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– Schooner Heading Home at Sunset, Chesapeake Bay  (click photo for larger image)

Photography…learning from a mentor, a master of craft, can be a magical experience.  I recommend it for all aspiring photographers. If you want to take better photographs, I don’t know of a better way. In this post, I’ll mention some photographic tips from Nikon’s professional mentors. 

Writing and photography are two of my artistic passions.  Each is part “craft” and part “art.” Each engages visual perception as a gateway to the mind. Even our memories of events past are visited through the “images” we store in our minds.

I had the pleasure of joining two Nikon mentors recently for a three-day trek through the Chesapeake Bay country of Maryland. On a July blog post, I promised to share more about the experience. Instead, I decided to pass along a few tips and techniques, which may be useful to you.  I’ll also post some of my images from the trip.

First, some credits. Mentor Series Worldwide Photography Treks is the group that organized the trek in Maryland, last June. Nikon is a key sponsor. The website is: www.mentorseries.com. You can check out some of their fabulous photo journeys at beautiful spots around the world. But, be prepared to do some serious work (it’s all fun!) and to enjoy meeting a small group of like-minded aspiring photographers. There were about 25 on my trek. We learned from each other, as well as from the pros.

The two mentors were Mark Alberhasky, from Atlanta, and Corey Rich, from San Francisco. You’ve seen their stunning images in national magazines, from Nikon World to National Geographic. You can’t beat the one-to-one learning experience. Mark’s website is http://imagema.com and Corey’s is www.coreyrich.com. Check them out. They have very different approaches to photography, yet they are complimentary teachers. Mentor Series did a nice job of pairing these photographic masters.


– Professional Nikon photographer Mark Alberhasky, above, explains technique to a member of our group.


– Nikon mentor photographer Corey Rich, above, says a great photo should tell a story.

Tips From Our Mentors – for Single Lens Reflex Cameras (SLR):

Photography is all about light, and the way it forms an image. Think about light when you frame a shot…what kind of light (direct or reflective), how does it light your subject, what is in the shadows? To act like the human eye, the camera needs to be adjusted. The following will help.

Select the file format…raw or jpg.  Raw gives you far more latitude to improve your image later, with processing software.

Select the best ISO for your lighting conditions (for low light or bright light).  Modern cameras are amazingly sophisticated.  Don’t be afraid to use their technology.

Color – In your camera’s menu, set the color to Adobe’s “RGB.” It covers far more of the color spectrum than “SKGB.” Also, set your white balance to “daylight,” not “automatic.”

Camera settings – Think about your creative choices (automatic vs manual; selecting lens aperture and shutter speed).  What type of shot…macro, action, landscape, or portrait?

Don’t be bashful – Do whatever it takes to create an interesting image.

Shoot lots of photos to get the one perfect shot.  Digital storage is cheap, unlike film.

Look INTO the viewfinder…not through it. Notice the frame marks in the viewfinder. This will be the image.  Compose your shot within the viewfinder, with as little excess as possible.  Think…and slowly release the shutter.  As they say, “Nail it in the camera!”

 – Every photo should tell “a story.”  What is the story you are going to tell with this image?

Be a little uncomfortable – Don’t be afraid to get dirty or look a little silly. Lie on the ground and shoot up, or at least even…or eye-to eye with a pet or insect. Stretch…do what it takes.

– Ask, “Is the content interesting…is there a better or more unusual angle?”

“Make” a photo situation…don’t be passive. If you use a model, don’t be afraid to give direction.

Shoot in rapid sequence. Use the “continuous” setting on your SLR. Usually, there’s only one chance to get the right image. Don’t lose it.

Focus accurately on your subject. Hold your camera steady in one hand, elbows into the body, and trip the shutter with the other. Do whatever it takes, including using a tripod (if possible), to get the sharpest possible image.

Equipment – Before you go on your photo trek, list the equipment you will need for the day (or night).  Only bring what you may need for each trek, in a comfortable daypack.  Always bring rain gear…for your camera, as well as your protection.

A few more images from the Maryland trek follow:



“Thomas Point Lighthouse at Sunrise,” above, winner of the Best of Maryland Photo Competition (click on image to enlarge)


– Swallowtail Butterfly, in one of the natural settings we visited. (Click on image to enlarge)


– Sunrise at the Bow, on the Chesapeake Bay (Click on image to enlarge)


– “Who has the biggest lens?” – shooting in the marshes, near Rock Hall.


– Beauty in the marshlands, a visiting butterfly (Click to enlarge image)


– A Dragonfly rests in the marshland


– A parting shot from one of the gardens near Annapolis