Being out in the natural environment photographing nature can be incredibly enjoyable. It is relaxing and puts us in touch with the world around us. Often we observe things more closely and pick up on tiny details that we would normally miss during our busy day-to-day lives.
Nature photography - photographing, plants, flowers and trees, puts us more in tune with the seasons.
Here in Australia, we are enjoying spring, everything is coming to life and blooming. Nature photography also provides the photographer with easy subject matter. Anyone can do this type of photography whether it’s close to, or far from, home.
Try visiting your local Botanical Gardens, a nearby park or walking around a local neighbourhood that has nice gardens. If you want to venture further afield, consider going for a day trip in the countryside, visiting a flower farm or market.
As with all photography, it’s important to isolate your subject. The viewer should know where they are supposed to be looking. Try and create one aspect of the image that is the key focus point and make it clear to the viewer.
One of the challenges with photographing flowers or bushes is how to get a clean composition. The image below is as busy as the little bee, which is completely lost amongst all the flowers. It is not a successful image because there is too much going on.
On the other hand, the use of a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) in the image of lavender field is a more pleasing composition because it gives the viewer a point of focus and somewhere for the eye to rest.
Look for patterns in nature and get really close so you have more chance of seeing your subject in a new light. Think about your angle and see if getting in close or down low makes it more interesting.
The bush below could be found in anyone’s garden but honing in on the spring buds, as they open and going for a darker background, can make the ordinary look quite different.
Be prepared for changeable weather. Plants covered in raindrops can look very pretty. You can also create this effect with a spray water bottle. It works especially well for variegated bark, spider webs and flowers.
Cloudy weather without harsh shadows can be ideal but sunny days also offer opportunities for shadows and texture. Try backlighting your subject, shoot towards and away from the sun. Environments look completely different from one season to another so think about choosing a subject that you can photograph as the seasons change.
As well as your aperture setting, a long lens will give you a shallow depth of field. Many nature photographers use a macro lens. Macro photography can be challenging and take some getting used to. The closer you get, the narrower is the point at which you can focus. If you are really up close with a macro lens, at some point you will have to switch from auto focus to manual. The slightest movement forwards or backwards will start to change what is sharp and what is out of focus so you need to be very precise.
A tripod will give you more control. Some macro users have a rail, which enables them to slide the camera backwards and forwards in a controlled manner. Other nature photographers get good results just using a regular lens, getting their image pin sharp at high resolution and then enlarging their images afterwards. What works best for you will depend on your gear and how much you are prepared to carry around.
There are no hard and fast rules.
Be mindful that you will have to increase your shutter speed if it’s windy or you want to capture birds or insects. If the wind is a problem, stick to subjects that won’t blow around as much, like succulents.
At the end of the day, your choice of subject and composition is very personal and will depend on what you like. Challenge yourself by really getting to know your subject and exploring the different ways in which you can present it.
Above all, enjoy your time out in the fresh air!
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