Taking photos of nature can be the most fulfilling form of photography if learnt carefully and precisely. We all desire a connection with the great outdoors and nature photography is often this link. So here are some keys to great nature photography.
The fundamental principle for any nature or wildlife photography is a love for nature and a desire to see it preserved for future generations. A photographer should never interfere in any way with nature or leave traces of their presence after a shoot. This preservation attitude will keep an open invitation for future generations of photographers.
So where do we begin as nature photographers?
This is really key to any form of nature photography from landscape on the one side right across to close-up and macro on the other. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to shoot a subject that is just out of reach or the inability to get close enough. There are minimum equipment requirements and you should get good advice from other photographers or reputable equipment suppliers. A zoom lens with a macro feature could suffice for close-up photography and coupled with a two times converter for bird photography. It doesn’t have to be expensive to begin with.
Be patient and practise
Patience is a virtue and no more so than with nature photography. Animals and birds (even in zoos) do not act on cue so it becomes necessary to wait for hours and sometimes, as with professionals, even days. Waiting for the right weather conditions, right animal or right lighting conditions takes a lot of patience and effort. If you aren’t prepared to do this then maybe it’s not for you. Because of all these factors, practise becomes an essential part of a nature photographers life. If you don’t continue to practise you won’t get the shot. It’s 99% effort and 1% luck.
Research your subject
A good knowledge of your subject is essential. Knowing when it feeds or what time of the day a flower opens or when there is dew on the roses will enhance the possibilities of a stunning image. A good nature photographer is a good naturalist or ornithologist. There is more to being a nature photographer than just shooting images. Try visiting your location or subjects several times before starting your photography so that you get to understand their environment. Read books, join societies and search the internet until you feel you know enough about your chosen field to start shooting images.
Find a suitable location
All wildlife or nature photographers aspire to shoot the big five, humpback whales or the elusive snow leopard. These are not the place to start unless you live on a game reserve or at the coast. Find a place close to home like your back garden, a local botanical garden or even a zoo. Somewhere you can be comfortable and practise without major effort. Try things on a small scale and work upwards as you gain more experience and are up to the challenge. A good location with good subjects will spur you on to greater heights.
Once you have been through all the previous steps and gained the knowledge, skills and experience it’s time to decide if this is for you and worth the investment in better, more specialised equipment. Only once you know what you are doing and if this is for you, should you consider investing in more expensive kit. A good tripod, specialised macro lens or a long focal length zoom or prime lens are essential to the advanced nature photographer. Unless you know in which direction or specialisation your photographic journey is taking you, don’t specialise and waste money on kit you cannot afford.
Nature photography can be one of the most fulfilling areas of photography and can reap great rewards. It takes time effort and a lot of practise so be prepared to dedicate your self to many hours of waiting and preparation. If you have what it takes the results will speak for themselves.