OB Approved - Basics of Photographing Adventure Vehicles | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

OB Approved Basics of Photographing Adventure Vehicles

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Pazuzu1991

Rank IV

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As Overlanders we all share in a passion for gear, vehicles and wilderness, that passion drives us to venture far into nature in search of wild and remote locations in which to test our skills, knowledge and equipment. The promise of solitude and unfamiliar locations motivates us to go further and seek ever increasing extreme conditions in order to satisfy that peculiar yearning shared by all adventure seekers. Its hard for us to verbally express the mix of emotions that this wanderlust invokes in us. Often when trying to explain why we do what we do and why we need the things we need in order to do that thing, we come across as a bit crazy or obsessed. What if I told you there is a way to show people what you feel? A way to invoke in them a similar feeling of adventure and wonder. Simply put, the answer is media, photos and or video.

In this series of tutorials I hope to share with you some easy techniques and different visual approaches to composing your photos. These tips are not camera specific, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. This series of tips will build on each other, and if properly employed they will become second nature. I wont be discussing digital editing because that is a whole different bag of potatoes. In the end, its better to have an effectively composed photo that suffers a bit from poor lighting, than a perfectly edited photo that suffers from ineffective composition. Lets get started…

Why are you taking the photo? The answer, to tell a story. Think in holistic terms, what is the trip about? What are you trying to show? who's is coming with me? Can the setting be changed to best suit the lighting conditions? what possible changes in perspective can I exploit? Its hard to imagine the effects a few feet of elevation have in composing a photo. A step to the right or the left might make the difference between a great photo or a just OK photo. Lighting is tricky, but there are a few rules that can help, none more important than, you cant move the sun, but you can sure use a flash, reflector or wait it out. If those aren’t options, can you turn the vehicle around for a better profile, can you switch positions to take the best advantage of the available light?




In this set of photos you can see the effects of moving a little to the left or right has on the composition of the final shot. Lori moved in a lateral motion in relation to the vehicle. The elevation was the same. Notice the lines on the road for reference. The top photo has a sense of adventure and excitement to it due to the road. A few feet to the left gave the vehicle a more interesting sense of purpose. The second photo is boring and lacks a story.


In many action sports like Kayaking, Snowboarding or Mountain biking, showing the subject in action helps convey the sense of adventure, danger and excitement we were feeling in that moment. Overlanding however, is unique in that you can show the vehicle on its own and still evoke the emotion of adventure and danger you are trying to convey. Try putting a snow board or a mountain bike on a scene by themselves. Yes you can get creative and artistic in the portrayal but the photos will lack the raw visual impact of putting a rider on them and capturing the photo mid action. An Overland vehicle has this raw visual impact for the simple fact that its there. The background matters, make it work for you. Use the rule of thirds and visual angle to create a scene of pure adventure.

If at all possible the vehicle should be positioned so the shadow is towards the back of the vehicle. Ideally you want a shadow that is nearly invisible, this can be achieved during sunset or sunrise, what photographers refer to as the golden hour.

In this set of photos, my fiancé took a series of shots of the same vehicle in the same location, a few seconds apart. The only thing that changed was how high she was off the ground. In other words, the only thing that changed was her vertical orientation in relation to the vehicle. Notice the effects on the background and the perspective of the vehicle as she moved from the high to the low camera angle. Notice the background, pay attention to how it becomes an integral part of the photo, and how it helps tell a story. What are you trying to say with the photo. In a landscape photo, the background is just as important as the subject. It can be argued that every element of the photo has to work together to tell the story you want to tell.






Lori changed her relative vertical distance to the subject by two feet in each photo. Noting else was changed. Notice the difference in perspective and how the vehicle seems to pop out of the photo in the last picture.

Look all around before you settle on a camera angle to tell your story. Choose a perspective point of view, in other words, are you a participant or are you observing the action. This is important because it will help narrow down how you frame your photo in order to tell your story. If you are taking the photos from an observers point of view, you want to use wide shots and capture as much of the overall setting as possible. If you are shooting from the participants point of view, your shots need to be in close and from angles others would normally not see or would have difficulty seeing. In Overlanding you can use both perspectives but you should be careful to not try and compose from the wrong point of view. For example, don't try and compose a landscape shot from the participant perspective or vice versa.

