I enjoy taking nature pictures. Over the years I have learned some useful tips, sometimes through controlled experiments and other times through unplanned mishaps.
Here are some of my personal photo reminders.
When you stand up in a canoe and lean over to get that close-up picture of a loon, you might fall in. Your camera, if it is still on you, is likely dead.
So always wear your lifejacket and get a longer lens, especially for birds. If you are shooting in potentially wet weather have a quick cover-up. I usually wear an oversized jacket to cover up the camera or encase it in a plastic bag.
I rarely use flash outside unless I need an accent light and am bouncing it so it is not direct. Direct flash washes out natural colours and definition.
If you are shooting in a forest setting, it is often low light. You will likely need a fast lens (large aperture — small f-stop) and some sort of support like a mono-pod, a mini-pod, or a tripod.
If you are hand-holding your camera below 1/30 of a second your hand movements will likely blur the shot. I have a hiking stick that is also a mono-pod. You can stick it in the soil to give you some stability. The lower the light the more stability you will need. In a pinch you can use items in the forest to stand your camera on but watch out for moisture, sap and dirt.
If you are taking pictures at the beach, watch out for the wrath of sand and salt. Both are not good for your camera components.
Like snow, water reflects light and produces glaring spots and washed out colours. Use a polarizer filter to help add saturation and eliminate some of the glare. If you are waiting at one of the many beaches in Nova Scotia to catch the beautiful sunrise, try the sunset instead since the fog doesn’t often burn off and you’ll be sitting there and realize it is 9 a.m.
That being said the early morning light is beautiful behind some cloud since cloud cover is nature’s soft box.
If you are shooting and the light is uneven — bright in some parts and darker in others — don’t believe your meter will get the exposure you want. To be on the safe side, bracket (take shots two or three exposures on either side of the original).
– Rochelle Owen is director of sustainability at Dalhousie University. She has worked in the environment and sustainability field for 19 years; firstname.lastname@example.org.