Spring is a wonderful time of year. Everything is so fresh and new. With the weather warming up, now is the perfect time to get out and start shooting what Nature has put forth for us. But first, let’s cover some guidelines or rules-of-thumb before we start shooting.
Guidelines for Photographing Nature
- Shoot lots of photos. This pertains to all seasons and all types of photography. Two things happen when you shoot a lot. First, by the law of averages, you will get some good photos. Second, by using your equipment more, you will become more familiar with it and you will see your photography improve.
- Get outside. By getting outside more, you will discover more about the natural world and how the different aspects all work together. Get outside when other people don’t. Many great shots are taken in the early morning, late in the afternoon, or right before bad weather. The cause of the great shots is the dramatic lighting that occurs during these times of day and weather conditions.
- Find an unusual viewpoint. Don’t just stand up and take photos. Get high, look low, lie down on the ground, peer out from behind a tree or bush. Look for that unusual viewpoint that will capture a fresh view of an old subject.
- Keep the composition and background simple. Highlight your subject by eliminating the distractions. If you are shooting close-ups, move around until your subject stands out from the background. By getting low and shooting up, you can sometimes use the sky as a background. Or by shooting down the ground becomes the background. If your subject is a lighter or darker light than the background, the background will fade into shadows or highlights.
- Use selective focusing. By zooming in on your subject with a telephoto lens and using a wide aperture, you will have the subject in focus, but the background will be blurry. This technique works well if you can’t get rid of a distracting background.
- Hurry up and wait. To shoot that magical photo, you have to invest the time. Sometimes you have to wait until the dew forms on the flower petals or wait until the sun and clouds create that just-right lighting effect. While waiting, you also get to see Nature in all its glory.
- Don’t get caught with your camera down. Sometimes you happen to witness a magical event unfolding before your eyes when you are not out waiting for it to happen. Always have your camera with you and ready for the unexpected. Many of the great photos taken were simply being at the right place at the right time and having a camera ready to capture the moment.
What To Look For
- Different ways to frame your subject. Look for natural items you can use to frame your subject. Branches, bushes, rocks, tall grasses and trees are just some of the items found in the natural world that you can use to frame your shot.
- Experiment with the placement of your subject. Move the subject around in your viewfinder and see how the perspective changes. Zoom in and zoom out to see how it will look with little room around the subject or lots of room around it.
- Texture. To appreciate texture, get close to your subject. Notice the roughness of the tree bark or the ragged edges of the blades of grass. Texture is accented by cross lighting – light shining across the subject from either side. Cross lighting happens naturally by shooting when the sun is low in the sky- by shooting either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Meaningful juxtaposition. Use shapes, color, contrast or texture to accent your subject. The smooth texture of an orchid petal against the rough texture of tree bark will intensify the smoothness of the petal.
Spring is a great time of the year for photographers. Dust off your equipment and head outside. By using the tips and techniques in this column, you will increase your chances for that once-in-a-lifetime shot.