Nature Photography Strategies | David Miller | Skillshare
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8 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Intro

      0:40
    • 2. Clear Sky at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

      6:46
    • 3. Cloudy Sky at Papago Park

      4:22
    • 4. Macro and bugs

      2:02
    • 5. Slow Motion Water

      3:13
    • 6. Working in Lightroom Pt 1 - Black and White Conversion

      6:34
    • 7. Working in Lightroom Pt 2 - Photo Merge

      4:19
    • 8. Wrap Up and Project

      0:34

About This Class

This class is meant for the beginning photographer who wants to get outside and make images but isn't quite sure where to start.  We'll head out to some of my favorite outdoor locales in Arizona to shoot plants, animals, and landscapes using our wits, in-camera effects, specialty gear, and post production techniques.  We'll also cover composition and different weather scenarios.  

Transcripts

1. Intro: Hi. I'm David Miller, a photographer and multimedia artist in Phoenix, Arizona, And today we'll be covering some of my techniques for nature and landscape photography. This class is intended for beginners in nature photography, but some experience setting the camera manual settings is helpful. I'll be taking you along on some of my favorite local Arizona hiking spots under different lighting conditions and show you the gear and techniques I use in my own nature. Photography. It's all about having fun in the great outdoors, But don't forget the basics of safety. Avoid extreme temperatures, use sunscreen, watch out for dangerous animals and don't get lost That out of the way, let's get shooting. 2. Clear Sky at Boyce Thompson Arboretum: So our first hike is that an arboretum in central Arizona and we have a lot of you are traditional desert landscape ings in this area. It's also open on Leon certain hours on certain days. So we had to go out 11 oclock in the morning. Sun is directly overhead, not a cloud in the sky. We're not going to try and get any sort of dramatic landscape. Panoramic X. You work with what nature gives you, and today we focused on details. So I'm shooting with my Fuji X T one, which is a smaller camera. But smaller actually works better for me. Why traveling, Hiking? Because I don't want the weight. And I don't wanna have to be Wait. I don't want or need anything particularly cumbersome for my shooting experience. And this particular lens that's on here is a 55 to 200 shooting at its six at 4.5 at 11 25th of a second, one of the benefits of shooting with telephoto as it enhances your small depth of field so I can pick out these details and there's a lot of cool ones. I think something like this is a little mishmash e for me, something like this, where I have an empty space next to sharp in space. That works a lot better for me. So, as I said before, I'm really digging the back lighting. I love making these things look as alive is they actually are, And I love picking out those small details. What I'm doing. Nature photography. Generally because of not dealing with moving targets, I'll switch over to manual mode. Manual focus. Take the time. Get exactly the shot I'm looking for. So when doing a shot, I generally give myself 45 options. If I could describe them as simply as possible, I'll say there's a tight shot. Horizontal, a tight shot, vertical far away, horizontal and far away. Vertical change. My point of view. Taking a knee, taking the worm's eye view. Horizontal, vertical, horizontal, vertical tight far away. Once you get into that rhythm goes very, very quickly, so I want to talk a second for so I want to talk a second about frame within a frame, which I had clouds in the sky. Just may say here wouldn't need anything else to frame it, because the clouds would eat up all this blue space on the negative space, but I happen to be standing underneath a tree. It is a backups. You see. The tree itself takes up the space that the cloud it's back up even more. If I wanted the sun using my star filter as a sparkle, it's there. Um, this is being filmed around 11 30 11 oclock. It's no way I'm going to get the sun near that mason. So was I take a couple steps to the left, couple to the right. You see how that treaty repositions itself above the mesa. I've got the sun backlighting, the plants, the leaves on this tree, and overall, the mesa as well let their some areas that are shaded. But they're not shaded so many stops that will end up being black in my final picture. So let's take it something this small. My auto focus isn't even catching, so have to do in a manual focus, which is fine by me. I'd rather walk home getting this shot best I could then blaming my equipment for some kind of failure or inability to do its job. When I see some wildlife, I want to get the shot and take it before I advance. So I shot quite a few in between which before I started walking towards them like you see me do now. But once I've got something, I'll try and get closer. So here we got a bird gathering some nest supplies. He only came down because I was standing in one place long enough without moving around. 3. Cloudy Sky at Papago Park: So we're at Papago Park in Phoenix, and this is the kind of day that we really, really love when we're nature photographers because we have dramatic skies. We have what we call God rays, which are those lights that air coming through the clouds. It's not completely overcast. And when I get a nice dramatic sky like this, it works best if there is something framed against it in contrast to that sky. So luckily I happen to live in the area that has mountains, and Papago Park is not a large set of mountains by any stretch of the word by. They do protrude off the ground, and it's on easy drive for me. I know a lot of people will look a dramatic skies and say All I gotta get to the most exciting place within driving distance and driving distance to them might mean 45 minutes, and by the time they get there, the cloud so dissipated the moment is gone, so we have to think practically when we see great weather and we're headed out to take advantage of it. I like Papago Park. It has a particular unique readiness to the rocks that