Of all of the subjects that you can photograph, nature, with its infinite variety and integral beauty has to be one of the most worthy.
And if you’re a nature enthusiast, combining your love of the outdoors with your love of photography will probably seem natural.
However seeing what nature has to offer and being able to capture it are two different things and the challenges of nature photography can be considerable. So here are some tips to ensure that your pictures do the natural world justice.
Know your equipment
Just as with any outdoor pursuit, nature photography is all about knowing and trusting your equipment.
No matter which camera you choose to use to capture your shots, you should try to learn the ins and outs of the menu and get familiar with all of the different settings that it offers.
If you’re not too confident with your equipment, take a day to go out into the countryside and just switch between the settings until you understand what each one does and how it affects your images.
It’s all in the lens
When you buy a DSLR camera, it will probably come with a kit lens. And though these are fine for taking holiday snaps and general shots, nature photography requires a lens with a little more finesse.
If close up shots are your thing, a lens with built in macro capability would be ideal so that you can capture every detail of the shot.
A lot of nature photography is in the lens, so invest in a good one if you want great images
Although prime lenses – those that are fixed at a specific focal length – normally produce better quality images, if you’re out in the countryside all day you’re not going to want to carry an arsenal of different lenses so look out for a good quality zoom.
Something like 18-105mm would give you a good range for both landscape and close ups, although the choice is really up to you.
Lastly, always go for a lens with a wide aperture, something around 1.8-2.8f is ideal. This will give your photos a narrow depth of field and look stunning when you focus on a detail or take a portrait.
Nature photography involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for the right light, waiting for an animal to appear, waiting for the rain to stop. So one of the most important things to remember is patience.
Being calm, collected and alert can lead to some fantastic shots, so don’t be afraid to sit and wait for the all of the elements to come together.
Use a tripod
DSLRs and lenses are heavy, and there’s nothing to make you feel impatient faster than aching arms and tired fingers.
So to prevent unnecessary exertion, invest in a good, lightweight tripod. This will not only take the strain off of you but it will also make photography in low light a lot easier.
You’ll often have to wait for the right light, so be patient to get the best shots
Look for the details
Though a landscape may look spectacular to the naked eye, sometimes this doesn’t translate to photographs, and a lot of the time you’ll get more striking images by focusing on a detail rather than a large scene.
Things like frozen leaves, spring buds and autumn trees all look great in photos, so if a landscape is not working for you, take another look at the view and see what you could focus on instead.
Nature photography, though full of challenges and often frustrating, is incredibly rewarding. So if you’re a keen naturalist don’t be put off by the waiting or the technical knowledge, just grab you camera and get snapping.
Written by Louise Harper