Rockies Insider Guide to outdoor photography with Larry Stanley Part III

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010

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Shooting nature in the winter can be majestic and peaceful.

Larry Stanley has been a professional shutterbug for almost 30 years, capturing everything from weddings to giant grizzly bears. And while snapping his home surroundings in Montana, Stanley has run into his fair share of encounters with storms and wet adventures.

Here’s another Insider with a nature photographer spilling some important tips on shooting in storms and rainy weather.

Important tool: garbage bags

The most important and useful tool to pack, says Stanley, are three or four giant garbage bags. Outdoor photographers running into rainstorms can benefit from simply slipping camera equipment into a plastic bag to avoid drenched lenses.

“And the bags also come in handy if you didn’t bring proper rain gear. Put your arms and head through it and you’ve got something to keep yourself warm,” says Stanley. “I’ve definitely done that before.”

The reward for sticking it out in Rocky Mountain rainstorms is usually a worthy gain. Stanley says that storms rarely last longer than 45 minutes, and by the end there’s amazing light and a high incidence of rainbows.

“Those are the kind of shots you really want,” says Stanley. “It’s a great bonus for outdoor wedding photography too.”

Keeping the lens safe: with Ziplocs and electrical tape

Aside from trash bags, Ziploc bags can be even more beneficial when used as a water-resistant camera container. Stanley suggests cutting a hole about 1.5 inch in diameter and stretching the hole to fit around the camera lens being used.

“You can be in the rain and shoot, and the only thing that gets wet is the front part of the lens. It’s a great trick,” says Stanley.

Stanley says to add some electrical tape around the lens to seal the bag to the camera and it works like a charm, not just in rainy conditions but also in whitewater rafting, unless you get thrown into the water of course…

To ensure the lens stays protected, the finishing touch would be to always use a filter on the front of the camera. This way, Stanley says, if the filter is damaged the photographer can just spend 25 dollars on a new filter instead of a bigger chunk on a new lens.

Shooting in winter

Aside from shooting in Rocky Mountain storms, Stanley admits that national parks during the winter bring a majestic charm to nature photography.

“I live just above Yellowstone National Park, and in the winter the populous that visit is a fraction compared to the four or five million who come during summer,” Stanley says. “It’s like a winter wonderland with all the snow geese, buffalo and elk.”

Even accessing the park at all can be a bit more difficult in the winter, as getting to lodges sometimes require visitors to snowmobile or cross country ski to the lodges. This ensures an even more peaceful and uncrowded setting to shoot in.

“It’s really an amazing place to photograph; it’s like another world, Stanley says.

Staying creative with photography

In the end, however, Stanley says the best places and conditions to shoot is a matter of seeing creatively from the lens, adding “It’s a matter of seeing, it’s about a person’s eye.”

There’s no good or bad place and condition to shoot, as Stanley recalls fellow photographers who can walk into plain fields of grass or urban areas full of graffiti and grab unexpected images.

“Sometimes as humans we get a tunnel vision. I recommend to my students to look beyond and really see,” says Stanley.

“Sometimes I suggest drawing, painting, listening to other types of music. Something to exercise your ability to perceive more than you normally do.”

Stanley has dabbled in several photography specialties, from food to weddings and the natural outdoors. As a photographer who has lived and breathed Montana and the wilderness for 23 years, is pleased to pass on his useful tips and Insider advice to outdoor photographers worldwide.

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