We live in an area that’s rich in subject matter for wildlife and scenic landscape photography. Southern New Jersey is famous for the diverse bird population that lives and migrates through here. I published a book of black-and-white wildlife and landscape photographs in Salem County titled Salem Sojourn.
So what’s the key to making great images of the great outdoors? There are several things even the most casual photographer can do to make better images of wildlife and scenic landscapes. Let’s concentrate on scenic landscapes first. To be even more specific, let’s talk sunsets. Everyone has shot a sunset. It’s difficult to resist.
A general rule for sunset photos is wait until you can look at the sun before photographing it. I’m referring to that ‘National Geographic light’ found just before sunset when colors are the richest. Skies are crisp blue and reds and yellows are the warmest. And try this: position the sun in your viewfinder other than the middle of the frame. Position the horizon toward the top or bottom of the frame avoiding dead center. Lastly, incorporate another element to lead the viewer’s eye around the image. This can be a tree, a building, a person, or a pier to add depth to the image and frame that big orange ball.
As far as exposure is concerned, bracket. This can be difficult if you’re using a cell phone camera. If you’re using a cell phone camera point the lens slightly away from the sun. As I said earlier, you shouldn’t put the sun in the middle of the frame anyway. And even the most basic point-and-shoot cameras allow you to shoot over and under the exposure. Along with bracketing the exposure, bracket the view also. Shoot lots of variations and move the horizon line up and down in the viewfinder, change the position of the sun in the frame as it sets, and look for things in the foreground to add interest to the photograph. I included two examples here. One made with a smart phone and the other using a long lens on a standard 35mm digital single lens reflex camera (DSLP).
I’ll get into photographing wildlife the next time.