you get also get near Sedona. It looks good, framed against a dramatic sky, and because the rocks are red, they go white. When I use a red filtration in light room after the fact, now the question comes up. If you intend on doing sort of a traditional black and white landscape up, do you photograph of black and white using the internal filters on your camera? Monochromatic filters? Or, in my case, my fuji has a yellow filter, a red filter, etcetera? Or do you shoot it in color and manipulated after the fact to be the black and white that you want? Well, personally, I default towards shooting and color, manipulating after the facts in general, shooting in raw and taking advantage of having all the data in all the areas, such as thes shadow tones. If I had shot this using one of my J peg in camera settings in camera filtration, I would end up with the J Peg with with that look. But if I tried to pull any detail out of the shadow tones or put detail back into the highlights, it isn't gonna happen that the detail has been thrown away through the process of J pay conversion. So whether this looks good black and white or color, it's really a matter of taste. I do default towards the old black and whites Ansel Adams style of presenting a landscape. Except this landscape has a prominent color in it. Read. Which means I could justifiably present is that way presented with a little extra clarity, little extra contrast to heighten the color and the detail, but otherwise leave it as natural as possible. So for comparison's sake, this is our straight out of camera wrong image and you could see is pretty dark in the shadow tones that I have close to me. Here's an enhanced version with little Adam clarity. Little added contrast, pumping up the shadows, pulling down on the highlights. And I think there's little added vibrance to it, black and white. That's with a red filtration and black and white. That's what the yellow filtration, but with a little added brushwork above the clouds, meaning I brushed in extra contrast and lowered the exposure probably by 1/3 on the cloud areas 4. Macro and bugs: So today we are headed out to photograph small objects, and I don't own a macro lens. But I have the next best thing, which is a piece of equipment called an extension to the extension tube goes between your lens and your camera, and they are camera specific, manufacturer specific. So if you're a owner of a Nikon camera, you would look for either the Nikon Extension Tube or the third party brand extension tube . The thing with third party gear is it doesn't always function the way you wanted to. So when I use third party extension tubes on my Nikon gear, I didn't really have good access to my auto focus settings. But with my current Fuji set up and using a Fuji extension tube, it functions. Just the autofocus and tracking function just fine. With an extension tube, you're going to be very, very close to the objects that you're photographing. And when those objects are something simple, like flower or a blade of grass, all you really have to worry about is the wind. One of my favorite things to photograph in macro are insects. One of the reasons I enjoy photographing insects is there pretty predictable in their behavior. So bees are gonna be headed towards pollen, and they're gonna hang around a trashcan at a park that has soda pop poured into it. The insects like sugary stuff so you can put some honey out to attract them. In the case of butterflies, you can set out some fruit. You can even put a little apple in a jar, punch a hole in the top of the jar, let the apple rot. You'll collect a bunch of flies that way, if you're but those people who just loves flies, so 5. Slow Motion Water: So we're going to head out to shoot some running streams, and we'll be using a couple pieces of gear that will let us achieve a slower shutter speed effect so the water looks like it's in motion rather than frozen solid. The first piece of gear I'm gonna talk about is a neutral density shelter, which is basically putting sunglasses on your camera lens to use a slower shutter speed on your camera. During daylight, you'll have to cut down the amount of light that comes through your lens and the neutral density filters. The way to achieve this without any slower shutter speed, such as 1/10 of a second, will result in a blown out image totally white, even if I have my f stop closed all the way down in my eye. So is at 100. The second piece of gear I'm using is a gorilla pod. It's like a tripod, but with bendable legs and much smaller. The gorilla pod is easy to carry in your camera bag on a hike and lets me position my camera very close to the water or ground level. Without any stability, you won't be able to shoot much in the slower shutter speeds because everything will come out blurry, not just your moving water. With your neutral density filters and guerrilla pot on, it's just a matter of composing your image and shooting. Depending on the speed of the water, you'll get the mystical water effect anywhere from 1/10 of a second to anything slower than that. So 1/2 of a 2nd 1 second two seconds again, you have to watch out for blowing out your image. Even with the neutral density filter on, there will be a limit to how much you can expose your photograph. If you have the option to use a remote control sync cable or WiFi photo app to trigger your shutter would be a lot less likely to introduce camera Shake in your final image. So we're going to head out to shoot some running streams, and we'll be using a couple pieces of gear that will let us achieve a slower shutter speed effect so the water looks like it's in motion rather than frozen solid. The first piece of gear I'm gonna talk about is a neutral density filter, which is basically putting sunglasses on your camera lens to use a slower shutter speed on your camera during daylight, you'll have to cut down the amount of light that comes through your lens and the neutral density filters. The way to achieve this without any slower shutter speed, such as 1/10 of a second will result in a blown out image totally white, even if I have my f stop closed all the way down in my eye. So is at 100. The second piece of gear I'm using