Packing Light: What To Bring For Nature Photography

Those who are planning to venture into nature photography should list down everything they need before going out.  Because while it is an enjoyable endeavor, it can be a difficult one, especially without the required gear.

And, of course, bringing everything including the kitchen sink would not be viable as the weight can be an impediment to successfully capturing as many beautiful shots as possible.

Only one camera is recommended to be brought, therefore choosing the right one is necessary.  The camera body should allow full manual override of settings, particularly the aperture, shutter speed, and exposure length.  Having a bulb mode and any level of weather sealing can be beneficial.

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Probably the most important consideration when doing nature photography is to bring the appropriate lenses for the intended scenes.

For landscape shots, an ultra-wide angle lens is needed, because they offer a greater field of view and more depth of field.  Choosing between a prime or zoom lens is a matter of personal preference.

A macro lens should also be brought to get excellent quality out of close-up images.

A telephoto lens works best to capture distant subjects such as faraway birds or natural backdrops.  It must be noted, though, that since it is bulky, it should only be brought if using it is a certainty.

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As for other accessories, a light, full-movement tripod is definitely helpful for photo stability.  One should also be prepared for any weather by packing rain covers or an umbrella, a collapsible reflector or diffuser, a polarizing filter, or an ND filter.

Keith W. Springer here, a retired photographer who still loves going outdoors and traveling to capture the beauty of nature.  Learn more about photography by visiting this blog.


Two Psychological Benefits of Taking Photography

Taking up photography is often done with the goal of developing a skill. Recent years have sparked a dramatic interest in the hobby; made even easier by technology. Mobile phones now allow anyone to point and shoot and take incredibly detailed photographs. But the rapid growth of photography has also had an unexpected outcome.

Mental health professionals have studied the relationship between photography and how people perceive information. Two surprising psychological benefits were found.

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It enhances joy: A study concluded that taking photos affects the way people enjoy everyday activities. How exactly this works is still being researched, but a general assumption is that those taking photos are completely engaged in the activity. Looking through a lens forces the photographer to live in the present moment; which is a key characteristic of mindfulness and improved mental health. Those who continue the practice are able to achieve a sense of contentment and relaxation, which affects joy and how one appreciates life.

It improves focus: Jumping off from the previous point, those who regularly take photos are recorded to be more focused than those who do not. Additionally, the focus is not limited to just maintaining a subject in place; the focus was seen to enhance creativity as well. Photographers have to be able to view things differently; these are reflected in their work.

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There are other studies that document various benefits, but these two are the ones that psychologists were most surprised with. It is hoped that this would encourage more people to take up the hobby – not only for the potential to learn a new skill but for personal growth as well.

Keith W. Springer is retired, but that never stopped his passion for photography. Learn more when you like this Facebook page.

A Look at the African Burial Ground in New York

New York is home to dozens of national parks. It is naturally assumed that parks are only meant for recreational purposes; a few trees here and there constitute an environment of relaxation. Yet, parks can also be a way to highlight historical events and offer a sense of belonging. The African Burial Ground in colonial New York is one such example.

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This park is considered one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century. It is estimated to date as far back as the 17th and 18th century and marks a forgotten period in New York City history. Four hundred and nineteen sets of human remains were discovered between 1991 and 1992 during the construction of a federal building in Lower Manhattan. Immediately, construction was halted and the remains were sent to the Howard University for identification and research. Those who found the bones were amazed by how many sets of human remains there were. After the examination, it was determined that these skeletons belonged to Africans. The remains were re-interred in 2003 and the land renamed as the African Burial Ground.

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The more than 6-acre land now features an outdoor memorial designed by Rodney Leon as a tribute to all generations of Africans and those with African descent. Buildings and memorials are designed to remind visitors of the history, culture, and community beliefs of Africans. It is hoped that the park will raise awareness of the struggles of the African people and encourage equality among races and descents.

Keith W. Springer lives in New York and loves to visit different types of national parks. His most recent visit was at the African Burial Ground where he felt a deep pull and compassion towards all those who have suffered. Learn more about his visits to other national parks by liking this Facebook page.

The Greatness of the Great Smoky Mountains: A Walk-through

The Great Smoky Mountains was hailed as the most visited park in the U.S. in 2015. Called by the Cherokee shaconage (shah-cone-ah-jey), which roughly means land of the blue smoke, due to the mist hanging over its ancient peaks, this national park accommodates more than 10 million visitors per year. Located along Tennesse-North Carolina border, this 815-square mile park scenic view encompasses the Appachalian Mountains, with about 900 campsites all throughout. Its scope is from the Pigeon River (northeast) to the Little Tennessee River (southwest).

One of the must-see sites in the Great Smoky Mountains is the Cades Cove. Considered a national treasure, this valley awes tourists with its lush fields and breathtaking wildlife. This is a crowd-favorite, especially for families. Aside from its landscape, this place holds a cultural legacy, which still manifests in the architectural backdrop with designs traced back to the early 19th century.

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Travelers who want to reach the highest point in the Smokies can find it on Clingsman Dome. Getting there involves a 0.5-mile hike or a seven-mile road off Newfound Gap Road. Traveling through the Newfound Gap Road is also an experience travelers shouldn’t miss. The road is a 32-mile stretch, which provides visitors a number of picturesque views, and venues for picnics, and visitor centers.

Another famous activity in the Smokies is trekking, particularly at Mt. LeConte. This area also has a non-camping accommodation, the LeConte Lodge, but going there also requires hiking trails of 5.5 miles (Alum Cave Trail) to 8 miles (Boulevard).

Other activities and areas in the Great Smoky that are worth visiting include:

– Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trails – a six-mile-long trail that goes through various forests, overlooking streams and waterfalls.

– Laurel Falls – considered one of the most famous attractions in the park, this is an 80-foot-high falls, which can be reached through a 2.6-mile hiking trail (roundtrip).

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With its impressive mountain range, and mesmerizing scenery all over, the Great Smoky Mountains should definitely be in every traveler’s bucket list.

I, Keith W. Springer, love my quick strolls to New York’s National parks. Once in a while, I travel outside the Big Apple to go on an adventure in other places, including the Great Smoky Mountains. If you’re interested in these kinds of activities, and topics, as I write about them, follow my blog.