EOS World member Mervin Chia shares his personal anecdotes of overcoming the uncooperative elements of environment he recently faced on his outdoor photography trip to New Zealand using his full-frame Canon DSLR camera.

One of the challenges of Outdoor Photography is weathering the environmental conditions. Since this is the quintessential time and the season for Astrophotography and Landscape Photography, it always helps to know when the moon is at its fullest and which locations are most suitable for shooting star trails or the Milky Way.

EOS 6D | F/13 | ISO 200 | 1/30s

There is a plethora of mobile applications today that can help us in planning our locations and deciding the ideal time to shoot when the moon is least likely to interfere with you getting a clear image. Do bear in mind that each season might offer a different look even in the same location, depending where you are traveling to.

However, this was not the case for me on this trip to New Zealand because I was traveling with a group and the dates we had set were based on the availability of the group members. Only two others apart from myself are enthusiasts of the craft. This posed a delicate challenge of having to balance when to be “in the moment” with people and when to capture the moment or the scene.

EOS 6D | F/4 | ISO 3200 | 25s

Even though the exhilaration of outdoor photography is being out there and making the shot, it does not mean not doing your homework. You have to be diligent with itinerary planning and packing the right gear for the trip.

Otherwise it will be too late for you to be bemoaning why you didn’t take your intervalometer with you and then try to figure out how to do long exposure and time lapses without it. Which was what happened to me on this trip.

EOS 6D | F/11 | ISO 50 | 10s

For outdoor photography, you have to make the shot with whatever technical knowledge you have to circumnavigate the problem. Even if it means dialling to ‘Bulb’ mode and pressing the shutter for as long it requires to get the proper exposure. Thus, I had to employ the tricks of the trade, making the best of what I have at hand to make art happen.

EOS 6D | F/18 | ISO 50 | 1s

I finally got down to spending some “me-time” to shoot landscape at Wanaka and was really hoping to get a long exposure shot of the iconic tree standing tranquilly in the water. What I had not realised was that the water level of the lake had been really low for the last few months until I actually saw it the evening of our arrival.

EOS 6D | F/9 | ISO 50 | 25s

After that, I went online to check. At first, I thought the tide was low. But as it is a lake, it is non-tidal. Undeterred, I walked down to the lake the next morning, hoping to witness a miracle and see the tree in the water. However, nothing had changed.

EOS 6D | F/11 | ISO 100 | 1/30s

Looking at all the puddles of water around the tree. I decided to shoot the tree in the water using reflection. I set my tripod down to a low angle so I could get see the tree in the water. If you are really determined to get your shot, then you need to observe your environment and use creativity from an unexpected perspective.

EOS 6D | F/4 | ISO 1600 | 30s

While at Tekapo, I stayed up all night to attempt astrophotography at where the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd is located. I did not manage to get my star trail nor the Milky Way due to a cloudy sky and the moon shining above the Church. Instead I saw the Milky Way in all its glory at Kaikoura the following evening and at Christchurch after that.

EOS 6D | F/4 | ISO 3200 | 30s

As I have photographed birds before, I learn from shooting nature that you have to do your homework yet still leave room for the excitement that comes with not knowing what to expect when you are on location.

EOS 6D | F/4 | ISO 3200 | 100s

You may go home without any good shots. Or you may get that one insane image. Preparation is key to helping you visualise before your shot. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to scout the place ahead of time.

EOS 6D | F/13 | ISO 400 | 1/100s

I am also grateful for my full-frame Canon EOS 6D which is known for its excellent capability to focus subjects under low light conditions up to -3 EV from its centre AF point. It also offered a good level of dynamic range in situations where the scene’s lighting condition is unfavourable.

I would strongly recommend going to sites like 500px and Flickr to get an idea of how the place and its surroundings look like. Once you have an idea, the next thing is to pack for it according to the season you will be on location.

Lastly, enjoy the experience no matter what the environment throws at you.

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