Shoot Like a Pro, Part 4

The fourth installment of Scout's five-part series on taking your outdoor photography to the next level.

"Wet and Wild Acadia" by Glenn Nelson

As much as I've tried to drive home the importance of planning and preparation during the first three installments of this series, there are of course times to make the best of what you get.

If you've been paying close attention, you'll have noticed that, in addition to discussing a different scene in a different part of the country, I've been moving through different parts of the day. Yesterday was midday, a time usually spent at lunch. Today, we're looking at the dead of afternoon, a time also better spent doing something else.

A lot of outdoor photographers believe the light gets crappy after about 11 a.m. I'm one of those. Your next stop usually is sunset.

For some reason, during our visit to Acadia National Park (Maine), my daughter and I were out driving Loop Road one afternoon. We decided to stop at one of our favorite, but hard to find locations—Little Hunter's Beach.

At Little Hunter's, there is a cove with granite, tree-lined shores and a cobblestone beach. In other words, in addition to some incoming clouds, most of the prototypical elements usually associated with the Maine coast are present. With the harsh sun spilling between the scattered clouds, I challenged myself to make a picture – making the best of what I got.

I thought about this water shot differently than the rapids scene described on Tuesday. In that one, all the water was moving, so to preserve definition, I didn't want a shutter speed that was too slow. In this case, there was a large enough water mass and its movement was choppy. Because of that, plus my desire to capture some drama from cloud movement, I wanted to go longer on the shutter.

To get there, I started with a polarizing filter, which also helped remove glare from the rocks and cobblestones. To that, I added a two-stop neutral density (ND) graduated filter to balance exposure of the bright sky with the darker land mass and water. Finally, I used a Little Stopper, the six-stop ND filter just introduced by Lee Filters. I might have been able to get where I wanted to go with a three-stop filter, but I'd just acquired the Little Stopper and it was like a shiny, new toy, just begging to be played with.

Besides, it did make things easier. I got three seconds at a reasonable f-stop and, more importantly, I got a dramatic scene out of what could easily have been a drab, unbalanced one. Being able to record movement in the water and the clouds yielded a convergence of the two right on the point of the jutting land mass.

This isn't the best picture I've ever made. But because I know what I had to do to get it, I'm as proud of the result.

Equipment: Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 lens, Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead, Lee Filters circular polarizer, Lee Filters Little Stopper, Lee Filters two-stop ND grad filter.

Settings: 21mm, f8, 3 seconds at ISO 100.

Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5 of this series.

Glenn Nelson was a founding executive at and editor-in-chief during its first six years. More of his work, as well as background and contact information, can be found at

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