Photographing the beauty of Lake Tahoe
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This article is adapted from the summer 2017 edition of Tahoe Magazine, a joint publication of the Sierra Sun, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe Action. The magazine, which features loads of features and advertisements about all that the Tahoe summer has to offer, is on newsstands now across Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Reno. Go to bit.ly/2saQFbM to read it online, and be sure to pick up a copy today!
The largest and third deepest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe, is as gorgeous as it is mysterious, drawing visitors of all walks of life to bask in its glory.
Trekking the trail systems, floating on the water’s surface and appreciating the intricacies of nature provoke an instant state of relaxation, creating momentous occasions you’ll want to remember.
So, naturally, snap a photo.
All too often, however, snapshots don’t reflect the majesty of what lies before us; thankfully, two Tahoe photography experts have shared their insight on the best techniques to capture images at scenic stops around the region — both for social media and artistic purposes.
Local social media expert Britt Hobart has a keen eye for images that showcase the area’s unique beauty and recommendations for how to convey your message to followers online. Chris Bartkowski is a local photographer and owner of Generikal Designs; his expert tips will have you shooting like a professional on any adventure.
The two offer hints on scouting, shooting and editing photos, based on their passion for nature and experience capturing its beauty. The next time Lake Tahoe’s scenery catches your eye, keep in mind the following tips and most importantly, enjoy the hunt for “the shot.”
Choose the Perfect Location
Partial to the North Lake area, the East Shore is a fantastic spot to get “the shot.” It has such amazing colors, not only in the water, but also in the surrounding scenery.
The Sand Harbor area, past Secret Cove, is also a lovely area to hike around, boasting breathtaking views. Speedboat Beach, which basically straddles the North Shore CA/NV state line, is a location that’s easier to find and relatively easy to access.
Shooting photos in Tahoe has no shortage of beautiful locations; even just a quick drive around the lake can yield gorgeous shots.
Mix it up: Whether it be adding models to the shot, trying to find unique lighting, or even hiking for a unique angle, the best personal challenge is to get a different angle at any popular location.
Choosing a location can be challenging when shooting outside — thus time of day, weather and other factors all come into play.
Have the Right Tools
iPhone cameras are fantastic for social media.
Pro-tip: Optimize online content by using a Wi-Fi adapter with a digital camera, which allows the photographer to send images to his or her phone instantly.
Of all the equipment, the best camera to shoot with is the one you have with you. Use phone cameras for social media, documentary and video purposes.
Pro-tip concurred: To step up your technique, most digital cameras these days have a Wi-Fi mode, which provides the ability to shoot high quality photos on a camera before sending them to a phone for social media posting or sending to friends and family on the fly.
Tell a Story
Be a sun-chaser: A photographer’s mindset is all about lighting; usually at sunrise or sunset the lighting is perfect, but you can find it midday for a gorgeous shot. Capture shots around great lighting — shooting the sun’s rays through a tree, for example.
Have a good subject like a tree or mountain with a beautiful background, whether it’s the lake or people paddleboarding — try and make the photo tell a story.
Envision what the result should be when setting up a shot; figure out what emotion will be felt when viewing the image: Will it be dramatic, exciting, relaxing or something else? This helps determine what camera, lens and setting to use.
If you’re able to convey a bit of emotion and story-telling in a single image, it will yield a more interesting photo.
Scenery vs. Subjects
When capturing people, go for candid, in-the-moment shots. It tells a beautiful story because it’s not posed, it’s not fake. You’re capturing someone enjoying nature, the light, everything the mountains have to offer — everything is natural.
Let people envision themselves in your photo. Including your feet in the shot gives people the feeling that they could be there. Rather than directing your face to the camera, back-of-the-head shots allow people to envision themselves there and think, “I could do that, I could be on top of that mountain staring at that beautiful place.”
When shooting outdoors, the time of day drastically impacts the look of your image: usually sunrise and sunset will yield best light for an interesting image. The type of camera will also impact the look of your image: Try to keep options with you for the story you’re trying to tell and if all else fails, use your camera phone!
Reach your Friends
For the most part when captioning or tagging online, less is more: be short, sweet and to the point. But sometimes on Instagram, telling a story and having a longer paragraph can be insightful and real for people to connect to.
Keep hashtags simple and relatable; overly customizing tags means viewers have less to choose from. For example, a sunset photo with “#sunset” will result in thousands of images and the opportunity to meet new people who find the image through a simple hashtag. Try #nature, #travel, #mountains, #laketahoe, etc.
Avoid clichés and use relevant, descriptive hashtags for better viewing capacity of your images. It’s beneficial when there is a bit of a story tied to an image; viewers love to get a bit of an inside look to your perspective on life.
Recommended Apps AND Gadgets
Lightroom is super user-friendly and an easier approach for some who might find Photoshop scary. The app features different temperature tone features and the ability to create preset filters on a desktop and transfer them to the phone.
Snapseed is great for brightening colors in photos when editing on a phone.
Instagram filters can sometimes be overdone or oversaturated. Their tools are helpful in adjusting the color warmth, but don’t go overboard.
Always remember before editing: less is more. Is the image already beautiful the way it is?
Tripods, monopods, stabilizers, action cameras lenses, Bartkowski has them all. The most important tip: Keep your camera kit simple, organized and efficient. The easier it is to get out and shoot, the more productive you’ll be.
To get the most out of your camera phone there are many apps to tweak and edit your image. Camera+ is a good start to learn different settings and techniques.
A quick search in the App Store will lead you to tons of options, one of which is Mextures for post-processing. It’s a good way to add mood and texture to your shot.
You can even now get a version of Photoshop on your phone for ultimate post-production of your images.
And Always Keep in Mind…
Have your own style; be true to what you like and what you want to portray in your photos.
Remember, “less is more.”
Keep it simple and enjoy being outside. Oftentimes one gets caught up in the social media part and yeah, it’s great, but in the present you’re on a beautiful hike — take a second to be there and take it all in.
Shoot as much as possible.
Shoot with different cameras, lenses and locations, and don’t be afraid to explore all sorts of different techniques. If you shoot enough, you’ll eventually find out what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll eventually start to develop your own sense of style.
Most of all have fun and shoot what you enjoy. If you shoot what you love, you’ll have no problem staying motivated to get out and get the shot!