The bucolic setting at the Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda presented a picture-perfect opportunity Thursday for photographers of all levels to get tips from the pros.
"We're beekeepers and we want to learn how to photograph insects outdoors -- hopefully not indoors," joked Annie Rubino of Carol Stream, a self-described basic photographer. She and her husband, Dan, were among about 100 people who signed up for the Daily Herald's subscriber event featuring instruction, advice and stories behind the photos from award-winning photographers.
"I've been taking pictures since I was a little kid," said Lake Villa resident Dave Barnes.
"I was looking for any education that could make me take better pictures."
The newspaper has been hosting events of varying types for subscribers each month for the past two years. Thursday's session was the annual get-together focused on photography, with George LeClaire and Bob Chwedyk, national and state award-winners with nearly half a century of combined experience at the Herald, giving presentations.
They were joined by photo chief Jeff Knox and staffers Paul Valade, Laura Stoecker and Gilbert Boucher, who fanned out on the grounds of the Lake County Discovery Museum at Lakewood to answer questions and offer suggestions to attendees. The museum, which is part of the Lake County Forest Preserve District, was a partner in the event.
"It's a way for readers to connect with the names they see in the paper every day," said Eileen Brown, director of strategic marketing and innovation.
"Plus, it's a way for us to connect with our readers. And, they learn something."
Tom Wilson of Mount Prospect learned to drop the ISO setting to capture the movement of cattails along the lake, for example.
LeClaire, who teaches at various park districts and libraries, said using the white balance settings, such as for sun or clouds, will improve the vibrancy of photos. He also advocates paying attention to all the elements in a shot.
"The difference between taking a good picture and a great picture is the background. It's a little bit different way of looking at photographs," he said.
Chwedyk, who has photographed six presidents and an array of celebrities, says 90 percent of the subject matter involves people.
"What it comes down to is you have to become familiar with the camera you're using. I try to keep it as simple as possible," he told Barnes. Chwedyk said he concentrates on compositions -- strange juxtapositions, silhouettes or other arrangements that can make an impact.
Novices and more experienced photographers appeared to appreciate the opportunity.
Dave Taggert, a retired police officer from Carol Stream, said photography has been one of his main post-work avocations.
"You can be doing this for years and you're going to pick something up," he said.