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Take Great Nature Photographs

When you photograph a beautiful place, your goal should be for someone to say, “I wish I was there.” In a great nature photograph, your goal isn’t to send the image to someone and say, “I was here.”

When you visit a beautiful landscape or see a colorful flower or an animal you want to take a picture of, it’s time to dig deep and see what’s in front of you. Here are some things to consider when you go on a photo shoot:

  • Set a high standard. Approach each photo shoot with high expectations. Tell yourself you’re going to get some great pictures, and don’t cut your shooting time short. Go shooting on a day when you have the luxury of time to devote to your photography without other constraints. Then you give yourself permission to keep shooting as long as things are interesting.

  • Be in the moment. It’s hard to be a photographer, see picture elements, and compose a great image when you’re thinking about what you need to do after the photo shoot. Concentrate fully on your photography and you’ll notice the beauty before you and see photographs before you put the camera to your eye.

  • See the big picture. Notice everything. See the forest and the trees. You can equate this to looking at the area with a wide-angle lens.

  • See the details. After you see the big picture, narrow your focus. Develop what photographer Jay Maisel calls "telephoto vision." When you see a splash of color or something that looks different, focus on the area and see if there’s a picture there. Zoom in to fine-tune your vision.

  • See everything. Don’t forget to look down and up. You may find an interesting subject beneath your feet or in the treetops. That’s right; the canopy of a forest can be a very interesting subject if you see an interesting pattern.

  • Take your time. When you find an interesting area, milk it for all it’s worth. Pick the low-hanging fruit first and then reach higher. Find an interesting way to photograph what you see, a way you’ve never photographed a scene like this before. You may create a unique photograph of the area that nobody’s ever taken before.

  • See the differences. Nature doesn’t have any set patterns or rhythms. But there is a certain order to things. Tree trunks are brown and leaves are green (or other vibrant colors, depending on the season and location). When you see something that’s different, focus your attention on it. It could be an orchid hanging from a tree. The tawny brown shape you see in the distance could be a bobcat.

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