Self Timers


Travel Photography


Lesson Info

Self Timers

Now, a lot of times, you're going to use the self timer when you and your buddies climb up to the top of the mountain and you want to get the big shot of you up there standing in front of the camera, doing the standard mug shot is fine for certain types of photographs, but a lot of times you want to try to make it a little bit more creative. And so you gotta ask people to do crazy and goofy things to do this and as a photographer, you need to think long and hard about what you were going to dio and so where am I going to set the tripod up? And I tried to make things as convey being it for everyone is possible. So for instance, we were all taking a lunch break. I set up my camera, I got the shutter speed. I tested it. I got everything right. I said okay, everybody in five minutes, I'm going to do ah, self timer shot of the whole group. Okay, everybody line up here, everybody got it good. Get the shot, be done with it and you're out of there and you're not waiting now this didn't work we...

ll what's going on what's wrong with this what's wrong with that, you want to be simple and done with it me and my buddy tim have done all sorts of adventures which you're going to see a few more in here and so you don't need to face the cameras sometimes we're going to go climb devil's tower the next day we wanted to kind of show a little bit of a story about us thinking about climbing this devil's tower you don't need to be really big in the frame sometimes you can be so small you could barely recognize you one of my favorite shots comes from iceland and in iceland there is this just awesome waterfall and I got my shot lined up and this is my test shot to make sure that I'm getting the right exposure and this was very tricky because this was back in the days of film and it was a very long distance from where the camera was to where I wanted to be and the camera had a ten second self timer and I didn't have enough time because it was about a hundred yards and if anyone knows track and field hundred yards in ten seconds I would be on the olympic team and so what I brought was a little mechanical device which delayed the self timer by about seven seconds now I had seventeen seconds and so what I would do is I would trigger the camera and I would motion my friend who is down at the waterfall and he would start counting down seventeen sixteen fifteen it was really loud, so we couldn't hear and then I would run towards the camera and we did this about three or four times before I just kind of got tired of running back and forth and we ended up with this shot, which is our iceland a self timer shot and so finding a really interesting place to take pictures when I was down in chile basically threw chili going up across the andes into argentina, we wanted to show kind of the ruggedness of the mountains in the terrain and what helps in this is using a telephoto lens, so I had to set my camera on a tripod we got on our bikes and rewrote as fast as we could for about eight seconds so that we could get us far away from the camera as possible and so using a telephoto lens to have a different look to the self timer and just trying to find the best locations and so constantly scouting out and as the photographer of your little group, you gotta pick and choose your things carefully. For instance, in many of our situations, I wouldn't try to do a complicated self timer shot more than once a day or twice a day you wanna limit people's fussing with you getting everything set up because every time you set up a self timer, it takes a bit of time passing over into argentina and every once in a while you got to do the standard mug shot because there's nothing else to do up in alaska we rode our bikes across the entire state of alaska and we wanted to document the story and so on one end we are dipping our bikes wheels into the pacific ocean and we're going to ride north out of homer alaska all the way up to prudhoe bay and so from time to time we would stop, set the tripod up, get everything lined up ten seconds, get in the picture and showing both of people on trips so if you are in a group trip, you want to show everybody involved, so don't just shoot one person get involved yourself. I'm not a big fan of being in the photographs, but it helps to tell the story and that's what I wanted to dio and so trying to, you know, pick up what looks like, you know, here's kind of a grab shot from some other photographer. This was a carefully orchestrated shot you might say, I mean, we were eating lunch, we didn't do anything different then we would normally do, but I was moving the camera back with the telephoto lens and so using that telephoto lens to have that different perspective and I knew as soon as I saw this road that this would be the second toe last shot in a show we did a whole documentary on biking across alaska and I said this is the second to the last shot and this is the last shot maids for a nice little faith from one to the other now a trip that I've mentioned before and some of my talks is a canoe trip that we took up on the mackenzie river in the northwest territories of canada and for a photographer being assigned to a canoe is about the worst assignment in the world because there is so little you can do other than just pivot around up down left right ok take a picture of you take a picture of where we're going and the shoreline okay I'm done and so we wanted to try to be a little bit more creative about this and so one of the things that you can see here is that we stuck a model pod on the end of the boat which will help us out in a moment so a little bit behind the scenes we took we went out and bought a perfectly good fifteen foot canoe took a drill and drill the hole in the bottom of it tim's an engineer and he had created this pedal powered drive shaft and so we sat in the boat and we actually used a very sophisticated chair a lawn chair with legs cut off way then did paint it red and we had a special driveshaft you'll see more of that in a moment, and we took it up a thousand miles north of seattle to the hay to remember my legs. Now to the mckinsey