The season of summer is perhaps nearly everyone’s favourite; the sun is shining, people go on vacation, and most simply spend more time enjoying the outdoors. Don’t limit yourself by thinking that summertime is the only opportunity for photos of nature. Grab your camera to capture any of the seasons, and have unforgettable adventures along the way. When it comes to outdoor photography, any time of the year can yield fantastic and dynamic photos.
When camping and hiking, you may be surrounded by beautiful views. If you are out hiking on a mountain trail with a bright overhead sun, then you’ll want to underexpose the images by maybe 1 or 1 ½ stops, plus you’ll want to use a polarizer filter (which eliminates water reflections and enhances the contrast of the clouds) and a lens hood to prevent flares. If you’re hiking or camping in the woods or forest, then you need to be mindful of the overhead canopy… it is diffusing the sunlight, which will provide a blanket level of illumination, but it won’t be that bright. In these situations, you’ll want to overexpose your images by 1 to 1 ½ stops to ensure that colors are more vibrant.
When taking a night portrait outdoors, you may be lacking in light sources. If you have a campfire, then you can take advantage of this but it may leave a strong orange cast to the photo. Instead, use the on-camera or an external flash, making sure your subject is not too close or too far away. Many cameras have a “night time flash” option which will keep the picture evenly balanced. To capture some truly unique night portraits, you should use the smallest aperture possible (f/1.4-f/4) and set the ISO of your camera to 400 or higher.
Visiting national parks can give you spectacular views of nature. A wide-angle lens is a must for capturing vast landscapes or big mountains. For memorable portraits, be sure to incorporate the natural scenery into the photograph, especially if it’s a famous landscape. If it’s bright and sunny, remember to underexpose and use a polarizer filter. If your subject is dark because of a shadow, use fill-in flash.
Taking photographs in very dark caves is a challenge, especially if you can’t see a thing. Photographing people in the entrance or exit of the cave is a good way to use the existing light to create a dramatic silhouetted image. Place the camera on a tripod and turn the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode and let the camera choose the shutter speed. Remember to turn off the flash and use spot metering mode. Take a light reading of just the bright area and then point your camera at your subject and take the photo. If you want to shoot deep within the cave, where there’s no light, you’ll want to protect your camera from dust and humidity. To see what you’re shooting, you’ll need to use a flashlight or a helmet-light (it will barely provide adequate illumination).
You’ll need to bring flash units that probably can only be used on the designated trails. The only shutter settings of much use in dark cave photography are 1/125s, 1/30s and B(ulb), 1/125s is for synching your flash, 1/30s if you want to use flash bulbs, and B for keeping the shutter open for extended periods (4, 8, 30 seconds). Use your helmet-light (or a flashlight) to scan around and “paint” the cave formations with the light, and hopefully provide enough for the camera. You might want a cable release to aid with this because to take a good photo using long exposure times, you must not allow any camera shake. You’ll have to experiment a bit to see what works best. One last thing, don’t ever touch the cave formations as this can degrade these natural works of art.