How to photograph nature and outdoors

Getting intimate portraits of flowers and wildlife

With a good 35mm single-lens reflex camera and the proper lenses, you can take close-ups of flowers and wildlife.

Each requires different techniques and accessories.

Taking close-ups

Use either a close-up lens that screws onto the front of your regular lens or an extension tube that fits between the regular lens and the camera’s body. The latter should be automatic so that your camera functions normally. If you have a zoom lens, it may have a “macro” mode that will let you shoot at close range.

Use a tripod for close-ups. It will steady the camera and allow you to compose the picture better. Focus carefully to get the most important parts of your subject sharp; a lens has a very shallow depth of field at close range. To increase the sharpness of the picture, use a small aperture; if there is sufficient light, use slow-speed film.

Movement is exaggerated in a close-up. To avoid a blurred image, try to work on a calm day. If it’s breezy, tie a flower to a stake to steady it or erect a wind shield with stakes and fabric. Pay special attention to the light.

Backlighting will give a translucent effect to leaves and flower petals; side lighting will sharply define textures. Hold up a white cloth on a frame cut from cardboard to soften harsh sun light; position a white card to reflect light into shadowed areas.

Photographing animals

Most wild creatures are timid. Move quietly and slowly to avoid frightening them. Wear muted colors, and cover the shiny surfaces of your equipment with dull tape.

Seek out locations where animals feed or water. Or put out food to attract birds and small mammals. Find natural cover with a good view or hide from view in your car or tent. Often, like a hunter, you must stay quietly in one place for hours, or return day after day, until your “prey” gets accustomed to your presence.

To pull in subjects from a distance, you need a 200 to 400mm telephoto lens. A telephoto lens can be tricky to work with; it exaggerates camera movement and has a limited depth of field. Steady the lens on a tripod. Focus carefully. Anticipate your subject’s actions, focus on a spot it will move into, and take the picture when it gets there. Use high-speed film (ISO 400 to 1000) and fast shutter speeds.