Nature photography 101.
When shooting outdoors, there are several things to keep in mind. Thanks to inclement weather, constantly changing light, and uncooperative wildlife, nature photography shoots are different every time. As renowned animal and wildlife photographer Carli Davidson says, “Studio photographers have waking nightmares about having to shoot in nature because it’s such an uncontrolled environment.” If you’re used to working in a studio, shooting outdoors pushes you outside your comfort zone — physically and creatively.
The art of planning ahead.
Before pulling on your hiking boots and hitting the trails, be sure to research and plan your outdoor shoot. This includes strategically choosing your time of day and lighting. Morning and evening light is often the best for capturing photos of the natural world, since the light is softer without the harsh shadows of midday — be prepared to set your alarm to 5 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
Planning also ensures you have the right gear. You’re at the mercy of the elements outdoors and you don’t want to be unprepared. As Davidson says, “Whether it’s 10 degrees or 150 degrees outside, I’m going to have to be out there all day.” Getting the appropriate clothing, gear, and equipment is vital. Always bring something waterproof to protect your gear. And bring a hat to shade your camera if it’s sunny, so you can see the camera display to check your exposures.
“You don't need a lot of specific gear. The most important thing with nature photography is getting yourself out into nature,” experienced photographer Jeff Carlson says. Pack light, but always bring extra batteries, storage cards, and a lens with a broad focal length range. Carlson recommends starting with a DSLR camera with an 18–55 mm lens. This gives you enough range to capture some details in the distance, while also capturing the details in your immediate surroundings.