Waiting for the right moment creates stunning images
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Behind the lens with Nancy Shields
Moss won’t gather and roots won't grow under the feet of Nancy Shields. Just following her on Instagram (@nochancenanc) shows she is constantly trekking with a camera dangling from her neck. Days off have her snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking or searching for hidden waterfalls and scenic spots of B.C. From Mount Washington to Cumberland to just outside her door, she is creating inspiring, thoughtful and stunning images.
Shields started out as a prairie girl from Camrose, Alta. She spent a few years bouncing around central Alberta and Vancouver Island but now, the camera bag hangs on a peg in a house that overlooks the ocean in Gibson's Landing.
Says Shields after she lists the places she’s lived to date, “I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy. I haven’t finished exploring, so I can’t possibly put down roots. With my job, I can work anywhere.”
The diplomas for Marketing, Communications and Graphic Design are probably in a box somewhere, but the professional photographer certificate from Northland College is her favourite to date. “But...,” says Shields, “I found out early that being a professional photographer wasn’t going to pay the bills. I realized it would be a side gig.”
Her side gig though, has found her contributing photographs to Tourism Nanaimo and reposts on Instagram by powerhouses like Explore Canada and Tourism Vancouver Island. The last couple of years, she has also created calendars that instantly sell out. Not to worry, she does have one planned for 2019 as well.
When Shields isn’t leaping creeks or cruising the trails, she is the content manager for Seekers Media (that would be us). Controlling the content on three very active websites that change daily, that see millions of clicks is a bit like a three-ring circus, but she calmly controls it with confidence.
“By telling myself to stay just a bit longer, I was in the right place. A heron swooped over my head and landed at my feet.”
ZS: What made this photo so special?
NS: That photo was at Pipers Lagoon, about 50 steps from where I lived. It was mid-July, so the evening was long, but I wasn’t getting any photos I was excited about. The sun was starting to set, but I had just told myself that I was not leaving until I’d captured a photo that I was happy with. I went down beyond the cliff side where not too many people go. Suddenly, this heron comes out of nowhere, flies right over my head and lands almost at my feet – and posed. The sun kept setting and the colours on the water and the mountains got richer and richer. The pink in the sky was crazy.
ZS: What are your favourite topics to photograph?
NS: I like to head out for the action shots of people being adventurous and enjoying nature. Capturing people snowboarding or mountain biking are some of my favourites. And, I do love waterfalls, so I’m always hiking the island with my camera.
ZS: You have great photos of waterfalls; how do you capture so much emotion?
NS: I always take my Pentax, so I can capture a lot of detail. I set the ISO and the shutter speed slow, so the camera absorbs more colour and slows down the water. I try to position a person in the photo who is connecting with the waterfall, that helps to make that emotion flow through into the photo. I want people to feel what I’m feeling.
Shields spends many days trekking to find waterfalls to photograph. “They don’t need to be big to be powerful,” she says. “Look for unique features.”
ZS: Where haven’t you been in B.C. that you’d like to photograph?
NS: This last winter season, SnowSeekers did a feature called #SkiNorth and all the stories and images were awesome. I’d really like to head up to Wells and Barkerville to see it and photograph it, too.
ZS: You have close to 25,000 followers on Instagram, how does that make you feel?
NS: It's crazy! It’s like having a small city following me around. I feel very lucky and it makes me try harder to create great images.
ZS: Most people have their smartphone in their pocket when they are out exploring. Do you have any advice for taking great photos?
NS: Take lots of photos, be prepared to wait and keep these ideas in mind:
1: Turn on your photo grid to help keep your image’s horizon straight. To do this: Go to Settings, Photos and Camera and turn the grid option on.
2: Take HDR photos with your camera! This will help you get great sunset shots with lots of contrast and variation in colours. To do this: Tap the HDR setting on the left side of your camera and turn it on.
3: Did you know you can take a photo using your volume buttons? This helps make your phone feel more like a real camera!
4: Tap the area of your composition that you want to be exposed correctly. This works great if you are taking a portrait and their face is in a shadow, but you want to see their face
5: Try editing your photos on your phone with the app called Snapseed. It's created by Google and can turn an unmemorable photo into a keeper!