Composing from the observers perspective is the hardest style to master. You need to think of framing your photos in the same way as if you were looking at a post card. You are trying to tell a broad story with this shot. The rule of thirds and paying attention to lighting is a must and will make or break the shot. You are zoomed out so your subject is everything you framed. This is how you show scale and give a sense of wilderness. Get creative; harsh sunlight is actually a plus for this style of shooting. The hard shadows that the light makes add texture and depth to the landscape and can become a focal point. For example a large shadow cast by a vehicle can be used to break shapeless sand mounds and add a sense of scale.

In this photo, I used the road to convey scale and tie in the elements, the Kayak and the Bike combined with the mountains in the background are all tied in by the road. Looking at this photo will subconsciously impart the feeling of adventure and the unknown.

Composing from the participant perspective is marginally easier, kind of. When you are shooting action sports from the participant point of view, you want to try and isolate your subject. The goal is to give a hint of whats going on while capturing a specific event as it relates to a specific subject. The subject tells the story. You can use this technique if the background is not particularly interesting or appealing. Its perfectly ok to get in close, get your subject in focus and blur out the background. You can also focus in close to specific components like bumpers tires or winches for example, to give a sense that something is going on. Use your imagination here, the closer you get to the subject the sharper it is and the blurrier the rest of the frame is. With this approach, you leave a lot to the imagination of the observer, if executed properly you can make a parking lot look like an exotic location.

If you are shooting straight into a vehicle, shoot from a high position or a really low perspective and get as close as possible, this will take advantage of the imperfections on the lens resulting in interesting and grandiose photos.
 
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Pazuzu1991

Rank IV

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Head Room, Nose Room and Foot Room

When you compose your photo, you need to take into account the amount of space you allocate to the area surrounding your subject. This space can be broken down into 3 main areas, Head Room, Nose Room and Foot Room. When combined with the rule of thirds, these 3 areas can make any photo visually appealing. Of the 3, Nose Room is the most important. If poorly executed Nose Room can make a photo feel cramped or incomplete. Look at the examples below, this is the same photo, it has been cropped to highlight the differences in the 3 areas. Notice how the visual quality of the photos changes as the ratios change in relation to each other. If Nose Room is the most important, Foot Room is the least important. Overlanding allows for some variations and reversal of these rules in order to tell a better story, this has to be decided during composition. If you have objects you do not want to show in the photo, for example stop signs, fence post or power lines, change your perspective. Get in closer in order to hide the unwanted object or simply compose the photo from a participants point of view.

In this photo both the vehicle and the hill have a lot of Nose Rom and Head Room. The hill is part of the story so it benefits from a little head room as well. Notice how the photo is pleasing to the eye, balanced and tells a story.


In this photo the vehicle and the hill have less head room, there is more Foot Room and the Nose room is the same. Notice how the photo is OK but compared to the first photo, its missing that wow factor.


In this Photo both the hill and the vehicle have little Head Room, Lots of Foot and Nose Room. Notice how the photo feels out of balance. If you hadn’t seen the other two photo crops. you would just think this was a cool picture. but it lacks the ability to inspire and evoke the emotion the first and even the second photo did. This photo doesn't tell a story, it makes you ask questions.


The original photo used for this example was taken from an Observers Perspective point of view. Everything in the photo is the subject, it all ties in to tell a story but how we frame the shot, how we position the subject items in relation to each other can make the target audience feel awe or nothing at all. In Overlanding we sometimes have to work hard to angle the vehicle just right in order to take advantage of not only the background but the available lighting as well. If you are driving around scenic locations keep an eye out for spots that will help tell your story. Be prepared to turn the vehicle around or to come back when the sun is in a different location. Don't be afraid to experiment, that shot you thought was not worth the trouble might be the best one you take.

 
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Pazuzu1991

Rank IV

Advocate II

1,078
Overlanding and the rule of thirds

!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!! !!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!! !!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!
 