route to the now is the hay river, which led into the mackenzie river, I believe, and one of the things we did you can see over here, the shadow the camera is mounted on the model pod extended up above the vote about five feet now there was an actual shot that we tried to get with tim driving down the highway at sixty miles an hour with the camera on top of the six foot boom, but it really wasn't that interesting, unfortunately, and the idea was so that we could get pictures like this when we're out on the water. Now, one of the lenses that I'm using here I didn't really get into is a fish islands and that's why the water is curved like that to show the white angle, and so we wanted to show what it was like living on the boat rather than just from our hands. From a slightly different perspective, we're actually hooked up a stove and could cook on the boat with the stove, and so in order to get away from the mosquitoes, we would get out in the water and eat breakfast out on the water. And then every once in a while, we would move it to the front of the boat and point it backwards so that you could see us in the boat. And as we got a little bit more daring with this boom camera, you might say we started duct taping it off to the side of the boat so that we could see back into the boat. What it looked like for us as we were exploring this river and we did it from the back of the boat. We did it from the front of the boat. One of my favorite shots is when it got so warm we actually went swimming, which is not real comment in northern canada, but we got one nice self timer shot. This is a one shot. And when you're jumping off of a boat with a camera on a six foot boob, you want to be really careful about things. And so we were jumping in opposite directions, trying not to tip the boat too much. And these were all nice and good. But we wanted to tell the story of our travels, which is what a lot of people want to do you want to tell your story about your trip and you're not able to do that from the boat, and so what we had to do is we had to get the camera on shore and this took a lot of time. It took about a half an hour to get a single shot because you had to go ashore it's time to set up the camera and I had an interval ometer where I would set my camera to take a picture in ten minutes and then I would look at my watch and I would synchronize my watch with the camera and I know that in ten minutes in ten seconds in five seconds we need to be in place and the camera would take three pictures in that period of time and a shot like this might take forty five minutes because we get paddled so far away we need to paddle back upstream to get the camera. Now on this particular trip, we passed across the arctic circle, okay? And tim had his gps system and he was tracking very carefully exactly when we crossed the arctic circle because we wanted to a special shot. We we've thought about this shot ahead of time. We imagine what would it be like if one of us was standing on one side of the arctic circle and one of us was on the other side of the arctic circle? And this is what the picture looks like it's amazing the temperature of difference it's just like the line on the map that changes so much from just crossing over that line and we wanted to tell the story of camping and so we showed how we would dock the boat at night so that the driveshaft when it get damaged our occasional maintenance and work on our trips and on this particular trip one of the things that happens, we started to run out of food on the trip we weren't goingto die, but it was just not as much food as we had hoped for, and so I wanted teo take a picture of running out of food and that's not the most interesting assignment in the world, but I got one picture that I was fairly happy with and that's this one and yes, if you're wondering, I just cut off the bottom of a peanut butter jar. Now what? I haven't told them that a lot of my other classes is the rest of the story and so we're not to spend too much time. But just what happened is we encountered some problems with our theoretically very nice device and that is is that we had tested our device and we have put hundreds of miles on our pedal powered canoe and we had never broken drive shaft and so if you have never broken a driveshaft, how many spare blades do you bring on a trip of a thousand miles we thought the number would be three blades if we you know, they weren't that much money, but they were enough that you just don't go by a hundred of them and so we brought three of them with us and we went through three of them in the first two weeks of a five week trip and so we had some serious problems that left us wondering exactly how do we power this thing when our propeller is broken and, uh, tim's a pretty industrious guy, and so he basically found a piece of wood and spent the day carving several days carving and so I got a piece of wood and I started carving a swell, and after about three days, this piece of wood was transformed into this wait, we've brought in a simple leatherman we brought some sandpaper being prepared for the worst, and we've got this already, but the problem wass was that we needed to drill this hole. You see this hole right through the middle here, we needed to drill a hole through the middle and we just didn't happen to bring a power drill with us on this canoe trip, but we did bring a drill bit, okay, so we got a bit we just need something that's really powerful that turns we thought about this for a moment we have the perfect thing. We attached the drill bit to the drive shaft of the boat. I sat in the boat and powered the drill while tim drill the hole through the wood so that we could put the pin on there. So when it's spin, when we put it on the drive shaft and the funny thing is, is that that propeller worked much better than the ones that we bought. And we eventually did get to the final destination was tech toya tuck up in the northwest territories where, of course, we grabbed a self timer shot. My favorite self timer shot from that trip was when we had planned to do a group shot. It was only two of us, but a group shot of us and all of