Sunday, October 03, 1999

Camera tips for Tall Stacks

Sunlight, position important to get best photo results

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Of course you'll take your camera to Tall Stacks, and when you do, you'll be shooting with the pros who are capturing the event for newspapers and magazines.

        We asked two professional photographers for their advice on taking pictures at Tall Stacks.

        “Go early. Go late,” said Enquirer photographer Michael E. Keating. “The early and late hours of the day are when you get that golden glow of light that makes everything look so beautiful.”

        Commercial photographer J. Miles Wolf, author of the picture book Tall Stacks (Wolf Publishing Co.; $26.95), adds, “The best shots that give the flavor of the event are the ones that show clusters of boats together. In the morning and evening most of the boats are in the harbor. In the middle of the day many of them are out on cruises.”

        Think about the direction of the sun, which crosses the sky to the south.

        “You'll want the sun behind you, over your shoulder,” Mr. Wolf said.

        “Shoot from the Kentucky side to get the best light,” said Mr. Keating. But, Mr. Wolf warned, “The boats are a good distance from the Kentucky shore, so if you shoot from Kentucky, you'll need a long telephoto lens.”

        The solution, Mr. Wolf says, is to shoot from a bridge. “It's best from the Newport (Taylor-Southgate) bridge in the morning and from the Suspension Bridge in the afternoon,” he said.

        If you're in a boat, don't forget that the water is moving. “You'll need to use a medium or fast shutter speed so your pictures don't blur,” Mr. Keating said.

        “Don't ignore inclement weather,” Mr. Keating advised. “These boats are historic, and the soft gray light of a cloudy or rainy day often gives them that mysterious look of a ghostly past.”

        Night photos will be best on Thursday.

        That's “Light Up Cincinnati” night when all the downtown buildings will be lit up. Automatic cameras are designed for daylight situations and won't get correct exposures at night. Automatic printing machines at the drug store or supermarket won't be able to make good prints. But night shots are the most dramatic, if you're using a camera with manual settings and you get custom prints.

        “If you're not used to shooting at night, use bracketed exposures, a half second, a second, two seconds,” said Mr. Wolf. “And try to take the night pictures when the boats are in dock.

        “If they're moving in the harbor you'll get blurs at those slow shutter speeds.”

        And forget the flash. The little flash on your camera throws light about 10 feet. It won't light up a river boat.

        Lastly, don't just take pictures of boats. “People are part of Tall Stacks. Take pictures of real people and frame them with boats.

        “Get close-ups of performers and costumed characters,” Mr. Wolf said. “Ask if you can take their pictures. Even the captains will be happy to pose for you, if you ask first.”

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