Spring is one of the best seasons to head outdoors and look for beautiful sceneries to capture on film. Today, I bring you some of my personal tips when trying out nature photography, and hopefully, it can help you take better photos whatever the season or condition you have at the moment!
1. Choose your film wisely: use color negatives for woodlands, foliage, and flowers; pick slide films that don’t exhibit very strong color shifts for photos highlighting skies and bodies of water.
As lomographers, we always have the urge to be experimental and try all sorts of film and camera combinations whenever we shoot. But sometimes, it’s worth going for the tried and tested films according to the subjects we want to take photos of. In this case, we want to capture and showcase the beauty and splendor of nature in our photos, so it’s best to retain the colors, hues, and textures in their “natural” form.
That means using color negative films (at least 400 ISO if you decide to shoot in the late afternoon or near dusk) to take photos of woodlands, greenery, and animals. If you want to take photos by the seaside or other bodies of water, or even the blue skies, use a slide film that complements these colors or makes these colors “pop” when cross processed. For the meantime, avoid using slide films that have very strong color shifts that can alter these “hues” or dissolve some of the textures and details (I recommend Kodak Ektachrome E100 GX or Kodak Elitechrome 100 on a nice sunny day).
Then, just like the saying that goes something like “follow the rules before you break them,” feel free to experiment with other films to get the feel that you want. For starters, try a redscale film to capture the silhouette of trees and branches.
*Bonus tip: Try shooting with an ISO 400 film by the seashore at the early morning hours, just after sunrise, to paint the seaside scenery with dreamy pastel hues, just like I did in the last three photos above.
2. Add a touch of bokeh.
If you’re fond of shooting around trees, here’s something you have to try. Position yourself in an area where you can see the leaves and branches allowing tiny streaks of light passing between them. These are perfect for capturing beautiful bokeh shots outdoors! As always, use a camera that allows you to set the biggest aperture (smallest f-number). If you can find something interesting to capture in the foreground and keep the bokeh as the background, all the better!
*Bonus tip: If you have an accessory that allows you to get shaped bokeh, this would be one of the best times to use it, as you can see in the last two photos above!
3. Use wide-angle lenses and cameras to photograph as much of the stunning landscapes before you.
If you have a wide-angle camera like the mighty Lomo LC-Wide, or some wide-angle lenses that you can arm your SLR cameras with, take advantage of their extensive “coverage” when you’re somewhere that a landscape shot is in order. Whether it’s the beach, a field of flowers, or a beautiful mountainside, let the mighty wide-angled gear in your arsenal capture as much of the view before you.
4. Capture animals frozen in mid-movement whenever possible.
While some animals, like birds, look fine when blurry while in movement, it’s always better to photograph them mid-movement, following Henri Cartier-Bresson’s lesson to capture your subjects at the “decisive moment.” Use faster shutter speeds of at least 1/250 and wider apertures to compensate for the shorter exposure time. Capturing them mid-movement also tells a lot about how these animals behave whether at their normal, playful, or even agitated state. While it’s not easy taking good, steady, and clear photos of some animals (they may swim, fly, or run away, or, worst case scenario, even charge at you!), if you’re patient and quick, you can catch them at just the right moment. It takes practice, so if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!
5. Flowers always look best up-close.
Fields of flowers do look nice, especially when set against a backdrop that makes them stand out, like the blue sky or a good view of the mountainside. However, you and your viewers will appreciate these beautiful works of nature up close. Treat yourself and your viewers to the best view possible. Show how lovely those flowers look like in full bloom!
6. For moving bodies of water like falls and springs, try using a slower shutter speed to blur the movement of the water.
Last but not the least, if you have an SLR camera or rangefinder camera that lets you shoot on manual mode, try playing with different shutter speed settings whenever you have the chance to photograph some moving bodies of water. If you haven’t done it before, try a slower shutter speed, but select a smaller aperture (higher f-number) to compensate for the longer exposure time and avoid overexposure. Remember, you will also need a tripod or a steady surface to rest your camera on during the exposure. The heavier and faster the flow, the smoother the movement will look like when captured in slower shutter speeds. Also, the longer you keep the shutter open, the more “misty” the resulting photo will look like. This is one of the basic experiments you can try when shooting nature photography, so if you have a stream, river, or falls with good movement in your area, go ahead and give this tip a try!
7. Alternatively, you can freeze the movement of these bodies of water in motion.
Another way to capture bodies of water is to freeze their movement. To achieve this, you only need to do the opposite of the tip above: Use faster shutter speeds and wider apertures! If you’re not sure which technique will look best for the body of water you want to photograph, try this tip and the one mentioned above on the same roll.
That’s it, I hope you can try out these tips soon! Let me know if you have any questions and I’d also love to learn if these tips worked for you!