We all love a great view, a beautiful sunset, or a perfect blue sky. Most of the time trying to capture the image to film (or a memory card) leaves us feeling underwhelmed and confused, thinking, "Why doesn't the picture look like what I see?" Here are a few tips to help you capture those wonderful moments and images that you encounter on your outdoor excursions.
Whether you are using a DSLR camera, a simple digital camera, or even the camera on your smart phone, these tips can help improve your pictures.
1. Wait for the "golden hour" ("magic hour"). This is the time when the light of the sun makes everything look magical. The light is soft and warm and it makes things glow unlike any other time of the day. This hour occurs right after sunrise, and the hour before sunset, when the sun is closest to the horizon. So, early to bed and early to rise!
2. Frame the shot before you take it. Make sure that your photo has a focal point, a foreground, and a background. If the photo has too many objects in it, it won't look as good as you want it to. Try to focus on keeping the pictures simple, since nature has its own beauty.
3. Play with the camera angle. Try to shoot a photo while lying down directly under a tree, making the tree look huge and powerful. Or, get up high and shoot down for a dramatic shot. Look for tiny details that are so often overlooked, like bugs sitting on a leaf. Get a close-up shot of some moss growing on a rock. All of these angles will make the picture more dramatic.
4. Use filters. Play with the settings on your camera, or especially on a smart phone. There are plenty of photo apps for the iPhone and Android that allow you to use different filters or even add text to your picture.
5. Be patient. Weather can change drastically and very quickly. If you are patient, you might capture something amazing. Don't give up if you don't feel like you have good shots, there is always another day to try.
6. Think outside the box. Nature has so many unique places and spaces, so it only makes sense that you want to capture the weirdness that you find. Let your eyes lead you around to explore and you will find some interesting things that you possibly haven't seen before.
7. Play with lines and shapes. Use trees to frame a shot, or find downed trees lying in straight or diagonal lines. Use the trail that you are on to lead the eye to the focal point of the shot. Trees and plants have unusual and interesting shapes that you can capture to make the pictures interesting.
8. Try getting up close or far, far away. Take a picture right up close to a plant and blur the background. Or for the opposite effect, try a wide-angle lens to capture a large and expansive space. Nature is grand and it is fun to try to capture the open-air feeling that we can feel while outdoors.
9. Follow the rule of thirds. Or don't. Try framing the shot so that the photo is balanced. This can help a beginner to frame a good shot. However, don't let the rule of thirds stop you from taking a unique or weird picture. It is often those sparks of creativity that lead to shooting the best pictures.
10. Take your camera off of auto-mode. If you have manual capabilities on your camera, USE THEM! A good picture is taken by balancing the light with the amount of exposure. There is usually a little meter that you can see in the viewfinder of the camera. Try to keep that meter balanced in the middle so you have a good amount of exposure compared to the light. Use manual focus to give a more dramatic effect on your pictures.
Overall, taking pictures outdoors just takes practice and a little creativity. Don't get so caught up in shooting the perfect picture that you miss the beauty that is all around you. Hopefully these tips will help you on your next outdoor adventure!