Point & Shoot: The Heat Is On

An extreme close-up of a hot stovetop range. Photo by Stephanie daley


Firefighters frame the outside of a burning building. Photo by Mark Cain


This abstract image of the sun rising above clouds was taken through a window of a plane. Photo by Ken Pan


Although there's no real fire in this picture, the woman's red hair resembles flames. Photo by Kori Yarbrough


A great shot of a hot-air balloon. Photo by Pamela Reynolds
There are a number of ways to portray "heat" in a photograph. First of all, you can use color. Perhaps more than any other design element, color determines the mood of your pictures. You can establish the entire mood of your photo by emphasizing a particular color scheme—reds, golds, and oranges are hot and passionate, while greens and blues are calming and cool. Yellow imparts a warm feeling. Your photo doesn't have to literally have flames to spell out "heat"; the abundant use of red can say it for you.

Your subject matter can also convey the idea of heat—flames leaping in a fireplace or a forest fire are very obvious subjects. You can also take a more abstract approach by shooting a close-up of a red-hot stovetop grill, or capturing a large sun in your photo at sunrise or sunset (be careful when viewing the sun through your viewfinder).

For nature lovers, photographing the barren desert can communicate much about heat and the harsh nature of this environment. Cracking mud in dry watering holes or rippling sand dunes with no vegetation are good desert-heat subjects. National Parks like Death Valley offer an abundance of this type of scenery, although you may want to avoid visiting areas like this during the peak of the summer. Desert heat can be brutal at midday, and the light is flat and unattractive.

You can also portray the idea of heat by photographing tropical beaches. Glistening white sands, turquoise water and blue skies add up to postcard-quality images—pleasing compositions are easy to come by. If your compact camera has a built-in zoom lens, use a wide-angle setting when shooting broad views. Be sure to add some elements that will emphasize the tropical aspects of your image, such as a row of beached sailboats, brightly colored umbrellas, or people languishing in the ocean with a tropical drink.

If you're taking pictures in places like the Caribbean or South Pacific where the sea and hillsides are close together, you can climb a hill and shoot down to get angles that aren't available from sea level. When shooting vistas, use the landscape mode on your point-and-shoot to get everything in focus from far to near. When shooting in any outdoor location, plan to take pictures early in the morning or late in the afternoon for best results. The low angle of the sun at these times will give you more-saturated colors, and shadows will give scenes a sense of depth. If you must shoot at midday, use ISO 100 film (or set your digital camera at ISO 100) to work within your camera's available range of shutter speed and aperture combinations.

Tropical beaches and desert sand dunes are very bright and contrasty, and large expanses of light-colored sand can fool your camera's meter into rendering the sand gray in your pictures. If you have a point-and-shoot camera with an exposure-compensation feature, add one full stop to a stop and a half exposure to the suggested settings.

When visiting locales with skyrocketing temperatures, remember to protect your camera equipment. Always bring more film or memory cards (and water) than you think you'll need. It's a good idea to store them in a cooler inside your car. And needless to say, always protect your camera from sand and water. Plastic baggies work well with compact cameras.