Nature photography covers the shooting of flora and fauna. It means plants and animals, photographed in their immediate environment.
It’s a challenge due to the variety of subjects and movements. But we have everything you need when it comes to nature photography.
Nature photography is a versatile field that presents a unique set of challenges and a vast potential for fascinating stories.
Whether you’re experimenting with the shutter speed to freeze a moving animal, or trying out different depths of field in a close-up of flowers, capturing the beauty of nature takes patience and creativity.
What lenses do you need for nature photography?
There is a famous Boy Scout who says you always have to be prepared. This also applies to nature photography equipment.
Finding the best lens for a particular type of photography is not an exact science. You can have different goals for different shots.
In general, you’d better use a lens with a longer focal length. It may be a zoom, with a large aperture.
This is for two reasons. First, you’ll want the greatest reach possible. Some subjects, like animals, involve a certain distance. This way you can observe and photograph without disturbing them.
Second, we will want to provide a crisp image of our subject against a blurry, creamy background. This will blow up the subject.
To do this, you need to understand the distances between the foreground and the background, and using a large aperture lens like f / 14, f / 18, or f / 20.
How to take great photos outdoors?
To be successful with outdoor photos, there are a few things that need to be taken into account. Due to inclement weather, changing light, and poor cooperation from wild animals, shots in nature are constantly changing.
The challenge of good exposure in nature
One of the biggest challenges in nature photography is getting through exhibitions. If a cloud hits your location, the difference in brightness will suddenly underexpose your images.
A quick solution to this problem is to regularly check your exposure as you shoot and not to delete any photos until you have seen them all indoors.
This is also where technical expertise comes in. C. Davidson says it’s easy to get sidetracked during outdoor photo ops.
So practice and training will allow your technical skills to become natural reflexes, like a sixth sense that can save you on many occasions.
There is nothing worse than spending an entire day taking pictures, only to find out later that they are overexposed or underexposed.
Understand your surroundings
Another major component of outdoor photography is respecting and understanding the environment you are living in, even temporarily.
This holds true in your own backyard, such as in a secluded spot uncovered during a hike.
Always apply for a permit when needed, stay on the trails and leave the place as pristine as you find it. Overcrowding is one of the main threats to nature photography.
For example, if you walk through a field of alpine flowers, stay on the established trail, as these plants do not grow more than a few inches in several decades.
Use natural light to enhance your photos
Natural light photography is outdoor photography using direct or indirect light from the sun or moon.
Nature photos will look great in the morning or evening light in general, and during the golden hours in particular.
This light after sunrise and before sunset has a softer, hazy quality. It brightens your subjects more evenly and eliminates harsh midday shadows.
This is what I would call the atmosphere. This type of light can provide an emotional overlay to your images. It’s difficult to replicate otherwise.
Try a photo in the morning or evening, and one in the middle of the day.
You might even notice a difference between the morning and evening photos.
Check for any color temperature changes. There are other advantages to filming early in the morning or late at night.
And if you’re shooting animals, aim in the morning and evening. You will have more chances to score a good shot.
Plant photography gives you optimal control of the subject, but there are many factors to consider. Don’t let an unexpected breeze ruin your long exposure. Try to protect your subject, or bring ties to hold the flower in place.
C. Davidson suggests shooting in focal aperture priority mode for better control of depth of field.
Plants are a pleasant subject, which nevertheless remains very common. Far from being discouraged, C. Davidson says plants « are a great way to improvise and try new things. »
Let your creativity run wild to find a unique way to make your image interesting.
Photography: we should respect animals and the environment
It is impossible to explain this without using the phrase « leave only footprints ». As cliché as it is, it couldn’t be more precise.
Remember to bring bags with you to take your trash, even if you think an item is biodegradable.
An orange or banana peel can take up to 2 years to break down. Respect the environment in which you are filming.
We photograph a sensitive world where many living beings live. We should do everything in our power to have a minimal and lasting impact on this world.
The art of forecasting
Before putting on your hiking boots and heading out on the trails, do some research and plan your outdoor photo shoot.
First, consider the very strategic choices of time and lighting. The start and end of the day are often the best times to photograph the natural world, as the light is softer without the leaden shadows in the middle of the day.
So without hesitation set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
Planning ahead will prevent you from forgetting a crucial accessory or piece of equipment.
You are at the mercy of the outside elements and you don’t want to be caught off guard. « Whether it’s 10 or 150 degrees, I have to stay outside all day, » says Davidson.
It is therefore essential to choose the appropriate clothing, material, and equipment. Always carry something waterproof to protect your gear.
Your camera also deserves a hat to protect it from the sun, shade the screen, and check your settings.
“You don’t need a lot of specific material. When taking pictures in nature, the most important thing is to be comfortable in any conditions, ”says experienced photographer Jeff Carlson.
Bring a lamp, spare batteries, memory cards, and a lens with a wide choice of focal lengths. J. Carlson recommends starting with a DSLR camera with an 18–55mm lens.
This will give you enough range to capture some distant details, while also capturing details of your immediate surroundings darker and cooler.
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