Nature photography is a unique genre of photography that captures the essence of nature, in all its reverence and splendour. Most nature or landscape photos depict very little human activity, as they are usually created with a view to portraying a pure and unsullied nature.
And while there are different ways to capture great nature photographs, there are several general strategies that should be implemented for professional image-making. The following are some of the main strategies to keep in mind when taking nature photos.
1. Lead your viewer in
First of all, the best way of creating a moving composition is by using visual elements around your main target to slowly lead your viewer into the image scene. Some of the notable leading visual elements include curves, lines or just some shapes. A great tip is to use a leading line that stretches all the way from the foreground to the background.
This is an effective method of propelling your viewers into the image. Therefore, you can use any shape in your foreground to help act as a leading visual element. For instance, a winding river compels viewers to meander across the frame, while a triangular rock can be used to point to the main heart of the composition. The creative use of several visual elements can subtly encourage viewers to explore the photo further.
2. Look for a nice foreground
Foregrounds are very important when taking nature photos. In fact, choosing the right foreground adds some depth and punch to your photo. By providing a single reference point, you can simplify a chaotic scene and give your photo more character. Consider a simple photo of a pool of water taken early in the morning during sunrise. The same photo would be more attractive if the photographer backed up so as to add in the curvy shoreline. Another option would be to add the reflections of surrounding buildings or mountains to give the picture more depth.
3. Use repeating patterns to engage the viewer
Patterns are naturally appealing and they are part of the biological need of organising this chaotic world. Every time the eye sees a pattern, it usually wants to view all the repeated elements in the photo.
Accordingly, a savvy nature photographer can utilise recurring colours and shapes to encourage viewers to look at several areas of their composition. And this is mostly because visual repetition will get your viewer’s eye browsing around the photo, building interest and also developing compositional energy.
Besides, repetition also helps in creating balance and harmony, as well as adding the much-needed structure to any composition. You can even create breathtaking photos by using the pattern like the main focus.
4. Highlight your subject
An effective tool for highlighting your subject when taking nature photography is using visual elements that direct the attention of your viewer to what is important. This can be achieved through framing, which simplifies and focuses interest right where you want. Some of the widely used examples include arching tree branches, natural arches, and barn windows.
However, you can also create your own frames by arranging several visual components around your subject. This particular effect works best when there is a component of contrast in between your subject and the frame, for example, silhouetted trees surrounding a bright mountain peak.
The other way that you can use to draw your viewer’s attention to your main subject is by using light. Which, of course, includes spotlighting or using the presence of brightness behind the subject to focus your viewers. Thus, you must choose the right position to take your photo to factor in the framing and highlight your subject better. A gleam of light on your subject also helps in focusing viewers’ attention. It is best to take this kind of shot with a tripod-mounted camera for a wide open shot with a narrow depth of field.
5. Create a feeling of visual energy
You should always look for creative ways of conveying energy in your nature photos. Use shapes or lines that point or tilt in opposing directions; think of an image of trees in a straight line, but with different sizes reaching out into the sky. However, you should be very careful with this effect, as lots of energy may make your photo look rather unbalanced. A good example is a photo of an animal that is running outwards of the frame’s edge, instead of into it.
Furthermore, exposing moving elements for longer can also express energy, just like the way motion blur develops compositional shapes and lines, creating further interest. For instance, an image of the sky with streaking clouds forming staggered and diagonal lines help to add energy.
6. Use polarising filters
You probably may have noticed that most nature photographers carry a circular polarising filter when travelling. There are several uses for filters of this kind, but for a nature photographer, these filters have the ability to remove unwanted glare and reflections from an image and increase contrast, saturation, and col or intensity. You are likely to notice this effect when the sky is clear.
7. The depth of field
The best nature photograph is on that looks sharp across the scene. Which implies that foreground elements, like piles of rock on a lake, appear with the same level of sharpness like the distant horizon.
An effective trick that can be used to achieve this effect is to use the depth of field principles when taking your shot. This is where you should ensure that a small aperture, like an f/2.2, is used to cover a greater area both beyond and before the main focus point.
Generally, when making use of small apertures for your photo, remember to also set the camera to a reduced shutter speed. A tripod is also a compulsory accompaniment in such settings.
As a nature photographer, you must be ready to do some groundwork before starting your photographic adventure. Like any other pursuit, taking photos goes beyond simply ‘pointing-and-shooting’.