Pazuzu1991

Rank IV

Advocate II

1,078
Colors, Lights and Shadows

!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!! !!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!! !!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!!!!!!Do not post yet, Not done!!!!
 
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Pazuzu1991

Rank IV

Advocate II

1,078
Overlanding Photos Do's & Dont's and Depends

Look at the photo below, this composition was not an accident; it was a deliberate list of choices. The vehicle was turned around, the headlights were turned on to draw the eye to the truck in order to counteract the light falling on the hills behind the vehicle. The wheels were turned to insinuate motion and a direction of travel. I stood in that specific spot to tie in the road to the truck, alluding to having just traveled from the interesting rock formations in the background. I chose the vertical height relative to the vehicle to put the natural horizontal lines of the background close to the nine box horizontal lines of the rule of thirds grid. This photo was staged. I drove trough this area earlier and chose the location because of the backdrop and because I strongly suspected the sun would cast this kind of effect on the hills. If you look near the tires you will notice tire tracks, evidence of me turning the vehicle several times order to get the angle just right. Even the twilight was planed for.

The Photo is not a fake, I did in fact drive up and down that hill. And I did in fact come from those interesting rock formations. I did in fact go in the directions the tires were pointed, and I did need my headlights by the time I was done taking the shot. But I deliberately chose to position the vehicle in combination with the background in order tell that story. Keep your photos interesting. Don't be afraid to make the necessary changes in order to capture what you are experiencing or seeing. The quality or type of camera won’t make your photos better or good, your creativity and perspective will. Here is a short list of the most important Do's & Don’ts and Depends




In photos, we are naturally drawn to people's eyes or in the case of Overlanding vehicles the grill and bumper area. Take advantage of this to tell your story, in the lower photo, you have a pretty good idea of what the young model is about to do.

Do focus your camera on the grill emblem or the lights.
Don't forget to allow for Head, Foot and Nose room at or near an intersecting corner on the rule of thirds grid. This will give the vehicle a clear focal point within the composition making it the star of your shot.


Give yourself time, this shot is a crop from an original taken for Toyota Tennessee, its staged, the driver drove up until we got just the right angles. Then we waited for the rain to stop and the fog to come in.

In Overlanding we get into some precarious spots when off road, especially when traveling in groups. The normal tendency when someone gets in trouble is to go crazy taking pictures of everything or not taking pictures at all. Neither approach is good.

Do go into the Spectator style of shooting. Take your time but hurry, set up your shot and wait for it to come together, think ahead. For example, If someone is going to winch out, get the scene composition ready for capture, snap when the person turns around with the winch cable in their hand. Remember you are in Spectator mode, so capture the scene not the event.
Depending on the situation, you might be able to shoot from the Participants perspective. If this is the case get in close, and then get in really close, isolate your subjects, take shots of the equipment, any damage that might have occurred, and of the faces. Mix it up, take your shots and step away, after you have enough shots go into Spectator mode and tell the whole story.
Don’t go around taking a bunch of pictures in hopes that one comes out good. Remember rules for composition, shoot from the Spectator or Participant perspective, Head Room Nose Room and Foot Room, and rule of thirds.
Don’t ask if its OK to take pictures. Out of sight out of mind, if you have to ask the answer is No, later when things calm down you can ask the involved parties if you can use the photos. Just remember to hurry up, take your shot and start helping.


We sometimes want to be part of a scene but didn't bring anything to help us take that shot. You have options, but like always, get creative, you’re a big tough adventurer Overlander, surely you can figure out a way to steady your camera. A rock an empty Fiji water bottle and a bungee cord made this possible, I call it a DK rig.

