Guest Blogger Susan Magnano Shares Her Passion for Life, Adventure and Photography

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I have admired Rick’s work for quite some time and I'm very excited and grateful to be featured on his blog.

My love of photography goes hand in hand with my passion for exploring life and capturing my adventures so that I can share them with others.

When I was 10 years old, I would explore the neighborhood with my father’s Canon AE-1 around my neck. Everything looked clearer through the viewfinder and being able to share the images added to my excitement. I would photograph everything from the trees, to the flowers, to my neighbor’s dog.

Nowadays, I still have that same thrill exploring the beauty around me and I have learned that photography helps me live in the moment. When I’m watching the light dance on my surroundings, feeling the wind on my face and discovering my next shot, I am truly living. This is what I hope to share through my images.

The Journey: Tell a Story with Your Images

While hiking at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, I stopped to catch my breath and as I glanced up, I saw that the footprints of the fellow hiker had created leading lines. When composing your image look for leading lines because they will guide the viewer’s eyes through your photograph.

Including the hiker in the picture adds to the story of the image making it about the journey instead of just a landscape. The hiker is also a frame of reference to show the scale of the scene.

When photographing sand dunes I highly recommend using a versatile length lens because switching lenses raises the risk of getting sand in your camera and on your sensor. I also recommend wearing glasses to protect your eyes from the blowing sand and to bring a cloth to wipe the dust off your lens.

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Sandy Sea: Look for Shapes and Lines

Photographing the dunes was captivating because they were constantly being re-shaped by the persistent wind and the changing light sculpting their peaks. I chose to make this image black and white because I wanted to focus on the shapes and lines. In Photoshop I added contrast and burned in the mid-tones to create more drama.

I highly recommend shooting at sunrise or sunset because when the sun is low in the horizon, it will create more dramatic shadows and interesting light on the dunes.

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Sparkling Rockies: Maximize Your Depth of Field

When shooting landscapes it is good to maximize your depth of field by choosing a small aperture setting (a large number). The smaller the aperture is the greater the depth of field. Keep in mind that the smaller the aperture, the more light you will need, so you will have to adjust to a slower shutter speed or higher ISO.

If you have ever wondered how to get the sun to look like a starburst without a filter, try using an aperture of F16 or smaller. In this image of the Colorado Rockies, I achieved the starburst effect with an aperture of F22. The starburst effect is not limited to the sun, any light source can produce this effect, so try it and add a little sparkle to your pictures.

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Ode to Ansel: Photographing Fog

Photographing a landscape that is buried in a blanket of fog can be very frustrating. This was the case at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. As the fog cleared off the mountain’s peak, a new fog was rolling in that assisted in highlighting the black trees which would have been lost in the darkness of the mountain. In a matter of minutes this view was gone, so having your settings ready for the moment the fog breaks is key.

Fog is reflective like snow and I suggest ½ to a full stop increase of your exposure because it is likely that the camera will be misreading the scene.  Foggy pictures may also appear flat so I suggest increasing the contrast level in Photoshop.

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Starry Night: Creating Star Trails

When shooting star trails you will need a tripod, a cable release and a headlamp. The ideal time to shoot star trails are when there is a new moon in a location away from any light pollution. If you want to get a circular star trail, shoot towards the North Star (Polaris) and there are plenty of phone apps that can help you locate it. Scout out an interesting foreground before it gets dark. Use manual focus and set it to infinity.

Exposure time and your lens choice will determine the length of the star trails. For example, a wider lens (17-24mm) will take a longer exposure time to create star trails of equivalent appearances to that made by a longer lens (70-200mm) and vise versa.

I suggest doing a test shot at a high ISO and large aperture (F2.8) for 2-3 minutes to check composition and focus before starting your long exposure. I also recommend bringing extra batteries, memory cards, snacks, and a friend for entertainment.

This image was taken in Portal, Arizona with a 17 minute exposure, ISO 400, and an aperture of F5.6. I lit the house with candles on the porch and luckily the North Star was perfectly positioned above the mountain.

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 Twisted Night: Painting with Light

 When painting with light you will need a dark environment, a tripod, shutter release, and light such as flashlights, sparklers or glow sticks. Experiment with slow shutter speeds that will allow you to capture the movement of the lights. I recommend finding a dark space whether it is in your living room or under the stars to paint in your own scene.

When I drove up this twisty road in upstate NY, I knew I had to come back at night. I set up my tripod and waited to see a car approaching to start the exposure. Once the car drove past, I turned my cell phone on flashlight mode and danced down the street causing the swirls on the right. Because I kept moving and there was no light hitting me, I was not captured in the image. My exposure time of 60 seconds allowed the car’s tail lights to paint and illuminate the winding road. The ISO was set at 1250 and my aperture was F5.6.

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I hope you have enjoyed joining me on my adventures.

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To see more of Susan's work check out :

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