For me, walking the Land Trust properties not only proved to be a great source for photography and wonderful one-on-one time with my daughter but it also has given me a greater appreciation of the legacy the Land Trust has established today and for generations to come.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
With child-like joie de vivre, find your next great photographic adventure here in Door County—be it barn whispering, steeple chasing or a lighthouse hop—find a passionate focus that will fill you from head-to-toe with a real sense of adventure. It will not only add up to a thematic portfolio of images but will also have the added bonus of a unique “What I Did Last Summer” report to share come September.
When I was in elementary school, even though it was horribly sad when summer vacation came to an end, I loved the excitement of the first week of school. The thrill of a knapsack full of fresh school supplies, brand new sneakers and reconnecting with friends made the sting of returning to the classroom less painful.
My absolute favorite thing during those first days back was hearing all the oral reports on what my friends did over summer break. Clearly, it was an assignment that settled the students into a learning mindset. But for me, early on, it was inspirational (verging on a challenge) to accomplish something over break worth reporting.
Though my elementary days are far behind me, I’m still compelled to plan a summertime adventure that will not only pair nicely with photography but make for a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of summer break.
Last May, while my daughter was still in her last week of school, I resolved to walk all the properties the Door County Land Trust oversees. My hope was that she would join me for at least a handful of the sites.
The numbers fell easily into place. Fourteen weeks of summer vacation with fourteen preserves. Then accounting for the time I’d be out of town—I would double up a couple of the smaller sites and then when there was time, I would revisit my favorites at different times of day.
To lure my teenage daughter into joining me, I started with Washington Island the first week of June with the goal of walking all four trusts there. We had lovely weather and walked about eight miles (that’s almost 20,000 steps) in one day.
By the time September arrived, I had successfully attained my goal of walking all 14 properties and, happily, my daughter accompanied me on more than half of them. It was a great feeling to not only have walked all the trails but with the extra kudos of returning to Little Lake and Three Springs Natural Preserves several times.
My secret as a photographer is that when I’m walking any trail, I always take time to stop, do a 180-degree turn and assess the light on my surroundings in the opposite direction. This habit has allowed me to discover some of my best shots.
Here are some more pro tips to get the best from your photographic adventures.
Become a Discerning Collector
Make a short list of subjects and never pass them by again. I’m fond of ladders, paths, dead trees and agrarian architecture. Find what you love, be it quirky or ubiquitous, pull over, stop in your tracks or take time to seek it out. Continue to compile, as well as edit your list as needed. It will be obvious what is photogenic and what is not.
Carry the Right Gear
I keep my load as light as possible when walking a trail. A tripod is a must for me. It is a great source of stabilization particularly when deep in the woods. My new small Sony RX1RII with a travel-size monopod is a lightweight option without sacrificing megapixels. My iPhone, which gives me the most freedom, is the ideal camera when out walking with a group and never fails to make sharp photos in all types of light.
As for lenses, if the camera I’m carrying has interchangeable capabilities, I will put on a prime, wide-angle lens (either an 18, 24 or 35mm) when shooting a new landscape. I’ll carry a single, longer lens in a cross-body bag (90 or 135mm) for a farther reach. Leaving the rest of my lenses safely in my vehicle to retrieve later if needed.
If you are shooting with the standard rectangle (3:2) ratio consider shooting every shot both horizontal and vertical. This is a great lesson in honing your composition skills.
The eye will naturally follow a line. When making a composition, find a prominent line—be it a curvy creek, the arc of a shoreline or straight edge of a pier—and place it dynamically within the frame. Tweak the organization of the composition so the line takes the viewer “to and through” the scene. Becoming aware of the presence and the impact of lines in your work can be a game-changer.
Your best zoom is using your legs. When shooting, approach your site with a “telescoping mindset.” Begin by framing the scene as a big vista then move in slowly, photographing along the way. This method has never failed me and when something catches my eye, it is satisfying to carry back a number of shot options that you can view on your monitor upon returning home.