Photography in the great outdoors is a wonderful experience for any type of photographer. Breaking away from the daily hustle and grind and making photographs out in nature is both relaxing and rejuvenating to your creative spirit. The fresh air, open spaces, and the excitement of the unknown make outdoor photography a great exercise both physical and photographically.
Like most things that involve our cameras, making photographs in the outdoors can be as simple or as involved as you are willing to make it. Outdoor photography can consist of scaling mountains and photographing from the top of the world or simply slowing down in your own backyard snapping photos of your favorite caterpillar.
Whatever degree of complexity you choose to venture into through your outdoor photography, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you go along. In this article, we’ll cover a few simple suggestions that will ensure you have the best outdoor experience possible.
What you’ll need…
A comfortable camera
Notice we didn’t say an expensive, or new, or fancy kind of camera. Having a camera that you understand and can easily use is paramount. This can be a point and shoot camera, a cell phone, or for the purposes of this article, some type of SLR or DSLR. Whatever the camera you have will work. True, there are some that will produce different results. But I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage that the best camera is the one you have with you….
Be sure to know how to use whatever camera you have to it’s fullest and you just might be surprised what you can do.
If you’re camera is the SLR-type, it’s a good idea to carry at least two lenses. Realistically, on assignment or otherwise, I generally carry no more than three lenses when operating in the backcountry for the sake of weight and packability. So realistically, you will likely never need more than two lenses at any given time.
The two lenses you use should slightly overlap, if possible, between focal lengths. Have a wide angle lens that can lend a sense of scope to your landscapes while adding a wide perspective to your close-ups. Also, you can find use for a lens that is capable of reaching out to both wildlife and other subjects. In any case, find the fastest(widest aperture) lens you can afford to use. Believe me, it will pay off.
If you can can only source one lens, I would suggest leaning towards some manner of 30-50mm.
This is a nifty balance between a wide angle and a telephoto is considered to be “normal”. Meaning it is close to the approximation of the field of view of your own eyes. Much like your camera, though, learn to make the best use of whatever lens you might have on hand.
Ah yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, a tripod is worth it’s weight in gold…and for good reason. There is simply no better way to improve the sharpness of your photos than by using a tripod. Having a solid shooting platform is the most desirable way to make any type photograph.
But realities are, well, realities. It’s not always practical to use or lug around a tripod all the time. So, for the sake of being utilitarian, find the lightest most versatile tripod you can source. I did a quick write-up of the Vanguard VEO 235 AB here at LifePixel which is a great little option for outdoor photography. When a tripod isn’t available, try resting your camera on your bag our other solid object. It will make big difference in your image quality.
Some Final Thoughts
Outdoor photography goes beyond just making pretty pictures out in the great outdoors. Making images out in nature is a great way to reconnect with the world around us and challenge our abilities as photo-makers. Don’t’ stress over the gear you may or may not have. Instead, look for innovative ways to make use of the tools you have right now. No camera? Make the best of your cell phone. No tripod? Use your camera bag. The most important thing to remember is that the reward of outdoor photo work goes well beyond making great images. So slow down, relax, get out, and get shooting.