Nature Photography

by Steve of Out On The Prairie.

When you look at a photo, what draws you into the picture? It may be nice colors, a personal interest, or perhaps something you have never seen. When you are shooting nature photos, it often is a good way for you to catalog and review a hike or trip you enjoyed. I can look at my files in a slide show and almost hear the
birds singing, or feel that gentle breeze. Other times I make a note how I should shoot a site when I return. Digital has made it nice so we can overshoot to make sure and catch the moment we want to preserve.

What do you need to get started? There are a number of cameras on the market to look at and see how they fit your usage and pocketbook. I shoot with the same brand of cameras since they are easy to use with the ports on my computer. I normally will carry three with me for different shots. Many of the new point and shoots take the technical aspects away and allow you to capture some good shots. One item I look at is a good macro setting and zoom. My DSLR is nice to be able and change to different lens, but cumbersome to have a tele lens on and want to shoot a close-up. Some of the new cameras have a zoom of 20-28X’s and that is amazing to think of. I say start simple and move up if you feel you need more. Read a few periodicals to get some ideas of others favorites.

A good nature shot is free of any man-made objects. This can be hard to keep up with, but a good idea to carry in your mind. When shooting it can be hard to always see those little objects like power lines, signs, and other objects that can distract a shot. I shot in a heavy fog trying to catch a good sunrise in a new prairie area. Everything went nice until that evening when I went back to work some plant specimen shots and sunset. To my utter dismay there was no clear sunset that wouldn’t have the power lines in it. The fog had covered it well in the morning, but I ended up tossing a few of those when I previewed them at the lab.

What is a good pose for animals? You can ask them to turn for you, but they never listen much. One thing I like to see is a gleam in their eye. To me this really tops off the photo. When shooting birds, you will find a zoom is very necessary and shoot lots when trying to find that good pose. One blog I enjoy has some great shots so I asked what she was using for these great captures. She was shooting at six frames a second, so as not to lose that one good pose. One thing I use when shooting deer is to clap and they generally will look at you. Keep in mind they also may run off, so be ready to shoot, or if you have someone with you have them clap.

What else do you need? Patience is a major virtue. Sometimes you need to plan a shoot before you go back and try it for keeps. I have favorite spots to catch bird and other animal shots. Sometimes I can go out and never get the shot I wanted so I return at different times hoping for a good capture. What you saw the first time, may be the only time to see it. Watch the change in season and how the fauna changes for color you look for. When I get up I look at clouds and weather to see if it will offer good light and sky. Things change real fast so you need to be ready for that also. Once while working in the Badlands a storm came swooping in. Running across to where I wanted to shoot a sunset, I raced the clouds and change of colors shooting very frequently. This was using film and soon I had another person along side of me with the same ideas, He was from a national publication and ran out of film. I had some extra with me and tossed a roll while still trying to get to my spot. When I made it there the storm had settled off to the south and wasn’t showing the color I wanted. What I had shot on the run gave me a few of what I wanted.

So are you ready to go? Just like playing an instrument or a sport, practice makes perfect. It is the praise and happiness you get that make this hobby fun. Start small and work your way up with equipment. Use it along with learning more about the natural world around us. You will start looking at everything in a different light, being more sensitive to what you are viewing. Shooting with others can be fun; you may see a different way someone else used for an angle or close-up. Try a class and read books and periodicals in your library. If you move up in equipment and don’t use a camera anymore, share it with someone new to the hobby. The main thing is to get out and enjoy nature as much as you can and record these magic moments.

This article was written by Steve of Out On The Prairie. If you'd like to read more of his work, follow this link to find Steve's blog. Leave him a nice comment to let him know you were there.
Steve's Blog - Out On The Prairie
Steve's Flickr Site - Iowa State Parks