our equipment to show how much gear we had to bring. And I decided it would be cool if we lined it up on this hillside so that you could really see the silhouette of everything. And right as we were getting everything lined up, the only thing we had left to move up there was the boat. We wanted to get the boat in the picture and I said, we got to go now forget the boat because there is the strip of light coming across the sand, and this is the one shot that we got from that moment and it was just this thin band of golden light and it lasted I was lucky to time the ten second self timer shot because it wasn't there we didn't get the boat in there, but you know you can only do the best you can and so that was that little moment so that's one of the more unusual trips that I have been on question that keeps coming up over and over and over is how do you focus on self timer shots? You manually focus you set that up ahead of time manual shutter speed manual capture one of the problems with cameras let me, uh, let me just get a camera out here just a moment visual example here if you set your camera up in aperture priority or shutter priority for most sl ours, this is this's a muralist cameras this is a bad example, but we're going to go with it if you're shooting with an slr and you shoot an aperture priority shutter priority or program light comes in through the lands the light meter reads that light and gives you your settings when you do a self timer shot light's coming in through the back of the camera also in here and your camera sees that extra light and changes the shutter speed an aperture because you're letting in too much light back here, some of the professional fancy cameras will have a switch that closes a blind behind the curtain here most cameras don't have that you have to physically block it the solution that I use exclusively is manual exposure when you set majal manual it doesn't matter how much light is coming through the back of the camera and so you want to be in manual exposure to a couple of test shots manually focus and in some cases, if you're shooting with really shallow depth of field, you need to pre focus I know in some shots I didn't want shallow depth of field with a self timer and I would put a little mark a little rock a pebble stick where I needed to be and I would focus on that and then I know ok that's my spot and so if I'm gonna walk through, I'm gonna wait for three to one and click so that you're in focus at the right point and when the self timer is going that usually blinks every second in the last two seconds it goes steady, so if you're gonna jump, you go three, two, one and now and hopefully you could get everyone to jump at the right time and so be aware of that light and just shoot everything man there's no reason you need automatic because, uh you're gonna be able to manually set everything up and take test shots these days with digital right I think we should keep moving on moving on okay after me afternoon going by fast okay, so one of the things that I'm really big on is the decisive moment the best moment in which to take a picture and so one good thing to think about is just simply this many of the greatest moments that you will experience that have been experienced are things that you can anticipate alright do you think I just reacted to a penguin jumping in the water? You know what precedes a penguin jumping in the water a penguin walking to the water okay it's not hard to predict what's gonna happen when a penguin is walking to the water so you're planning these things out you're waiting for them to happen you've got everything ready dialed in your test shots done you're ready to go when a mother is going overto it's baby it's going to give it a little kiss on the nose all right, you can expect these things these moments of jumps, these gestures that you see with people waiting for the right moment it's not just shooting a picture any time it's shooting a picture at the right moment that little gesture of the hand in the air is only there for a second but that's the right moment and you may have to shoot through twenty or thirty pictures to you get that right moment another example of my horrible posing technique, I told these kids to walk down the street and come back towards me because I thought it would make a great picture of them walking towards me on the street. And as they walked away, the one kid just kind of happened take a sneak peek over his shoulder, and that was the best shot it wasn't. It was kind of plan, but it was totally not what I had planned, but take advantage of what you see in front of you. The timing of this moment of this carriage I told you in this jordan jordan, about how all the people are down here eating lunch, clogging up the scene, kind of ugly if eyeing it and there's all this bright sunlight, and I waited for the moment that the carriage went through the opening toe block off everything that I didn't want in the background, so choosing those specific moments it's important, okay, I don't know where this belongs. This is just random advice. I had five tips just, you know, for whatever photograph your food, you're going to be experiencing some unusual food you might want to remember. I'm not a real big foodie, but a lot of people like doing this, and it it helps remember another element of the trip create a blurry shot to show action. So using a slow shutter speed just to so something in a different manner rather than the fast shutter speeds be very wary of a non photographers advice when somebody says, oh, that would make a good picture. That means, in my opinion about nothing, I really depends on who it's coming from. If it's coming from another good photographer that I respect it's probably awesome. If it's just some random person, it might be great, it might be horrible. I'm not saying it's bad. You just can't really trust it. And so you got to see things with your own eyes. In many cases, if you want to photograph really high up, a good thing to do is to go to a bar and buy a beer. You now have access to their balcony to shoot or or buy a dinner. They're made so that you can get up nice and high time