Travel Photographer: Ed Heaton

This experienced shooter and teacher knows the value of being prepared.

Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina.jpg
Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina on a scouting trip for a future workshop. We arrived just at sunrise and fired off several shots. This image is again a 5 shot HDR. Meta data = 28mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/8 sec exposure.Ed Heaton

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Ed Heaton spends his days shooting and teaching others to do the same in workshops that span the entire country. With all those frequent flyer miles under his belt, he knows a thing or two about how to make the most of your photos when you’re away from home.

How did you get into professional photography?

** **I started out in high school and it was a nice fit for me. Eventually, I got away from it, though. Life got in the way. Then I got back into it and with the onset of digital, I could get instant feedback. I’m very technically oriented and it really made sense to me.

What is it that draws you to travel photography?

** **I like to get out. I live out in Lancaster, PA, which is the heart of Amish country, so I don’t have the big mountains and grand landscapes that a lot of the guys have out west. I started going out and shooting barns and buggies and it escalated from there. Now I go all up and down the east coast trying to get what I want. I have been out west to the national parks, too. I love getting around.

Is there one place that stands out in your mind as your favorite place you have shot?

** **The Grand Tetons are my all-time favorite place to photograph. It was one of my first trips out west and when we landed, it was just gorgeous. It was something I was never used to living on the east coast. A close second would probably be the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.

How do you pack when you’re headed into the mountains?

** **People laugh at me, but I like to absolutely load up my bag. I have a pretty big backpack that I carry all the time. I only shoot Tamron lenses now, but I carry everything from fast primes like the 14mm f/2.8 IF to a super zoom like the 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD. I’m looking for everything, though and I like to have everything that I need. It’s getting harder, though. The airlines are really cracking down. I don’t care how much they crack down, though; I never leave home without my tripod.

As zoom lenses got better, have they helped you consolidated a little?

** **I still carry a lot of primes, but I have added the zooms, too (laughs). But, I recently took an instruction group down to South Carolina and I shot the majority of the trip with a Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD zoom lens. It did everything for me. It’s very convenient, especially when you’re walking around town. I’m very methodical about how I do things. I regularly use a tripod with a cable release. It may not be an f/2.8 piece of glass, but it looks just as good.

Your photographs of moving water look fantastic. What is your approach for shooting them?

****You want to get out on a nice overcast day. It’s hard to make good water scenes in the bright midday sun. I use a slow shutter speed and a polarizer to cut the glare off of the water. A lot of my water stuff is actually shot while I’m standing in the creek. I don’t stand on the edge a lot if I don’t have to. I tend to shoot with a wide angle, mostly the Tamron 17-35MM F/2.8-4 Di LD now that I have moved to a full-frame body. A nice wide angle really helps exaggerate the scene. A lot of those creeks aren’t nearly as big as they end up looking in the photos.

Have you ever dropped any gear in the drink?

****I sure have [laughs]. I can laugh now, but at the time I definitely wasn’t laughing. I dumped a body and lens into the creek one year and it was tough to swallow.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make when they’re shooting?

****A lot of people really don’t look at a scene. They’ll get to a spot, up comes the camera and they start firing off images. Many people just don’t see the light and don’t know how to capture it. They also won’t work a scene. It’s one shot and done, then they’re on to the next place.

Do you tend to spend a lot of time trying to get specific images out of locations?

****I do. I’ll do repeats. I may go to one place four or five times before I get the best light and the best location. I, like many photographers, have sat for hours in a scene just waiting for the light to be right. I have a stool that I carry with me so if I need to sit and wait for a scene, I’m comfortable.

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.jpg
Sunrise at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. I left my house 3:30 am in order to be in DC at 5:30am to get a good location ahead of the masses shooting the cherry blossoms. I waited an hour and a half on location for sunrise and was happy with my image! Meta data = 42mm, ISO 100, f/22, 1/6 secEd Heaton
Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.jpg
Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Again I had a workshop group all setup shooting this scene. Shot with a Tamron 18-270mm lens. Meta data = 32mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.jpg
Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, during a workshop last spring. I was on the very edge of the creek waiting for the light to soften and glow. I used my Tamron 18-270mm lens. Meta data = 30mm, ISO 100, f/22, 15 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Tulip Walk at Longwood Gardens.jpg
Tulip Walk at Longwood Gardens. I made this image in light rain last week. Most photographers don’t shoot in the rain but I get some of my best images in the rain and foul weather. Meta data = 85mm, ISO 100, f/22, 1/2 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Eastern Pennsylvania at sunrise.jpg
This was made in eastern Pennsylvania at sunrise using my Tamron 28-300mm. I had a great sky which really helped to make the image. Meta data= 28mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/2 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Lancaster County, PA.jpg
Lancaster County, PA as a storm front was rolling through. I sat and waited for the best clouds for over an hour. Come to find out there was a tornado just north of where I was during this shot. I used my Tamron 18-270mm lens. Meta data = 46mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/30 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Clingman's Done in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.jpg
Clingman's Done in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had a workshop group on location before sunrise and waited until the sun started to make an appearance. This was a 5 shot HDR (high dynamic range). I use my 18-270mm lens. Meta data = 130mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/6 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina.jpg
Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina on a scouting trip for a future workshop. We arrived just at sunrise and fired off several shots. This image is again a 5 shot HDR. Meta data = 28mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/8 sec exposure.Ed Heaton
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