Close-Up Nature Photography at Dawn - dummies

By Thomas Clark

Certain elements present only in the early morning help lend a sense of narrative to a close-up nature photograph that causes viewers to read into it.

One of the main giveaways that an image was photographed in the morning is the lighting. But many other elements add to your story:

  • Dew is one of the best friends a macro and close-up photographer can have. It can add interest to just about any subject, and it helps viewers pin a time of day to your image. When photographing a subject with dewdrops, pay attention to the reflections in the water itself. Dew can also help to reveal bits of the surrounding environment.

    Notice in this photograph how some supporting elements that were not included in the composition appear in the dew’s reflections. Using dew like this can work as a more interesting way to reveal information about a subject.


100mm, 1/15, f/8, 800

  • Frost is the frozen version of dew. It doesn’t work as well for showing reflections, but it makes for an interesting complement to most subjects, giving a sense of cold and crispness. Apart from telling the time of day, frost can reveal information about a subject’s whereabouts, telling viewers the photograph was taken in a cold climate, or on a mountain, or during winter.

    Waiting for the frost to melt from direct contact with sunlight can produce out of the ordinary opportunities for a macro and close-up photographer.

  • Mist in the air sometimes occurs in the morning (caused by evaporation from the cooling ground surface during the night, or warm air passing over a cool surface such as snow or ice). This provides soft, low-contrast scenes with muted colors and a sense of dreaminess.

    The farther a subject is from your camera, the less visible it becomes. This creates an opportunity to make your subject stand out the most (by having it closest to the camera) while elements in the background gradually fade. This photograph shows an example of this type of composition.


50mm, 1/200, f/4, 200

The early morning represents a transitional period. Get there before the perfect imprints left in the sand by a bird, or a raccoon, before they’re destroyed by human footprints or covered by the wind. By removing a leaf from a dewy scene, you’re left with the dry area in the shape of the leaf, which went unaffected by the build-up of moisture. This photograph shows an example.


50mm, 1/250, f/8, 200

In nature photography, generally the light produced in the middle of the day is not the best for creating beautiful photographs. The sun is most likely very high in the sky, causing harsh shadows that are cast straight downward.