One of the obvious keys to really great photography is really great subjects; learning how to find them is the problem.
That's where self-taught Costa Mesa photographer and author Carol Leigh, 39, comes in, publishing two newsletters that tell you where to look.
Originally she simply wanted to let her friends know what was happening around town that would make good pictures. In 1979, the newsletter evolved into the National Photo Calendar and is still being published today, every other month. It consists of a calendar of events for photographers around the country. It's filled with such items as antique car shows, ballooning, wind-surfing tournaments and Frisbee events.
"I try to weed out events like quilting bees and the like," Leigh said. "Those things just aren't as interesting as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta."
Leigh now has more than 800 subscribers at $15 a year. It was through that newsletter that Leigh met Nadine Orabona, her business partner.
"The two of us got together and decided to write books for photographers on the best places to take pictures in California," Leigh said.
What resulted were two books, "Photographer's Guide to California" and "Photographer's Guide to Los Angeles." The California guide has sold more than 2,000 copies and the Los Angeles guide has sold about 500. Both books were self-published and cost $12.
Leigh also publishes "Picture This!," a small newsletter for shooters looking for picturesque locations in Southern California. It has a circulation of about 100 and costs $5 a year. It comes out every other month.
One site highly recommended by Leigh is Newport's Back Bay. "The attraction is being close to a wide variety of birds," she said, "and a lot of photographers are interested in shooting birds because it's so easy.
"There's a real good feeling to the place. The other day I went there early in the morning fog. There were spider webs covered with dew. It is just a magical place."
Another popular spot for Leigh is downtown Los Angeles.
"A great location is where the Harbor Freeway goes right by the Bonaventure," Leigh said. "Very few people get off the freeway to see what's there. There are new buildings going up, sleek high rises, a lot of colorful sculptures and fountains."
Leigh also organizes walking tours for photographers. The cost for them is usually between $10 and $20.
One of the tips she stresses to any photographer is to get closer to the subject. "Whether it be a sculpture, flower, bird or building, most novices tend to stand back and just look at the scene, pick up the camera and click a few frames," Leigh said. "That's not the way to do it."
Another key, she says, is to know when not to take a picture, especially with bird photography. "It's easy to get so excited about seeing a particular bird that you immediately start snapping," Leigh said. "And when you get the pictures back, the bird is only a speck among the reeds.
"Know the limitations of your lens, and if the bird looks small in the viewfinder, don't take the picture. It isn't going to get any bigger on the slide."
Leigh's upcoming photo expeditions include: "Holiday Lights," a look at Christmas lights reflecting in the water along the canals of the Naples area of Long Beach on Dec.18; "City Lights/Laser Lights," photographing the city from the Griffith Park Observatory and the Laserium light show on Jan. 7, and "Back Bay Bird Walk," a tour of Back Bay in Newport Beach on Jan. 15. Reservations are required.
For information contact Leigh at P.O. Box 3768, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92628, or (714) 631-7728.