it at the right time of day and so pre visualizing anticipating your shots, getting your shot list down of things that you would like or expect or hope to do is very beneficial. It preps you for your trip. All right, another good quote, okay, so here is my list. Of my ten favorite photographic locations and so a lot of these you have already seen but let's just put him in order at least is the way I think of them right now and I'm sorry if I don't listen your place is one of my favorite I maybe just haven't been there though so the salar de uyuni this is that salt flat down in bolivia if you like open deserts if you like high elevation he'll love it here in some ways there's not a lot of subjects to shoot because it's a lot of open space area but there are some unusual rock formations and of course photographing on the salar itself it's just so unusual in this case I'm getting my camera low to the ground how low it's on the ground the lenses actually resting on the salt itself great place to go next up this is a big one and I've seen it many different ways is just good old alaska there are many different ways to experience and see alaska the mountain ranges are unbelievable they have so many mountain range is there you can see amazing wildlife up there if you go up there for the grizzly bears and if you go up to the extreme north it's a very beautiful tonder up there the arctic national wildlife refuge is an amazingly beautiful place one of my first big travel experiences was of course in iceland and iceland is a very volcanic region, there's, lots of mountains, there's, lots of waters because there's a lot of rain that comes off of these mountains, and so you have amazing waterfalls, beautiful volcanoes and mohr and more waterfalls, and so they'll you if you want to have a lot of waterfalls, that is the place to go. Number seven on my list is egypt place that I have scouted for doing a photography tour and hope to go back to its got obviously a lot of great, iconic scenes and, you know, I don't care if there's been a billion photographs of the pyramids. I'm more than happy to go back and shoot my own there's great marketplace is to go, teo and the people were just so friendly and accommodating, it was just absolutely great working in egypt. I can't wait to go back number six, maybe surprisingly low on the list, but definitely up there is the trip to antarctica for a lot of people. This is kind of like the final big trip. This is the seventh continent, and there are things that you were going to see here that you will see no place else, and so obviously the icebergs are constantly changing, you never know what you're going to get, and this one to me was was just a cathedral, and I just love this. So rich blue saturated blue color that was on it you're obviously gonna have penguins and there's a lot of fun shots that you could do with the penguins and then of course, penguins and icebergs you're just going to get a lot of that and so that lone penguin out on the little island another great place that's a little bit closer to home for us here creative live at least fairly close is the american southwest and so this is encompasses a lot of the utah arizona area new mexico, colorado perhaps this is bryce canyon a great place to go just amazing unique scenes that you're not going to see other places in this world this is in canyon lands and a fifteen second night shot from monument valley with the mittens there in the foreground lit lit up by full moon light number four is africa and for anyone who's keeping track I know egypt is in africa but it's my list and I'll make it whatever I want it all right? So in africa you're obviously gonna have great wildlife opportunities. So going on safari there's a number of great countries that you could go to would love to go to tanzania that's one of the country's high up on my list of want to go to the people are amazingly friendly, easy to work with and photograph colorful and there's just so many cultures and rich traditions that are so different than what I'm used to in my life. It's just nonstop picture taking all day long as far as I'm concerned, number three is are cover shot, you might say bhutan colorful country hidden in the mountains, you might say not too far from nepal, very similar to paul, but a little bit different the par oh festival is a great time to go. It usually happens sometime in the spring time and of course they have just amazing monasteries there and watch for those flags and the peak moment of those flags number two on my list, a place that I would like to go back, it's very intense in some ways. I was so happy to leave india because it was just it's it's like a loud party and you want to go, but you want to go home and then you want to go back and you want to go home, and so I definitely want to go back until I'm fully saturated, and then I'll leave, and then I want to go back again and so obviously a huge crush of humanity and different cultures and religions just amazing little details, you know, just just seems off the street and if you go to the right areas you get to see wild tigers and that's the only place in the world that you're really going to see him like that and to me that is the most magnificent creature on the planet and while that you could go out and photograph they're absolutely beautiful and amazing so that brings us to down to the number one coolest spot and that would be south georgia island in the south atlantic ocean and for anyone who grew up watching walt disney movies I always wondered when I go out in the wild where are all the animals because when I go out for a hike I rarely see any wild animals well in south georgia island you are going to see the animals all right it's an island about a hundred miles long it's down not too far away from the falkland islands not too far away from antarctica you'll find the albatross the largest bird in the world as faras wingspan this is where they nest you're going to find elephant seals which when their young are very cute and they play with each other and they make lots of funny noises and they're enjoyable with these gigantic bug eyes and they scream and they