by Joel Weisbrod
It seems like summer happened in just one day. As we all complained about the never ending rain, summer just snuck up on us without warning. Now that summer is here, opportunities abound for using your camera to capture some memories of barbecues, beach outings, and other back yard fun. Here are some suggestions to help make your summer photo experiences more rewarding.
“Capture the Action” with Faster Shutter Speeds
If your camera has “Shutter Priority Mode”, select it and try adjusting for shutter speeds that will “stop the action”. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough that the movement of your subject is slower than the time the shutter is open. Try these examples:
• 1/1000+: Freezing Motion – Racing cars, sports action, shooting while moving in a vehicle, wildlife moving across your field, etc. In most or all cases, you will need to pan the camera to follow the subject as you shoot.
• 1/500: Freezing “slow” action – Slow moving vehicles, runners, wildlife, etc. This is suggested for hand held telephoto lenses with focal lengths greater than 300mm.
• 1/250: Great for outdoor “static” nature shots especially telephoto shots using 200-300mm lenses.
If your camera does not have “Shutter Priority Mode”, try selecting one of the scene modes for sports or action. This scene mode usually is identified by the “man running stick figure” and tells your camera to use a faster shutter speed.
Find some “Summer Only” Events or Venues
One of the great things about living in upstate New York is the abundance of county fairs. These summer-only events are a great place to take your camera and have
some fun. For color, visit the carnival midway, cotton candy vendors, and carnival rides. For action, visit the pig races, high dive tower, and the horse arena. For cute animal photos, visit the livestock barns, heifer judging, and the petting zoo. At the end of the fair day, the carnival midway and rides areas glow with brilliant colors. Try using slower shutter speeds (or Portrait Mode) to capture carnival rides in motion with swirls of color in the finished image. Some other great “summer only” photo ops include outdoor concerts, beach and lake visits, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome (a great place to see and photograph some WWI aircraft), and of course, professional baseball games.
Photograph a Fireworks Display
Before you know it, July 4th will be here along with some stunning fireworks displays. Wouldn’t it be nice to capture some of these beautiful pyrotechnics with your camera? Actually, it is not that difficult, especially if you follow the
Use a Tripod. Okay, I know you hate to have to do this, but for fireworks it is essential. For any of the three methods below, a tripod is necessary for clear images.
1. Set your camera for “Shutter Priority Mode”. Set the camera ISO to 400. Keep adjusting the shutter speed to slower values until the camera says it can get a good exposure (probably about 1 second). Carefully and slowly depress the shutter release button as soon as you see the fireworks explode.
2. If your camera has a “Fireworks Scene Mode”, use it and you will likely get some decent results.
3. If you can’t use either method above, set your camera for the “Night Photo” scene mode.
Joel Weisbrod is a published author of a book on digital photography and the owner of jwArtWorks Photography in Rhinebeck. In addition to portrait, commercial, event, and other photography, Joel teaches private one-on-one photography classes and can be reached by email at mercantile@jwArtWorks.com.
by Luanne Panarotti, photo by Luc Viatour http://www.lucnix.be
The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand. ~ Frederick L. Knowles
As children, my cousin and I spent most summer nights catching lightning bugs in our adjoining backyards. We’d punch holes in the lids of mayonnaise jars, gradually filling them with our quarry, and then sit in a hammock to enjoy the gentle glow of the makeshift lanterns. Eventually, when parents and bedtime beckoned, we would reluctantly release the bugs, only to begin the hunt again the following evening.
Recapture the magic of nighttime spent in the backyard. With long work hours and sweltering daytime heat, most of us find ourselves finally getting to enjoy our summer gardens in the evening. Why not create a moon garden near porch or patio, with plants that reveal their true charm after dark? In the delicate radiance of moonlight, bright colors turn to black, while pale blooms and variegated leaves glow; fragrant plants perfume the evening air, enticing nighttime pollinators.
Plants that shine once the sun has set
For a stunning focal point in your moon garden, start with an unusual Wolf Eyes dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’). This compact, spreading tree has large, pristine flower bracts in spring and soft green leaves with prominent white margins; in fall, the foliage turns a lovely pinkish-red.
For shrubs, choose from many white-blooming hydrangeas, including the Snowflake oakleaf hydrangea (Hyd. Quercifolia ‘Snowflake’), the popular Annabelle (Hyd. arborescens ‘Annabelle’) or the White Dome (Hyd. arborescens ‘Dardom’), whose clouds of blooms drift above deep green leaves; its flowers are perfect for both fresh and dried arrangements, and will add winter interest to the garden. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a native with sweetly-scented white flowers in racemes that wave above the leafy shrub, followed by peppercorn-like fruit capsules.
