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Taking Pictures of the Missouri
If you plan on photographing Kansas along the Missouri River, then you need to come prepared. Here the Missouri River is a mixture of natural and urban landscapes, offering a dichotomy of photography opportunities. But, you need the right equipment, and you also need a bit of patience.
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Capturing Boaters and Kayakers
Along this stretch of water, kayakers, boaters and even paddle boats sail along the Missouri river. To catch the kayakers going through rapids or simply flying along the river, set your camera to a higher shutter speed like 1/8000, or use the Action or Continuous Shooting mode.
No matter what type of boat you are trying to photograph, you normally have to zoom in from the shore. So, you need both wide angle and a telephoto lens on your trip. Bring a tripod as well, especially for the telephoto shots. If not, the camera will emphasize any little hand shakes or movements, creating extremely blurry or noisy images.
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You also have a few semi-rustic looking bridges that cross over the river. These are a mixture of metal and stone, which can make for interesting shots. Try playing with perspective with bridge shots. As opposed to only taking horizontal shots, angle slightly upwards. Focus on a single section of the bridge. For example, one of the columns as opposed to the area where the traffic actually passes.
Consider taking pictures at sunrise or sunset, especially with the bridge shots. The sun will add natural highlights to the stone of the bridge, creating various patterns of light and dark. Or, frame out the bridge with a tree, flying birds or even the cityscape.
You can contrast the natural with the unnatural. For example, sometimes strange signs like skull and cross bones go up near the river. Place the sign in the corner, and capture a bird in the water or a pier.
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Using Your Equipment
Try not to use your flash. It will reflect off the water, over-exposing your shot. Natural lighting and maybe some warm or cool filters will provide more natural color. Open up your aperture a bit to maybe between f/5 and f/7 for early morning or late afternoon pics. You can also pump up your ISO, but only to about 800. Your pictures will get grainy fast at higher settings.
If the light is too bright, consider using a polarizing filter or just a lens hood to keep some of the glare out of the image. If you can avoid it, don’t photograph when the sun is at its zenith. Even your bridge pictures will look washed out.
The Missouri River is not very active on most sections of the river. Instead, it’s calmer with only light riffles. Calm water is not as interesting as moving water. So, avoid just straight shots on the water. Instead, get reflects of the sun off of the water or fish in the depths. This may be a prime opportunity to capture birds in the water or animals coming to drink, but that depends on how urban the setting is.