Outdoor Outpost

With summer here, it’s time once again for our First Annual Summer Vacation Tips series, in which we explore questions such as where to go on vacation, what to realistically look for in a service station restroom, and how many Milk Duds a Dachshund can eat before he loses it in the back seat. Also this week we will attempt to determine just how far Dad would drive without stopping, if cars never ran out of gas. Don’t thank us. It’s our job. The most important thing to remember while on vacation is to carry a camera at all times, hanging from a strap around your neck. This identifies you as a tourist, and lets the locals know you have money to spend on valuable souvenirs, such as T-shirts that say ‘My Third Cousin Went To Salt Gap, Texas, And All I Got Was This Lousy Ash Tray.’ Besides, your trip must be properly documented, so that you will be prepared to bore your friends and neighbors to death for months to come with vacation slides. This is the best defense against being invited over to see THEIR vacation slides. To begin with, you need to decide what type of camera to buy. I recommend a cheap one, since you’ll be packing it all over creation, leaving it in your car during the hot summer months, spilling snow cones on it, and dropping it into the Grand Canyon. So the less you spend on your camera, the less you’ll be out when it gets lost or broken. Once you have your camera, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the various buttons, knobs, doors and switches it has. This is a mistake. The less you know about your camera, the less chance there is that you’ll ruin it via some bonehead consumer move, such as loading it with film. But since we’ve decided on an inexpensive model, you can do what you want. There should be an owners’ manual in the box your camera came in, unless you bought it from a guy named Ace who operates on a street corner. You can get a good deal on a camera this way, and I highly recommend it, especially if you plan to break or lose your camera fairly quickly. Another reason to buy a cheap camera is that, the more a camera costs, the more buttons, knobs and switches it will have on it. Personally, I prefer the type of high tech camera where, when the film is exposed, you send the whole thing back in to have the pictures developed. Some of my photographer friends, on the other hand, like lots of doodads. The camera manufacturers know this, and are constantly working to make their cameras better, in terms of how much they can charge you for them. Yashica, I understand, has a model on the drawing board that will have more gizmos than space shuttle Columbia. Professional photographers will have to go to a special school, probably in Japan, just to learn to put the batteries in. They’ll love it. Before you can load your camera, you’ll need to decide which kind of film you want to use. Brand names make no difference, since all the film in the world is made at the same factory, and different companies just put their stickers on it. The difference is determined by the number on the film box. Your basic choices are 100, 200, and 400. This number is extremely important, because the number tells how many pictures you will have to take, on average, before you get one to come out fairly clear. I always buy the 100 film. The odds are better. After you’ve loaded your camera, you’ll want to start taking pictures immediately. The real photographers all say you need to take lots of pictures so you can get used to your camera. This is a good idea. After several rolls of film you should be able to determine, by carefully examining your prints, which side of the camera should be aimed at the subject and which side should be aimed at your face. The first rule for taking really high quality photographs is: take the lens cap off. You’d be surprised how many people forget this basic rule. You’d also be surprised how many pictures would have come out better if the lens cap had been left on. Framing your picture is very important to photo quality. I like a woodgrain frame with an understated border, but use your own judgement. The framed picture should be hung at eye level, preferably in a closet, so as to offend the least number of people. You should also try to take your pictures so that your subject is pretty much in the middle of the print. This can be difficult to accomplish, particularly if your subject won’t hold still. Wildlife photographers have a lot of trouble in this area, which is why most of the wildlife pictures you see in books and magazines these days are taken inside taxidermy studios. Once you get comfortable with your camera, you may want to try using some of the pros’ tricks, such as special filters which attach to the front of the camera lens. There are polarizing filters, vulcanizing filters, pasteurizing filters, and total filters, which are referred to as ‘lens caps.’ After a while you may want to move up to using a tripod, which was invented by a photographer who had someone to carry his equipment for him. If you have to carry your own stuff, leave the tripod at home. Those things are a pain in the neck to pack around. With a little practice, and thousands of dollars worth of film, you should be taking excellent pictures in no time. When you get your vacation prints back from the developer you’ll be quivering with anticipation to see how they came out. I can help you out there. They’ll all be colorful, horizontal streaks. Next year, see if you can get Dad to stop the car once in a while . . . Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and world-renowned photographer. For a glossy 8 X 10 closeup of his left index finger, write to PO Box 564, Mason, Tx 76856 or hemphill@towa.org

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