Reviewing my photos, both digital and traditional, from all these years of hiking routes and mountain ascents, landscapes and adventures, I realize even more the importance that photography has in this type of activities. In fact, I would dare to say that nature photography is in itself an adventure. As a good friend of mine says "each photo tells its own story". It is true that for some people it is nothing more than a mere formality that testifies their passage or visit to a place, but for others it has a special component that increases the attractiveness of any route, so we want to give you some tips to improve your hiking and mountain photographs.
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For experts, nature photography is a difficult art to master and they are undoubtedly right. Here we are going to give you some tips and try to clarify some basic concepts to help you improve your nature photography. It is not about becoming great professional photographers, it is about that in our next adventure, in our next trip, we broaden our perspective before pressing the shutter of our camera and we do not do it simply by inertia.
In reality, you are the main factor in the photograph you are about to capture. The quality of the camera, the beauty of the landscape depend on your experience, on your ability to immortalize the moment. Who doesn't like a photograph that takes you back to that moment, to that place. A task that is not always easy and that of course also depends on the person who is watching the photograph because as we know there is nothing written about tastes.
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Having enough practice and technique to take good nature photographs will help us in this task. Fortunately nowadays digital photography has become a great ally allowing us, among other things, to have professional quality cameras. Having the appropriate equipment is undoubtedly important, but today we will leave for another article the tips and recommendations to get our photography equipment and we will go directly to the practical part.
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Shutter speed, aperture, exposure... are some basic technical concepts that we should know and that will help us to create images, to capture our moment.
We have to be aware that it's not just point and shoot, it's about looking at the picture you want to take beforehand, thinking about what story you want to tell with the photo you are about to take.
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All these settings play an important role in a photograph and allow you by manipulating them to be creative and vary the look of the image you are going to take. You can find all kinds of tips regarding these settings when taking pictures. The lower the ISO the better, the f8 aperture the better than f4... but the truth is that each photograph and each photographer has their own unique settings.
Of course there are some "rules" in photography, such as the rule of thirds, obviously a photograph in which the ground occupies a large part of it will surely not be the best decision, unless the photographer wants to give prominence to some element that is on it, in which case it might be better to either make a close-up of it or look for a different framing. In short, be creative.
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To gain those skills as a photographer it is not a bad start to study photographs of other photographers; analyze each photo and ask yourself why you captured it that way. Surely this will help you to discover and train your way of framing and deciding what you want in the foreground, in short, to compose the photo so that your best photos are not the result of chance, as are many of the nature and mountain photos we see on social networks. Although it is no less true that there are people who have a greater facility to capture great pictures without too many explanations.
It's funny but usually many of the photographs we see of well-known places are usually very similar, the same framing, the same focal length. And the fact is that when people visit these places they have usually already seen the typical viral photo that they want to imitate consciously or unconsciously. Undoubtedly it is difficult to find the elements that make our photo different from the rest, but you can use some tricks.
You can try to play with the focus or look for more depth by capturing a close element while keeping the background of the image wide.
You can apply effects, for example by extending the exposure time if there are moving objects or people, to create a motion blur effect or in the case of water the silk effect.
It is also not a bad idea to create compositions with several photos that allow you to show the full extent of the landscape you are in. Many cameras already have panoramic and even 360º modes.
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Nowadays practically all cameras and even more so those of cell phones have a large number of functions and modes, familiarizing ourselves with them will be of great help to improve our photographs. There are many who do not want complications and do not leave the automatic mode of the camera, a mode that every day that passes is more successful but still has many limitations, especially if not properly configured. The histogram, white balance, ISO, contrast levels are some of the functions that I encourage you to practice with. You will surely see that they are much easier to use than they seem, allowing you to create photographs with much more personality and quality than ever before.
Professional photographers or amateur nature photographers often use wide-angle lenses, so they can focus on a particular element without losing too much breadth of the environment around them. It is obvious that carrying with us a complete photography equipment would be ideal to be able to experiment, telephoto lenses, tripods, lenses, etc ... but in the world of hiking and mountain photography we usually carry enough weight and adding more is not usually the best option. Even so, as we have mentioned before, many of our cameras, including those of cell phones, come with settings or modes that allow us to play with the focal length and capture great images.
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When we talk about landscapes, hiking trails or mountain ascents the memories that come to mind are full of intense colors and it seems that nature photographs should also be full of color. But I dare to tell you that some of the best photographs I have seen of this subject have been in black and white. Try capturing photographs of this type and you will surely be surprised.
Some of the most spectacular photographs are often taken from elevated areas or even at ground level. These locations allow the photographer to capture the scene from a different perspective than usual. Be attentive and take advantage of the opportunities that nature gives you, analyze the environment around you and think about where you could take a more spectacular image.
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Many landscape photographs can become very monotonous and lead the viewer to lose interest quickly. Do not hesitate to include in your nature photographs elements that are in nature. A hermitage, an animal or even hikers or mountaineers, respecting of course their privacy, help your photographs tell a story and engage the people who see them.
We have all heard about the golden hours of photography, sunset and sunrise are without a doubt the best times to take pictures. But the rest of the day you can also find moments in which the light is your great ally, bringing that touch of color, subtlety to the captured image.
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For the most experienced photographers this is one of the best moments to take a spectacular picture. It is not an easy task, we will have to play with the focal length and shutter speed to get good results and this requires time and patience, but the results can be magnificent.
Generally we tend, especially in automatic mode, to capture perfectly focused, frozen images, but sometimes if our protagonist is in motion the photograph gains in quality, in differentiation if we enhance the sensation of movement. This method is widely used when water is the protagonist to achieve that striking silk effect, but we can also apply it to people, animals and we can even blur the entire composition if we subtly accompany the movement with our camera.
In any case we have to work mainly on the shutter speed, i.e. on the time the "lens remains open". It is true that we will also have to modify other parameters such as ISO sensitivity to find a balance.
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I propose a simple test, take a photo of any landscape, now take the same photo but incorporate an element as the protagonist, a person, an animal, an object, etc ... And now compare the two photographs of nature, surely the image that incorporates the element in the foreground will call your attention more than the other, surely the landscape that you wanted to immortalize stands out even more than the image in which it is alone.
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If you want to get more information and discover more in depth the techniques of mountain, landscape and nature photography, here is a link to Amazon where you can buy some of the best books on the subject.