2013-03-07 17:19:25 GMT
When it comes to nature photography, the best practice is to take in the moment, breathe the fresh air, feel the air, listen to the birds, heighten your awareness of the environment and notice exactly what it is that makes the world beautiful where you are located. We’ve compiled a collection of image-capturing tips to make your outing a rewarding experience.
Depth-of-field plays a vital role in nature photography, especially when you want to capture a wonderful landscape that seems to go on forever, or, when you choose to shoot something with a relatively shallow depth-of-field to draw your viewers attention to the subject.
When shooting your landscape select a small aperture (a higher f/stop number, like f/22) to ensure a deep depth-of-field. Since you’re outside, there should be enough ambient light to allow you to have a reasonably fast shutter speed and low ISO setting. “Deep” depth-of-field means both close-up and far away elements in your image will be in focus. You also need to know where to focus your lens. This is called Hyperfocal Distance. Hyperfocal Distance is a point where everything from half that distance will be in focus. The best way to figure out this distance is generally by focusing one-third of the way up from the bottom of the scene you are shooting, ensuring everything near to far is in focus. Use the rule of thirds to help determine where viewers’ eyes are naturally drawn in the overall shot.
Drawing your viewers attention to a specific subject, such as a flower or a bird, is done with shallow depth-of-field. A large part of shallower depth-of-field depends on the lens, as well as the aperture setting; a longer lens inherently has a shallower depth of field. Your aperture should be open to a wide setting (e.g., f/2.8 or f/4). Remember that a dSLR camera lens’ natural position is in a wide-open, shallow depth-of-field setting. Some dSLRs have a “depth-of-field preview” which can be handy to gauge how your actual photo will look; this is because the camera will normally only close the aperture to your f/stop setting when you take the photo (not just viewing it before you shoot). Once again, using the rule of thirds is handy in an image where only part of the image in in-focus; for example, you don’t want to have that cute squirrel positioned on the left side of the image and facing left (as if looking out of the shot); you want to think about how the person viewing the image will perceive and understand what’s going on in the “scene”.
Of course, most people would assume that bright sunny conditions would be best for nature photography, but often this is not the case. A cloudy day often gives “diffused” lighting photographers love. Bright lighting in the wrong direction can illuminate the subject in some not-so-pleasing ways. It is important to understand how the direction of light will affect your results.
Front Lighting - When the sun is directly behind the photographer casting a shadow onto the subject.
Side Lighting - The sun is 90 degrees off-axis to the lens, from either the right or left.
Back or Rim Lighting - The sun is facing the photographer, with the subject’s face shadowed (such as taking a photo of someone standing in front of a bright window). Outdoors, this can cause many problems ranging from lens flare to shadowing, or a hazy quality to your shot.
Finding a line that will direct the viewers attention toward the main focus of a photograph in nature is simple, and works well with the rule of thirds. With a little creativity you can use a variety of natural elements to create that leading line:
- the edge of a sand dune
- the line between sand and water
- mud patterns
Just look around and take in everything around you, see where your eyes take you before you start mapping out the best photos.
The easy thing to do is just take the shot, what’s harder to do is get a unique angle that will be interesting and compelling to the viewer. Go out, glance around, look through the viewfinder and snap that photo. Then see if you can see the same subject from a more creative position. Climb the cliff, get down on the ground, look through that log, look up! This is your opportunity to capture that shot that no one else has taken.
DO NO HARM
Last but not least: The one-and-only strict rule for nature photography is DO NO HARM. This means, pack out what you pack in, watch where you’re stepping and do not feed the animals.
Photos courtesy of ACDSee Pro Photographer Alexandra Pottier