dark areas” with no lights in the picture

9-    Take the picture and enjoy!


**Get some practice during one of our night photography excursions! Join us for our City Lights Bus Tour in downtown Los Angeles on August 15, or for our Star Trails photo shoot with Bristlecone pines in the White Mountains on August 2-4.