How to Approach Nature Shoots

Bird having a bath

So much beauty all around us, and such limitless inspiration offered everywhere by nature, especially in Springtime. How do we begin to capture it? For starters, by simply being in it, completely present and aware. Observation is a certain gateway to stillness, that blissful state of vibrantly alive, inner peace, as Eckhart Tolle describes it in his gem of a book, Stillness Speaks.

From a photographic point of view, there are a few more things to consider. A variety of options are available in terms of equipment, accessories and camera settings. Ambient lighting conditions clearly play a crucial role, with the mystical beauty of golden hour guiding the best shooting time. Lens selection also contributes significantly to the range of results you can achieve.

Long, “fast” zoom lenses (200-600mm) offer a breathtakingly shallow depth of field effect for relatively large, fairly distant subjects, using a large aperture (e.g. f4). Macro lenses (105mm is our favourite) create a similar effect for small, close-up subjects. Then there is the full spectrum in between, from moderate zoom to wide-angle lenses that can capture everything in focus due to a deep depth of field achieved by using a small aperture (e.g. f11 to f22) when you’re shooting an expansive landscape, for example.

In each case, you can use aperture priority to determine the depth of field that you are looking for, according to what aperture range is possible on your particular lens, and combine this with the appropriate white balance, ISO and exposure compensation settings for your situation. For optimal exposure and minimal noise, try to use the lowest ISO setting (e.g. 100) for the available amount of light, perhaps under exposing in brighter light by at least a third of a stop to ensure that you minimise over exposed areas on your image, and allowing a bit of leeway for adjusting levels during digital processing.

Of course, the quality of the original image you shoot is irreplaceable, but processing is an important step in producing great results, providing the opportunity to tweak levels, manage colour and touch up dust particles, for example. It takes time but what a pleasure to spend it focussed on nature.

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