have horrible sounds they make these incredible burping noises at you which you know completely different than the visual and they are just very cute and adorable and they're very approachable and they're very, very tame the ones you want to watch out for are the first steals the first seals are kind of the wolf's down there and they are very aggressive they're very mean and they are very prolific they have a lot of him and you have to be very very careful because they are vicious and they want to bite you and protect their little territory now one of the things one of the reasons a lot of people don't like the first seals is because they live on a diet of penguins okay, so they eat our little buddies the penguins but for some reason there is a bit of a truce and when the seals the first seals are on land they don't attack penguins on land when they get in the water it's a free for all but the penguins can just walk right through ah whole colony of these first deals with no problem but all restrictions air off there out of the safe zone when they're in the water and so is just uninterested and then of course the penguins themselves these air king penguins which have the orange markings on the next which are just so fun to play with because they're curious about you they'll come up right near you they'll give you a little peck on the shins not so much that it hurts but just enough to know that okay that's a solid person right there they'll follow you around the walk right by you you can lay in the grass or in the gravel and they'll come right up to you and the getting down low so any time you're photographing animals or people, you often want to get down low to show them at eye level with their environment around them. The babies have these fur coats they call him seals with excuse me makes call him bears with beaks and flippers uh, because they have this really brown soft furry coat and it's just a beautiful island to just take away the the animals it's still a beautiful island with little lagoons and snowcapped mountains all around and then you get to go there right at sunrise and sunset using a little bit of phil flash to help out in this case, starting wide shooting the entire colony of hundreds of thousands of birds, using telephoto lenses to compress the birds to show I'm not trying to show this is how many birds there are I'm trying to make it seem as dense as possible and then including some of those backgrounds in the shots, making it look like the birds go off to infinity and then having some the seals in the foreground and the penguins in the background just so many good shots and my favorite shot from south georgia island shared this with you many times before, but I call this one harmony and one of the key things I told you earlier is you want to be able to see the eyes of the animals and I've totally broken the rules here you can't see their eyes either because they're just not visible or they've closed their eyelids and it's perfectly acceptable so any rules that you hear about in photography feel feel free to completely break so kind of like to bring this class to a close with ten final tips for you okay, I know I've been doing five I got a lot here at the end so these air just general travel photography tips all right? Plan for the best prepare for the worst so bring your raincoat expect things to break what do you going to do is back up when asking for directions? A lot of people like to think they know where they're going, and so sometimes you probably need to ask about three people where something is and how to get there to really make sure that you're going to make it there. When I say give serendipity a chance to make your day what I what I'm saying is don't over plan try to allow free time in you know, maybe if you just hang out on these steps someone's going to start talking to you and that's going to lead to something good and so let that be a part of your day and I found from working and travels to the edge. It took four plane flights to get someplace really interesting and so be aware that it's hard to just go someplace nice and quick takes a lot of effort and I truly believe any location can be great. A number of years ago I was unemployed, I was sitting at home, I had nothing to dio I took a list of all the world's countries and I raided them one to ten how much I want to travel there at the bottom of the list was jordan just didn't seem like there was really think interesting to do in jordan. Well, one thing leads to another, and I end up leading a tour in jordan and it was awesome. Photographers look at the world in a different way and it's a little different style than the most people in the way most people travel, and so anything can be an awesome photographic destination. All right, let's, take fewer trips but let's be gone for more time, spend more time in the location. Spend more time getting to know the people more time to getting experience that culture, patience, patience, patience, waiting for the shot waiting for the plane, wait for it, it will happen no matter how bad things get. At least you'll have a good story. And so it's, always nice to have some good stories. Even if you don't have pictures to back him up, you can take a good story out of the worst situation. Life moves pretty quick, so don't expect a second chance. Sometimes that person is only going to be in that location once. Sometimes that trip is only gonna happen once, and you've got to take that opportunity when you get it.

Class Description

Travel photography is a wonderfully rewarding experience, but travel itself is a whirlwind in the best of situations. The mix of new landscapes, cultures, and logistical challenges can be difficult to navigate. Being an effective travel photographer requires careful planning and shoot preparation, but also the flexibility and openness of mind to take unforgettable photos.

Join pro photographer John Greengo for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to research and plan a trip around great photography

  • How to tell what gear you’ll need, and how to travel with it safely

  • Shooting tips and some of John’s favorite locations