4 tips on landscape and nature photography for beginners
The beautiful natural world is an endless source of delight for the mind and body but how can you best capture it on camera? Having photographs to remind you of our stunning landscape or wildlife is a great idea.
One of the greatest advantages of photography is that it gives you the power to capture a moment in an ever changing world. The natural world offers so many moments worthy of this appreciation, moments you’ll want to look back on and cherish forever.
Great landscape and nature photography is all about learning how to spot moments like these and how to convey what you see through the lens of your camera. If you’re interested in learning this skill but don’t know where to start here are some tips to help you.
Some of the greatest photo opportunities are unexpected but, when you’re interested in landscape and nature photography you’ll often need to go walking and look for them.
Planning ahead and being ready to go at a moment’s notice is a good idea. Have a rucksack packed with essential items, such as clothes to help you stay comfortable and your walking boots by the door.
Setting off before sunset can be a great way to capture beautiful photos so look at the distance to your chosen view and what time the sun will rise. Another tip is to study the weather forecast and go when you know there will be the perfect conditions for the shot that you are hoping for.
Wildlife photography is trickier and you will need to know about specific locations and be well prepared.
For safety, go with others or tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back.
The right camera gear
Most photography enthusiasts invest in a digital SLR camera, which are the most versatile and have the best ergonomics. For wildlife, an SLR with a high quality zoom lens is a must.
However, there are also now a range of sophisticated smaller digital cameras that will also take great photos of landscape and some wildlife.
For landscapes the most important camera features are to have a good dynamic range so you can take pictures at dawn or dusk. The size – or megapixels – of a photo will also determine the quality.
However, SLR cameras can be heavy and bulky so perhaps a smaller digital camera is you best choice for ease of use and versatility. Sometimes, a camera that costs less than 100 dollars is enough.
Also, it is worth looking at the cameras that now come with smartphones. Many offer great quality photos although they will not have as many features, or manual override, that come with digital cameras.
The Rule of Thirds
When you look at the rectangular shape of most photographs, draw two horizontal lines a third from the top and a third from the bottom, as well as vertical lines a third from the left and a third from the right. This will give you nine equal sections.
The rule of thirds teaches you how to frame your subject matter. For example, the horizon looks best when positioned either in the line third from the top or from the bottom. For more dynamic photos you can place the subject (such as an animal or picturesque cottage in the mountains) in the middle square on the right side instead of dead centre which looks more static and artificial. Also, the most compelling points in the composition are the ones where the lines intersect.
This may seem hard to follow in words so sketch it out and you’ll see it makes sense. Keep in mind that nature isn’t neatly packaged to fit the rule of thirds but it does give you a general framework to take structured, balanced photos that satisfy the viewer’s sense of proportion.
Look at an album of your favorite photos from professional photographers and you’ll see that most follow this rule of thirds.
Photographers tend to have an inherent sense of visual balance so you might have been taking pictures that follow this rule without realising it. It was just what looked right or felt right.
Look for the right light
Photography is all about finding the right lighting conditions and the best light is during golden hour. This name refers to about one hour before sunrise and before sunset. This is why you see so many photographers waking up very early so they can pack their gear and get moving.
This transformation of light from red to yellow with all shades of orange in between gives images an almost otherworldly atmosphere.
Another advantage is that this light creates long shadows that reveal shapes and textures, creating more striking photos. You should walk around and take pictures from several angles as even a small difference can produce an entirely different pattern.
You’ll often hear that you should stay away from midday photos because the direct sunlight is harsh and creates too much contrast leading to overexposed images.
If you want to get that perfect paradise beach shot this is the best time to try it, just avoid solid objects such as cliffs or rocks. Then you’d have to adjust the settings on your camera and try multiple times with different filters. It’s quite challenging.