Do ask for help, ask someone to take your picture, if there is a particular effect you want, put your camera in that setting and ask the person to take your shot.
Do bring a small Tripod, it can double as a working or camp light stand.
Do get in close and assume a Participants perspective if there are lots of very interesting things, each photo will tell a story from the point of view of your subject.
Do be patient, if you have a chance to come back to a location, shoot it from both angles.
Depending on your location, taking photos or even stopping might be a bad idea, even e legal. Know the rules before you take photos of high security facilities or building with razor wire fences and lots of signs.
Do be mindful of the sun. The sun moves across the sky and changes the way landscapes look as it travels from east to west. Ask yourself, will this photo look better when the sun is on the opposite side?
Do stage your shots. Staged is not the same as fake, in photography to stage a shot means to plan for it in advance. Wait for that pivotal moment were all the elements come together to capture what you had envisioned in your mind. Photography is a creative process.
Do chimp. Chimping is what amateur photographers do when they are taking photos, after every shot, they look at what they captured. Pros scoff at chimps, but lucky for you, you’re not shooting a wedding or baseball game. Until you master your camera and composition, chimp away.
Do take the time to examine your scene, think about what you want to share, what made you want to take the picture, try and isolate that object.
Do consider how your photos will be viewed. If you have 100 cool pictures, all showing the same backdrop, from the same angle, they start getting a bit boring and you will lose the attention of your audience. Mix it up between the Observer and Participant perspectives. Get some creative shots in, and limit your release to no more than 5 similar photos of the same place.
Do set up a timer photo. If you want to appear in your photos, focus, set the timer and go pose. Alternatively you can capture your reflection in windshields, water or mirrors.
Don’t do selfies, they are cliche, boring and lack all manner of creativity. You are an adventurer; problem solving is part of your sport. Figure out a way. I’ve used my Hilift handle as a monopod a few times.
Don’t try and capture everything in one shot. If everything is important, nothing is important, chose a subject of interest and frame the photo around the subject. Use the rules and create an awesome picture.
Don’t shoot flat photos. A flat photo is a picture that has no one element that stands out. A lot of times like when trying to capture landscapes we can easily fall in this trap. Look for a specific landmark and make it your focus point. If you can, get closer to the subject. It will help it stand
out.
Don’t take mindless photos. Plan your shot, think about what you want to say, and look for that in your composition. Imagine you only have 3 shots you can take, make them count.
Don’t take pictures of injured of deceased people. Unless you intend to turn those over to law enforcement. This is not illegal; it’s just in poor taste. It is not representative of our sport.
Don’t spray and pray. If you have to take 500 photos in hopes of one coming out, you are wasting your time. Slow down, think, compose, chimp, compose, shoot, repeat as necessary.
Don’t do selfies, Just don't
Don’t do selfie sticks. Seriously… its has now become so cliche and will sap any seriousness from your photo. The theme of the photo won’t be that you discovered the ark of the covenant while exploring in Utah, the only thing people will talk about is your selfie stick.
 

Michael

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As Overlanders we all share in a passion for gear, vehicles and wilderness, that passion drives us to venture far into nature in search of wild and remote locations in which to test our skills, knowledge and equipment. The promise of solitude and unfamiliar locations motivates us to go further and seek ever increasing extreme conditions in order to satisfy that peculiar yearning shared by all adventure seekers. Its hard for us to verbally express the mix of emotions that this wanderlust invokes in us. Often when trying to explain why we do what we do and why we need the things we need in order to do that thing, we come across as a bit crazy or obsessed. What if I told you there is a way to show people what you feel? A way to invoke in them a similar feeling of adventure and wonder. Simply put, the answer is media, photos and or video.

In this series of tutorials I hope to share with you some easy techniques and different visual approaches to composing your photos. These tips are not camera specific, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. This series of tips will build on each other, and if properly employed they will become second nature. I wont be discussing digital editing because that is a whole different bag of potatoes. In the end, its better to have an effectively composed photo that suffers a bit from poor lighting, than a perfectly edited photo that suffers from ineffective composition. Lets get started…

Why are you taking the photo? The answer, to tell a story. Think in holistic terms, what is the trip about? What are you trying to show? who's is coming with me? Can the setting be changed to best suit the lighting conditions? what possible changes in perspective can I exploit? Its hard to imagine the effects a few feet of elevation have in composing a photo. A step to the right or the left might make the difference between a great photo or a just OK photo. Lighting is tricky, but there are a few rules that can help, none more important than, you cant move the sun, but you can sure use a flash, reflector or wait it out. If those aren’t options, can you turn the vehicle around for a better profile, can you switch positions to take the best advantage of the available light?




