January 22, 2018

Nature Photography: Tips & Techniques

Photography


Nature Photography

by Shahinur Islam


Nature photography engages you more than anything.  It means staying and walking outside. The time spent for outdoor photography helps you know more and more about the natural world, too.

Yes, you can take nature pictures with any camera; admittedly, once you take photos with your mobile phone camera or point and shoot camera, you’ll discover that none of them is suitable for your desired results. Of course, certain equipment provides you better results, and the equipment you need is:

Basic Equipment

Lens:  A Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM and EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens with extension tube and a Canon 35-350mm zoom lens gives better performance. You can use the zoom lens as often as the macro lens, because flower pictures usually show best in context. When using a PS digital camera, use both normal and macro modes, depending on how close you want to get.


Tripod: You don’t want your nature photos shaky or hazy. Use a tripod then to avoid the problem as a slight shake of your hand while clicking spoils the sharpness of the photo. You can use aluminum version tripod, or fairly expensive carbon fiber version. The latter gives you the option to rotate the center shaft into almost any position, so you can spread the legs farther apart. Thus the camera rests lower to the ground. It also gives you the option of moving your camera to a better angle in some situations

Other things: If possible, take reflectors, diffusers, and light tent as they can be used to control the light and block the wind as well.  And in bright sun, a diffuser softens the harsh effect and lowers the contrast.

Basic Techniques

  1. Manual Focus: Once you know well about your device, don’t use auto focus all the time. For nature photography, managing manual focus is necessary because you can position the critical focus plane just at the right spot. In fact, this is the place of critical focus in close-up photography, in front of which about half of the available depth of field remains and half behind it.
  2. Exposure compensation with autoexposure bracketing (AEB): Though all cameras are not built in with this mode, if yours has it, it will let you capture a series of shots at slightly different exposures. Then, you can specify the difference in exposure (1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 full stop) and the number of exposures in the series.
  3. Self-timer or manual shutter release: If it is calm with no breeze at all, prefer to use the self-timer because it eliminates any possibility of blur while you are pressing the shutter button. For sharp images, you can also use mirror lockup. If there is any breeze, put your finger on the shutter button, and when there is no breeze and the plant stabilizes, depress and hold it down to shoot the series. It takes time though, but you can press the shutter button so nicely and slowly that it doesn’t shake your camera.


Wind & Sun

When photographing flowers or plants, two biggest troubles you face are wind and the sun. The wind is worse than the sun as it blurs your probably nice image, though wind-blown photos taken at a slow shutter speed sometimes may look fantastic with a feeling of wind in them. For most cases, however, blur kills your image, so be careful with the wind. Take your time until it is calm, and then photograph the flower or plant.

Determine your Purpose

Composing an image depends mainly on what your purposes—that is, what you want to show through the image. For example, you may want to make the plants and flowers known to others—that is, documentary. You might also photograph them for the sake of aesthetic beauty.

Play the Angles

Don’t photograph always at the same angle. Try different and unusual angles. Shooting down is the normal angle but getting down at eye level, or even shooting up provides a unique, uncommon view

Flash

Flash is normally used whenever it’s dark or lacks enough light. A high speed sync mode lets you shoot at 1/2000 to freeze plants in motion. Another advantage of flash is you can use it with exposure compensation to darken the background.

The dimmer the light and the farther way the background are, the darker it appears in the shot. This technique gives great depth of field avoiding a distracted background. You can also increase or decrease the power of the flash according to your necessity. With these two controls, in fact you have complete control over the flash lit foreground and the ambient lit background.

Backgrounds

Backgrounds make or spoil a photo. A flower photographed against a busy background does not stand out or easily gets lost. If the background is out of focus and soft, a sharp flower will obviously stand out. Fortunately, this is not a great problem as depth of field in close-ups can be quite shallow. As wide you open the aperture such as f/2 or f/3.5, as you find the depth shallow. Once you set your aperture, just focus on the flower. Anything behind the flower will be soft and the farther away it is from the flower, the softer it will be.


Tent

One special technique is to use a light tent. If you carry it, you can position it over a flower. As a result, it will soften and diffuse the light, and cut the wind. When positioned in the right way, it gives you a uniform background. By changing the position of the tent or the camera, you can show the background or remove it entirely.

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