Nature photography, in its most common definition, is the area of photography dealing with capturing images of the natural world. This includes landscapes, wildlife, foliage, cloudscapes, night scenes, bodies of water, and other outdoor sceneries. Still, there are some nature photographers who prefer to limit nature photography to images of the original state of nature without the interference of man. If this is the case, the plants or animals to be photographed should be endemic in the region and there should be no cultivation of land or any other man-made structures around.
Among all the types of photography, nature photography is considered to be of the most aesthetic value. Since photo journalism and documentary photography intends to reflect real life, the subjects may not have the same aesthetic appeal as that of nature photography.
Nature photography can be subdivided in many ways. The largest subdivision would probably be landscape photography. Having the objective to capture images of the natural world with minimum or no human intervention, it can be in the form of spectacular land formations, bodies of water and cloud formations. Wide angle lens are the most appropriate in this type of photography, capturing as much of the scenery as possible.
In landscape photography, photographers prefer taking pictures during the golden hour – the hour before sunset or after sunrise – where the lighting tends to be most dramatic. This photographic effect is said to occur due to the long path traveled by the sun’s rays, making it more diffused. The longer shadows created by the light coming horizontally instead of vertically also adds to this effect. For cloudscapes, the different colors of the sky come out only during the golden hour when the sun’s rays hit the atmosphere and the clouds at a specific angle, giving rise to the dazzling hues and different intensities of light.
Another large subdivision of nature photography would be wildlife photography, dedicated to animals in their natural activities. Since many animals like birds, small mammals and insects move quickly, cameras used in wildlife photography have fast shutter speeds. Wildlife photographers also use telephoto lenses for long range shots and night vision cameras for low light conditions. Underwater cameras are also used to photograph fish, corals and other marine life. Because some of the shots necessitate getting close to dangerous or sensitive subjects, there are photographers who camouflage their cameras and control them remotely.
Close-up photography, also called macro photography involves focusing on the smaller details usually difficult to see in the everyday experience. Macro or micro lenses are used for this type of nature photography and the subjects usually include close-ups of insects and other small animals. Other subjects are leaves, stones and tree barks because of their interesting textures. Small flowers and other colorful subjects also form a macro photographer’s portfolio. Proper lighting is very important in macro photography to ensure that all details, textures and color are captured in the photograph.
The use of color in nature photography is not a requirement. Some photographers still prefer the drama created by black-and-white photography. However, this is not usually the case for close-up photography where color is usually central to a photograph’s theme.