Nature has the endless mine of wonders and beauty which we all want to capture. We often get amazed by the stunning nature or wildlife photographs in the popular travel or science magazines. So what’s the secret of taking stunning nature photographs?
Well, as is true for every form of art, photography is something you need to master. Knowledge, practice, creativity, and a good camera are what you need most of the time. Please be aware that this article is not meant for pros. This is targeted to help someone who is just getting started or thinking of getting started.
So which camera? I recommend any entry level DSLR will do the job. May be it is Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji or Pentax. They all produce good cameras. So choose the camera which fits your budget and into your bag. DSLRs feature interchangeable lenses. They all will come with kit lens which is typically about 17–55mm f/2.8-3.5. Those kit lenses are not very useful for nature photography. For nature photography a good 28–105mm and a 100–300mm will work best. And a lens with image stabilization and auto focus will be an added advantage if you shoot wildlife. Oh, also don’t forget a good tripod.
See the Light
Nature photography is a lot about seeing the light. The same spot can look different a different times of the day, depending on the light, presence or absence of clouds, dust, or moisture in the air. So see the light and analyze it in your mind. If you see the light in the morning, it will have a warm golden or yellow tone. Noon is bright with deep shadow—or if the weather is dusty making it less attractive for photo shoots, it will create a haze; evening or afternoon light will be reddish yellow or red. So being able to feel and see the light and choosing your landscape subject or theme based on the lights available is something you need to learn and practice.
Travelling should not be limited to surveying the area but should entail visiting the place in different parts of the year. Once you choose the area, for example, a forest or a valley, walk around as much as possible to find different areas of interest or spots of great natural beauty. Once you identify those spots, you may be able to imagine some interesting compositions in your mind before taking photo.
Also keep in mind that same locations could look different in different parts of the year. For example, in rain, it may look lush green; in winter, it may be dry and dull or in spring, it may be colorful due to bloom time. Also, please remember to take the other elements into account such as birds or butterflies etc.
Taking notes is a good habit for landscape photographers. The notes should include date, time of the year, description of the location and landscape, part of the country and the theme of the photos. They also should include the technical detail of the camera and the settings used. Next time, you can analyze them and find out your shortcomings and find out how to get the best out of a situation.
Compose Your Shot
Composing landscape or nature photography takes a lot of creativity and good observation ability. Sometimes, getting close or far from a subject brings out the best of the subject and its surroundings. For example, if you see a flower, you may like to get close to it to take a close up or you may also include the surrounding bushes or trees to create interesting perspective. Same is true for taking mountains, rivers, or valleys, etc.
Use a Tripod
Using a tripod is a good habit especially when you are taking photos in low light or photos of a fast moving objects (for example, running deer or a flying bird). For low light photography, you may have to use a shutter speed like 1/50 second or higher. If you don’t use a tripod in these occasions, you will surely end up blurring your picture. So carry a tripod whenever possible. Try carbon fiber tripods instead of metal ones, as these are light weight and easier to carry.
Love Nature and Wildlife
If you love nature and wildlife, you will take the photographs from heart, and it will be your passion to bring the best of its beauty and its secrets. So try to develop the love from within by thinking positively about it and reading some great books on nature and wildlife.
Take as Many Photographs as You Can
Take lot of photographs from different angles and distances and using various shutter speeds and exposure settings. You never know which one will create the best effects or which one will bring the best out of that place. For example, if you are taking photos of the sunset, you will notice that within few minutes, the sun is changing its color from golden yellow to red and its shape will get bigger as it drops more toward the horizon. Taking a few pictures in close interval of a setting sun will give you some interesting effects. It will also include changing sky color or color of reflection on passing cloud or water, etc.
See the Works of Great Photographers
I have learned a lot by seeing the great works of some great landscape and wildlife photographers. For example, seeing the work of Ansel Adams will make you think or look at nature from a whole different angle. So see lot of photos. Also keep magazines like National Geographic around.
Believe in Luck and Have Patience
Nature or wildlife photography is sometimes just luck. You may be in a spot for a long time but interesting things may happen after you leave. Often you may see something interesting before you’re ready, and then the moment passes before you can capture the shot. So, yes believe in luck in those cases, as you can’t control the environment or your subjects.
Also have patience while taking wildlife or landscape photos. You may have spotted a bird’s nest but have to wait for hours patiently for the bird to come back to its nest. Similar may be true if you want to spot a tiger or a wild animal.
Good luck and have fun.
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