For perennials, there are endless choices. White swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’) attracts butterflies galore by day and glimmers by night. Radiant David garden phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘David’) offers fragrant, tubular blooms from June through September, resisting both deer and the powdery mildew that often plagues phlox. Various cultivars of false spirea (Astilbe x arendsii) put on a snowy floral display in shady areas, with feathery plumes waving above deeply-cut foliage; try ‘Deutschland’, ‘Bridal Veil’ or ‘Snowdrift’. White catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Alba’) draws hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to its fragrant stalks of flowers, while its aromatic foliage will have a euphoric effect on your cat.
For the edge of your moon garden, try one of the variegated hostas; ‘Blazing Saddles’ has medium green leaves, edged in cream. Silver Brocade artemisia (A. stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’) produces dense mounds of finely-cut, frosted foliage with a gentle fragrance, the felt-like leaves adding texture as well as shimmer.
For ongoing interest, incorporate long-blooming annuals and other tender plants. The dramatic woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) sends up towering stems through basal rosettes of enormous green leaves; the slender, luminous flowers have a relaxed elegance by day, and a heavenly perfume by night. Cleome hasslerana has heavily-scented, spidery blooms held aloft on tall stalks of narrow, dark green foliage; try the ‘Sparkler’ cultivar for a more compact presentation. Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a climber that can reach 15 feet in a season, its pale, fragrant flowers opening at dusk from midsummer to frost. Alocasia x amazonica ‘Polly’, known as African mask or Amazon elephant’s ear, is a striking tropical with large glossy leaves and dramatic lime-white veining; lift plants from the garden to enjoy inside for the winter.
Maintaining and enhancing your evening garden
As with any gardens, take an organic approach to caring for your plants, and do likewise when warding off nuisance insects. Treat your yard with products such as Ecosmart’s Organic Mosquito and Tick Control spray or granules. For individual protection, Neptune’s Harvest Best Yet spray and Liquid Net’s Ultimate Insect Repellent employ cedar oil to fend off pesky biters, and can safely be used on children and pets.
Some accessories can enhance the comfort and beauty of your outdoor space. Consider a cozy bench or swing from which to view your garden, or a fire pit to bring the rustic warmth of a campfire right to your patio. Soji Solar lanterns add Asian-inspired appeal, turning themselves on by night to cast a festive glow without the hassle of electrical cords – or the need to chase after all those lightning bugs….
Luanne Panarotti fills her days with work at The Phantom Gardener, preaching at area churches, mothering, cat wrangling, and cryptic crosswords.
by Brian PJ and Kristen Cronin
Strawberry Fields Forever
Brian PJ Cronin and berries. Photo by Kristen Cronin
We have been strawberry picking three times since the season began. No, we do not have a problem. Yes, we can quit anytime we want.
We know it’s almost summer. We know you have a lot to do. Lawns to mow, meat to grill. The baseball season is in full swing and the NBA finals continue their long and inexorable death march to the finish line. And we know that you have been strawberry picking before, and you always pick too many, and then they just sit in the fridge, glaring at you accusingly every time you open the door until you can’t take the guilt anymore and you end up feeding them to the cats. We know you are thinking of sitting this one out.
We don’t care. This strawberry season is different from all other strawberry seasons. This year’s batch is enormous and legendary. Their hue is a rich fire engine red, the color you see only on packs of strawberry flavored gum, and the sweet and tart notes are perfectly in balance. Go ahead, pick one off the vine, pop it in your mouth, let your eyes roll back in your head and the juice dribble down your chin. You think you’re the only one sneaking free samples? Look up and down the row son, everyone’s got strawberry juice stains on their shirts.
Why this year? Was it the ice storm? That stretch of 90-degree days last month? Uranus in the tenth house? Who cares? The point is, the über-strawberries have arrived, growing redder and fatter with each passing day.
We have been to Fraleigh’s Rose Hill Farm in Red Hook, and picked strawberries in the blazing sun with a view of The Catskills in the distance. We went to the organic Thompson
Thompson Finch Farm berries. Photo by Kristen Cronin
Finch Farm in Ancram in a rain storm, thinking we would be the only ones. Instead we saw dozens of pickers in ponchos spread out between the deep green rows, with the fog and rain slowly rolling down between the trees, making the whole scene look like a 14th Century Chinese landscape painting.
And we picked strawberries. Brother, did we ever pick strawberries.
Time’s a-wasting, folks. Fire up the car, plug in your GPS, blast “Strawberry Wine” by Ryan Adams. Hell, blast “Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter. We won’t tell anyone. Make jam, make shortcake, make strawberry rhubarb pie. We made strawberry balsamic buttermilk ice cream over the weekend and it turned out so good that we’ve had it for breakfast every morning since.
And, if by the time you read this the last strawberry has fallen, the vines are bare, your true love has left, your dog starts lying to you, the Mets have lost six in a row and the earth has become a cold and dead place, don’t worry. We just got a first taste of the incoming cherry crop and it looks like it’s going to be a banner year on that front as well.