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More and more outdoor recreational sites such as national parks and local attractions are opening up with the warmer weather, the general optimism concerning the pandemic, and kids getting out of school.
Since so many outdoor enthusiasts enjoy photographing while hiking, it almost seems like taking pictures is a basic activity when hiking outdoors. Let’s talk about how to take good hiking photos and other ideas and tips for photographing the great outdoors.
Nature Photography Tips
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What are some of the better nature photography tips and techniques? An important tip for all outdoor photography is to charge up the batteries and carry enough memory cards. When you’re 12 hours from home and 2 hours into a hike is not the time to think about battery charge or if your cards are full. Carry extras, too.
I also prefer my landscape photography gear to have certain features to begin with, many of which I consider before any purchases or upgrades, so it may be a little different for some just starting out photographing while hiking.
Those features usually concern weather sealing and ruggedness as well as exposure control such as spot metering, exposure compensation, and auto bracketing. If your current gear doesn’t have these features, put it on a back burner until you're ready for your next upgrade or find a way to do it otherwise.
Hiking Photography Tips
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Weather sealing is one of the more important hiking photography tips, since there will be situations that test your nature photography gear. Many newer cameras in the different levels (entry level, prosumer, full fledged professional) have improved weather resistance quite a bit over models from just a few years ago.
If the camera you’re using doesn’t have weather sealing, you can easily add that capability with some inexpensive protective covers. I’ve used rain shields, rain sleeves, padded tactical camera bags, and a plastic freezer bag with a hole cut in it to help protect my gear from my slips and falls and inclement weather such as snow or drizzle.
Speaking of dealing with water, I want to recommend a non photographic item that I consider ultra important to photographing while hiking, superb footwear. A great pair of hiking boots and some moisture socks will definitely add to your enjoyment of photographing while hiking.
Landscape Photography Tips
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A large part of my photographing while hiking will be landscape photography. Hiking away from the paved roads or developed fields tends to result in a scenic view that is just begging to be captured. Other parts of my nature photography outing will involve close up and macro views of interesting things and taking photos of wildlife.
A couple of methods that have had a gigantic impact in landscape photography are ND filters and bracket and merge HDR photography. Both of these landscape photography tips and techniques are used to control exposure dynamic range issues.
Neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters (ND and GND) are used to either change exposure settings for longer exposure times or wider apertures for selective focus tricks, and GND filters are used to balance out a scene with both extremely bright and extremely dark exposure elements.
High dynamic range or HDR photography, also known as bracket and merge technique, is a method where multiple frames of the same exact scene are taken at several different exposure levels optimizing for deep shadows, bright highlights, and everything in between.
These two techniques are used to create amazing looking images of nature and landscape scenes. They require extra effort, both while taking the exposure and afterwards in a post processing program. The resulting images can be outstanding when these tools and methods are used creatively.
Hiking and Nature Photography Gear
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Several of these hiking photography tips and techniques require specialty equipment or using existing equipment in a specific way, so the use of certain landscape photography gear is necessary.
Using ND filters and GND filters means we need to have these filters on hand. I like to use a filter holder system for this style of photography. A filter holder system is versatile and saves money in the long run since you can adapt one set of filters to many lenses.
Filter holder systems usually include another important nature and landscape filter, the circular polarizer, one of the basic and first filters we should obtain.
Using ND and GND filters or engaging in HDR photography pretty much means you’ll need a tripod or some sort of support to deal with needing the camera to be completely motionless. If carrying a tripod while hiking isn’t practical or maybe just too cumbersome, try out some of the excellent tripod alternatives for photographing while hiking.
One of my favorite tripod alternatives is the low cost, compact OctoPad camera mount. It is a weighted, semi-rigid disk with a non-slip pad underneath and a tripod mount on top. You can use it with a ball and socket or add an extension arm for more reach.
OctoPad is small enough to fit in most backpacks or hiking camera bags like a padded tactical sling pack and is inexpensive so you can use two or more at once for some styles of videography, too.
Rain sleeves, rain covers, and a microfiber cloth are also valuable accessories for photographing while hiking, since you often run into situations like a passing rain shower or fording a small stream while out in nature searching for great photography subjects.
So as you go out and go places, do things, and take tons of photos, stay safe, watch out for snakes, and enjoy your outdoor photography!