Whether you’re an avid multi-day hiker, day hiker, or camper, exploring our country’s ubiquitous state and national parks, or someone who enjoys being outdoors with your family in tow in your own backyard, you’ll probably want to capture wildlife. When it comes to nature photography, there’s a lot to learn, from choosing the right lens, to paying attention to what’s in the foreground and background, to focusing on textures. closer to the landscape.
With help from the following fearless outdoor photographers, learn tips for capturing your subject in the best light, using various angles and perspectives for a distinctive shot, and telling a story through dynamic imagery. Reach heights, throw rocks, come to life and capture everything.
An Australian photographer, currently living in the Pacific Northwest, Melissa Findley is well known for her sharp and thoughtful travel and adventure photography. On a recent hike, Findley brought a Sony a7R IV with a lens array that included a Sony 50mm f/1.2, 24-70mm f/2.8, 16-35mm f/2.8, and 100-400mm f /4.5-5.6.
Wendy Altschuler: Being respectful of the wild world and the animals that live there, what advice do you have for getting the best wildlife shot?
Melissa Findley: Gaining relevant local knowledge about the wildlife you want to capture is important, as is choosing the time of day: early morning or late afternoon when wildlife tends to to be the most active. Patience is key and always keep a safe distance so as not to harm or disturb wildlife. Never feed or touch a wild animal.
WA: Many photographers talk about shooting during the “golden hours”, the period just before the sun rises or just after the sun sets. How important is time of day and natural light to nature photography?
MF: Light is everything; the time of day is imperative for emotional storytelling. Many professional travel photographers will focus their work on golden light (before sunset or after sunrise when the sun is low angled, casting golden light on your scene/subject) or blue hour (before dawn and at dusk when the position of the sun is below the horizon, but night has not yet fallen).
Not only are these times of day less crowded with tourists, but the emotion of contrast or depth in the scene will add to your storytelling. Golden hour and golden light can create a positive and uplifting, dreamy or nostalgic scene, while deep blue hour tones can be used to create serenity, peace, and even melancholy.
WA: While smartphones have come a long way, serious nature photographers may want to upgrade their gear to take more accurate photos. What are the top three pieces of equipment every beginner nature photographer should have?
Along with a camera and lens of choice, select a carbon fiber tripod, a headlamp (you’ll likely be out before sunrise and after sunset), and a rocket blower or rag for objective.
Montana resident Hope Kauffman creates visually stunning outdoor photography where humans are the subject of her creativity. Whether on a tree-lined trail or by a lake, Kauffman has a unique ability to capture joy. She uses the versatile Canon R6 with a 24-70 2.8 as her go-to lens and likes to keep a 70-200 2.8 handy for wildlife, especially if she’s exploring in her local outdoor space, the National Park. of Glaciers. For portraits with an extra sharp edge, she uses an 85 Prime lens.
WA: For new photographers who want to capture people in a landscape, what should they be aware of?
Hope Kauffman: I love this question because many people show me an inspiration photo or ask me to take a photo in a specific place at a certain time, when the light might not be exactly what it is. it must be for shooting. I know Glacier National Park and the beautiful surrounding areas of Montana up to the hour at every time of year.
I always ask my clients to trust me to take them to the perfect place where I know the light will be the best to be able to deliver what we need to accomplish their vision. I encourage everyone to trust their photographer and photographers to be overly communicative and understanding. Guiding them gently is so important for the relationship to succeed and for everyone to feel heard.
WA: What kind of photos do you prefer to take and why?
HK: If I could spend every day photographing only what I love, I would focus on travel photography. Storytelling through imagery has always appealed to me. Portraits are specifically my favorite type of travel photography.
I love hearing people’s stories and connecting with them on an intimate level. The act of creating a portrait is very sacred to me and it is how I connect most strongly as a human to another human. I love making people look and feel as beautiful as they look to me. I not only provide an image, but also, I plant seeds of trust that they can hopefully take with them.
WA: For composition, what should new photographers think about? Rule of thirds, playing with depth of field or other tricks of the trade?
HK: I strongly believe in finding your own style. Experimenting and playing with light has influenced my work the most. I love shooting through anything – a wildflower, over a shoulder, through trees. Adding a bit of interest to the foreground, blurring even for just a glance of color, has been an essential part of my work.
I find that when I try to overthink or be too perfect with the settings, the magic of the moment fades. I shoot almost every day and my style is constantly changing. I think there is so much beauty in flexibility when creating, it keeps me engaged and in love with my career!
The inimitable Erin Hutchison is not only an avid outdoor photographer, but also an avid outdoorsman. You will immediately notice how his images, colorful and bright, tell a story. She mainly shoots on a Sony A7iii, with a 24-70 lens.
WA: Sometimes you think you have the perfect shot, but a little correction is needed in post. What suggestions do you have for punching a photo in the editing room?
Erin Hutchison: The beauty of photography is having to adapt to so many different shooting conditions. Some of my favorite photos I barely touch in post, while others I’m not thrilled with at first really surprise me after a few simple touch-ups. In general, I like to play with highlights, clarity and warmth to give my images an extra boost.
WA: Many beginner photographers, who are not ready to invest heavily in camera equipment, try their hand at nature photography with what they currently own. Do you have any advice for those who only have their smartphone?
EH: My love for photography started with shooting and editing on an iPhone. It’s a great tool for getting creative with trying out different angles, playing around with portrait mode, and really developing an understanding of composition and your personal photography style.
Before investing in a Sony, I ventured with Moment lenses, small twist-on lenses for iPhones. They gave ordinary phone photos an extra edge, were incredibly user-friendly, and were more economical for beginners.
WA: Every season offers something fun and challenging when it comes to shooting outdoors. What tips do you have for shooting during the different spells?
EH: I like to be active outdoors as much as possible, all year round, which also means that my camera is always by my side. Hiking, fishing or wildlife photography, for me, these are images that tell a story. My biggest tip for nature photographers is patience and always having your camera handy. I sat in zero degree snow conditions waiting for a chance to capture a moving herd of elk. And, I put dozens of miles on my Danner boots in search of wildflowers with a mountain backdrop.
Every outing is an adventure and an opportunity to learn something new. It doesn’t always work the way you hope it will, but when it does, it’s magic. Light also plays a big role for me, which usually means very early morning or late evening as I prefer the softer light around dawn or before sunset. Take full advantage of learning the nuances of different seasons. All four have something unique to offer.