No Tripod, No Problem

Classes show how to get stunning nature shots with a phone

Photographer Buddy Morrison captures a panoramic view with just his phone. At right, a crisp closeup Morrison took in the conservatory garden at Biltmore.

Smartphones with built-in cameras are supposed to be the amateur photographer’s best shot at getting frame-worthy pictures.

Small. Convenient. High tech. Multiple lenses on the back, another on the front, and bells-and-whistles options galore. Just point and click, right? Then why is that picture of the perfect Cornelia Communis (more commonly known as the Dayflower) less than stunning, and a bit out of focus? One can hike half a day for the perfect wildflower shot and have nothing to show for it but a blister and a blur.

“I lead off the class with, ‘Is this a phone with a camera or a camera with a phone?’” professional photographer Buddy Morrison says about his two classes, “Beginner Photos by Phone” and “Advanced Photos by Phone,” scheduled this month.

Photo by Buddy Morrison

Each of these three-hour classes includes classroom time to explore what-all those camera options can actually do, and some moderate hiking to put them to use. There are no age limitations, but past classes have a track record for attracting “older adults without children,” notes Morrison, who also teaches a night photography class using cell phones.

“He’s fun, patient, and personable, and does a great job of answering questions so that everyone understands and is not intimidated,” says Mary Jaeger-Gale, the Park’s general manager. “He takes his students to photograph areas where you don’t have to hike, but folks will have the rest of the day after the class to try out their new knowledge by capturing images from lots of different vantage points in the Park.”

Students don’t have to take the beginners’ class before taking the advanced class, although if they do, “[they’ll] have a good knowledge of how to get the best photos,” says Morrison. The 8000-acre park has about 75 miles of hiking trails that can accommodate most endurance levels. It’s considered to be a nature lover’s paradise, with spectacular views; the big attraction is the 500-million-year-old towering monolith (315 feet), sort of shaped like a chimney, that provides a 75-mile view overlooking Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Morrison doesn’t reveal an official preference for Apple or Android.  Most camera phones, he says, can be great for landscapes and animal close-ups. He teaches “how to take portrait photography and shoot in low and high light,” and suggests good products to enhance any photographic endeavor. But really, the potential is already in hand.

“I try to give them an appreciation of the power that people have in their phone camera.”

Chimney Rock Park, 431 North Main St., Chimney Rock. Buddy Morrison teaches two photography classes, “Beginner ‘Photos by Phone’” (Saturday, April 10, 9am-12pm) and “Advanced ‘Photos by Phone’” (Saturday, April 24, 9am-12pm). Tickets are $25/general, $8/passholders, with discounts for youth ages 5-15. All participants must bring their own phones. Park admission is included in class price. Class size is limited to 15, and advanced registration is required: 

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