In this set of photos you can see the effects of moving a little to the left or right has on the composition of the final shot. Lori moved in a lateral motion in relation to the vehicle. The elevation was the same. Notice the lines on the road for reference. The top photo has a sense of adventure and excitement to it due to the road. A few feet to the left gave the vehicle a more interesting sense of purpose. The second photo is boring and lacks a story.


In many action sports like Kayaking, Snowboarding or Mountain biking, showing the subject in action helps convey the sense of adventure, danger and excitement we were feeling in that moment. Overlanding however, is unique in that you can show the vehicle on its own and still evoke the emotion of adventure and danger you are trying to convey. Try putting a snow board or a mountain bike on a scene by themselves. Yes you can get creative and artistic in the portrayal but the photos will lack the raw visual impact of putting a rider on them and capturing the photo mid action. An Overland vehicle has this raw visual impact for the simple fact that its there. The background matters, make it work for you. Use the rule of thirds and visual angle to create a scene of pure adventure.

If at all possible the vehicle should be positioned so the shadow is towards the back of the vehicle. Ideally you want a shadow that is nearly invisible, this can be achieved during sunset or sunrise, what photographers refer to as the golden hour.

In this set of photos, my fiancé took a series of shots of the same vehicle in the same location, a few seconds apart. The only thing that changed was how high she was off the ground. In other words, the only thing that changed was her vertical orientation in relation to the vehicle. Notice the effects on the background and the perspective of the vehicle as she moved from the high to the low camera angle. Notice the background, pay attention to how it becomes an integral part of the photo, and how it helps tell a story. What are you trying to say with the photo. In a landscape photo, the background is just as important as the subject. It can be argued that every element of the photo has to work together to tell the story you want to tell.






Lori changed her relative vertical distance to the subject by two feet in each photo. Noting else was changed. Notice the difference in perspective and how the vehicle seems to pop out of the photo in the last picture.

Look all around before you settle on a camera angle to tell your story. Choose a perspective point of view, in other words, are you a participant or are you observing the action. This is important because it will help narrow down how you frame your photo in order to tell your story. If you are taking the photos from an observers point of view, you want to use wide shots and capture as much of the overall setting as possible. If you are shooting from the participants point of view, your shots need to be in close and from angles others would normally not see or would have difficulty seeing. In Overlanding you can use both perspectives but you should be careful to not try and compose from the wrong point of view. For example, don't try and compose a landscape shot from the participant perspective or vice versa.

Composing from the observers perspective is the hardest style to master. You need to think of framing your photos in the same way as if you were looking at a post card. You are trying to tell a broad story with this shot. The rule of thirds and paying attention to lighting is a must and will make or break the shot. You are zoomed out so your subject is everything you framed. This is how you show scale and give a sense of wilderness. Get creative; harsh sunlight is actually a plus for this style of shooting. The hard shadows that the light makes add texture and depth to the landscape and can become a focal point. For example a large shadow cast by a vehicle can be used to break shapeless sand mounds and add a sense of scale.

In this photo, I used the road to convey scale and tie in the elements, the Kayak and the Bike combined with the mountains in the background are all tied in by the road. Looking at this photo will subconsciously impart the feeling of adventure and the unknown.

Composing from the participant perspective is marginally easier, kind of. When you are shooting action sports from the participant point of view, you want to try and isolate your subject. The goal is to give a hint of whats going on while capturing a specific event as it relates to a specific subject. The subject tells the story. You can use this technique if the background is not particularly interesting or appealing. Its perfectly ok to get in close, get your subject in focus and blur out the background. You can also focus in close to specific components like bumpers tires or winches for example, to give a sense that something is going on. Use your imagination here, the closer you get to the subject the sharper it is and the blurrier the rest of the frame is. With this approach, you leave a lot to the imagination of the observer, if executed properly you can make a parking lot look like an exotic location.

If you are shooting straight into a vehicle, shoot from a high position or a really low perspective and get as close as possible, this will take advantage of the imperfections on the lens resulting in interesting and grandiose photos.
Any chance of getting the images uploaded using the attach features of this site so they don't expire? Thank you!

M
 
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