Capturing the wild on camera


Patience is essential when it comes to outdoor photography and capturing the wild on camera.


Enter the Wild

In response to some requests, I had hoped to write a hunting tips article this past season, but never got around to it. I do realize small game season is still in effect for a while, so we’ll work in one quick tip here.

What would be my first preference to use when shooting quail or pheasant? That’s actually a tougher question than you might think since there are a number of variables to consider. But I would say the best option to get a sure shot off would be the Nikon D500 with a 200-500 mm lens.

I know from the time I spend on social media there is a large number of amateur photographers among our readership. And I have enjoyed all of the Facebook postings of your nature and landscape photography.

While we wait for the weather to allow us another opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors, let’s chat a bit about the art of outdoor photography. Allow me to offer you a few helpful tips I have learned along the way that may make your next experience more productive and enjoyable.

My photo bug bit me back in the 1980s when a neighbor of mine gave me his Nikon 35mm F2 film camera. It took me forever to finally learn all the subtle workings of a manual film camera, but what beautiful photos it created.

It is nothing short of amazing where digital photography has taken us since then. With almost any grade of camera today, if you are capable of aiming and pushing a shutter release button you can take pretty good pictures. The cameras of today do much of the thinking and working for you.

What is it then that moves you from taking good pictures to creating great pictures? Without getting into technical discussions about aperture, shutter speed and ISO, let me give you a couple broad and general pieces of advice I have learned over the years.

First, become an avid student of light. Without the proper use and management of light, a potentially great picture will be made average at best. Likewise, creative light management can take what seems to be an average shot and make it stunning.

For example, let’s say I select a still outdoor target, perhaps a stand of wildflowers in a field. Then I photograph them early in the morning, again at noon and once more at dusk. Each time I shoot, I move around the object and take several different angled pictures.

When I upload my photos to the computer, I will inevitably have two or three discards, a half-dozen nice pictures and one or two exquisite shots. Even though I am adjusting my camera settings each time to compensate for the available light, catching the light as it perfectly highlights the target is something the photographer must learn to do, and it takes time and practice.

Speaking of time, the second tip is take your time. When it comes to outdoor nature photography, patience is essential. My friends will tell you to never go hiking with me when I have my camera, since I will be stopping every 10 to 15 seconds. Why? Because the light is bouncing off of those treetops perfectly, it is painting a delicate highlight on the top of a mushroom or shading a large rock in an unusual way.

When I am shooting outdoors, I am constantly afraid of missing the perfect photo because I wasn’t paying attention or moving too briskly. Slow down, enjoy your surroundings, sometimes it’s even best to sit still and wait for your shot to come to you.

And lastly, the big shots are not always the best shots. You don’t need to swing for the fences. Everyone likes to get that beautiful panorama picture from the top of the mountain or that cascading waterfall picture. I’m no different. But don’t limit yourself to those big moment shots.

Great photos often come from subtle, even uninteresting subjects: Morning dew on a clump of tree moss or frost on the top edges of weeds as the sun first hits them. Old barns or churches along the side of the road. It may even be a lonely old cow willing to pose for you. Experiment with a greater variety of subject matter, it will reward you.

And don’t forget to share your handiwork. I love seeing other photographers’ creations. You are welcome to share your photos with me at Who knows, you might see your pic right here in my next article.

Happy hunting!

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