I took this picture last week while vacationing in Colorado. The photo is of the Strawberry Park natural hot springs north of Steamboat Springs, Colo.
My host urged me to bring my camera.
After a late start and a bumpy four-wheel drive ride into the mountains, my friends and I arrived. One problem, though: It was getting dark.
As the light was fading, I approached a group lounging in the waters and asked them if it would be OK if I photographed them. That sounds so journalistic of me, even while on vacation. But I love photographing people. And, well, whipping out a camera in a place where clothing is optional can raise some alarm.
So, after they agreed, I begin working the scene.
Since it's so dark I have to do a few things to compensate.
First, open up the aperture. Second, raise my ISO, or camera sensitivity. And third, lower the shutter speed.
This third one is the trick to a lot of low-light photography. If you're using a SLR or a point and shoot, holding the camera still enough at a low shutter speed can be tricky.
The obvious way to correct for this is to turn on your flash and just light everything up. But then this type of picture wouldn't be possible.
This picture was shot at 1/50 of a second. You can easily halve or quarter that speed if you're not comfortable with the way high ISO or high sensitivity looks.
A word of caution, though. The longer the focal length you're using, the less likely you'll be able to shoot at a lower shutter speed. Instead of zooming on something in low light, trying physically moving closer, keep your lens wide and steady your camera.
So here are a couple of tips that I found work, through trial and error:
When shooting pictures, even in broad daylight, keep your elbows in. Press your arms against your body. This keeps your camera much more sturdy, which reduces camera shake. Also, it keeps your elbows from being bumped into by passers-by, which is just annoying.
While some of the most interesting pictures are made from extreme angles, these same angles can be used to steady your camera. If you're already lugging a camera around and photographing, you're not exactly blending in. You might as well lie down on the ground.
Make a triangle out of your elbows and camera and press the camera against your forehead. When you hit the shutter, don't jab at it but gently squeeze, so as not to jerk the camera. You'll be surprised at how slow of a shutter you can shoot while lying down.
Or try setting the camera on the roof of your car for slower shutters. The shiny surface of your car can also act as a mirror and make some interesting reflections. Leaning against a wall and railings are also handy ways to keep the camera steady.