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!

Spring is here and it's time to take your camera outdoors!

This month our outdoor photography workshops have been in full swing. We had Perfect Pet Portraits at the park, Creative Landscape Photography at the Botanic Gardens, and a Fill Flash Photo Walk at Redondo Beach Pier. Coming up we have trips to Monterey & Carmel, a photo walk at Shoreline Village, and more!

Fill flash portrait

Here's a brief recap of some of the products and techniques that were covered in these workshops or that will be covered in upcoming classes, perfect for anyone looking to take their outdoor photography to the next level:

Fill Flash. Have you noticed how hard it is to get beautiful pictures of people out in bright sunlight? When photographers are starting out they often have to chose between their subjects squinting into the sunlight or hiding in the shadows as they stand between them and the sun. But you don't have to. Fill flash (using flash in your photos in the daylight) can diminish shadows on your outdoor portraits, help to add depth to your photos, and even add a bit of creative illumination to your subject matter. For fill flash techniques we recommend going to the Fill Flash Photo Walk. Gerry will walk you through how to use fill flash and how to overcome the complexities of sync speed and exposure. You wont have to make you're loved ones squint into the sun anymore and your pictures will look great!

Filters. Polarizing filters add color and depth to landscape photos. They can enrich colors that might otherwise look faded in the sunlight and they reduce glare from the sun (for example, they make a blue sky look even bluer and they take out glare or reflections in lakes or other bodies of water). Instructor Gerry Imura will be leading a photo walk at Shoreline Village on Sunday, May 4 from 1-3:30pm if you would like to attend and see why pros always have these filters hiding somewhere in their camera bag or pockets.

polarizing filter

Time of day. Most photographers like to be out and about really early in the morning or late afternoon/early evening to capture the "perfect light." The light tends to be softer and more sculptural during these times of day. Heading out in the peak of the afternoon can be OK for certain techniques (like for the fill flash we mentioned above), but generally we recommend getting out and practicing during these "golden hours." You'll notice how colors pop more and everything feels more dramatic. Wake up early for sunrise if you want cool crisp blues or wait until sunset for warm oranges, yellows and reds. Be sure not to miss the incredible light just after the sun sets. A deep, cool blue spreads out and creates a really beautiful contrast with warmer artificial lights. There's a good reason why 90% of architectural photographs are made just after sunset.

Packing List: If you're heading out for a quick day trip, you'll want to make sure you bring all of the equipment you'll need but not so much that it becomes too burdensome to carry around. Here's what we would recommend grabbing before setting out for a few hours one afternoon:

  • 1 bag (we recommend the ThinkTank Retrospective 5! )
  • Lens cloth (reusable microfiber that clips to your strap or bag)
  • Midrange zoom (24-70mm for full frame or 18-200mm for aps format)
  • A fast fixed focal length lens (35mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4 ect)
  • A polarizing filter (to reduce glare, increase color saturation and dynamic range)
  • Water
  • Sunscreen (or chap stick if you're Jackie)
  • Shoes (if you're into that kind of thing)
  • optional: flash if you took Gerry's class, monopod if you're a bit shaky, significant other if you want to sneak in a second bag (you know who you are)