is a gorilla pod. It's like a tripod, but with bendable legs and much smaller guerrilla pod is easy to carry in your camera bag on a hike and lets me position my camera very close to the water or ground level without any stability. You won't be able to shoot much in the slower shutter speeds because everything will come out blurry, not just your moving water. With your neutral density filters and guerrilla pot on, it's just a matter of composing your image and shooting. Depending on the speed of the water, you'll get the mystical water effect anywhere from 1/10 of a second to anything slower than that. So 1/2 of a 2nd 1 second two seconds again, you have to watch out for blowing out your image. Even with the neutral density filter on, there will be a limit to how much you can expose your photograph. If you have the option to use a remote control sync cable or WiFi photo app to trigger your shutter, it would be a lot less likely to introduce camera shake in your final image. 6. Working in Lightroom Pt 1 - Black and White Conversion: Okay, so we're sitting in her light room and I've got the photos loaded up from the arboretum. I'm going through the filmstrip panel right now hitting P on the ones that I like and X on the ones that I think I made big mistakes on such a zoo. Out of focus. P puts a flag on it. X sets it to reject the end of this process. I'm going to do command delete on my Mac book pro, which will eliminate all of the rejects. And I believe that is something like control backspace on a Windows computer. If you're using it Windows interface for your light room. Um, of all these bird ones, I kind of like the ones where it's vertical or so that horizontal There's just a nice flow from that branch from one corner to the other. Sadly, the rejects and usually I begin the editing process with cropping. But I think this time we're going to see if we can find a preset, a black and white preset that gets us to the point where we want to be. So in the develop module, in light room, on the left hand panel, it's your presets. A lot of them are canned. They come with light room, but you can also create and save your own. The black and white ones are based on the same kind of filtration that you would have had on a traditional film camera on the end of your lens, a yellow filter at Red Filter, etcetera. You think of Ansel Adams nature photography. He used a deep red filter on the end of his lens to give the clouds some contrast against the sky. I don't have any clouds, which, um, I'm going to make it work without clouds. Now I do see some dust spots that were either on the inside of my lens or on my sensor. Um, gonna clean those up really quickly if I'm doing the kind of editing, such as highlighting those three bird images on the bottom and employing the black and white filter to all of them. If that's the kind of editing I'm doing that I can apply it to all three at the same time, I am going to have my photos Auto Sync because it saves me a little bit of time. The sink and auto sync buttons are on your lower right panel in the develop module. But if I'm doing these individualized edits like taking out spots moving the crop tool around, I can't synchronize that between three photos because the despot, um, maybe on the bird's head, in one photo and in the sky and the other, or might crop off the wrong thing if I crop all three or four photos at the same time. So now I'm doing a little fine tuning. I'm gonna want that bird much larger than I was able to shoot it in the picture. I want him to be a larger percentage of the damage. Let me do a comparison between a couple of these in the library module. You have a compare view. I'm thinking the one on the left was the winner, the one where the bird was positioned more to the right but facing more to the left rather than having something positioned on the left and facing left, which gave me a bunch of dead space. This image we're going to do pretty much weight in the last one is a little more cluttered with the background. The way I shot this guy. No, real way to blur out all those tree branches in the background and between the branches and his feather coloration. They're so similar that if I went black and white, he might just blend in too much. You can see when I mouse over those presets that it would have given me a bland image. It's the kind of thing that actually worked better in color. So at this point, I'm using an adjustment brush to add on exposure onto this guy, Gonna brighten the shadows on them a little bit, see if I could make him pop. These kinds of images usually don't require as much work. They are not really about anything in particular there more of a minor white style abstraction. In this case, the gods stem that has a blowout on it. Take down the highlights and why it's boost the shadows, Little clarity and contrast added, Maybe suck out some of the yellow just to emphasize the green 7. Working in Lightroom Pt 2 - Photo Merge: So we're going to edit a panoramic in light room. And the way that this panoramic was shot Waas, I focused on infinity. I had my camera on manual exposure settings, meaning that the temperature was something I picked. The isil was something I picked, and the shutter speed was something I picked. I did a series of vertical images that overlapped, So the amount of overlap you're supposed to have is about 30 degrees using a wide angle lens. So something in the neighborhood of 24. 28 millimeters on a DSLR. The overlap doesn't have to precisely be 30 degrees. I used to use a little clicker device that had 30 degree increments, and now I just guessed to mate. If you overshoot, it's OK. I like to shoot thes as verticals, because when I get my final panoramic as you'll see, it's going to end up something closer to a four by 68 by 12 aspect ratio, as opposed to a really, really, really long panoramic that, if I were to print it out, might be three inches high and 12 inches long. I I feel like this is an interesting way to pack a lot of detail and show more of a scene than an individual photo, but the panoramic that are really stretched out aspect ratio. I don't find them quite as appealing as they do something that's a little more standard that could fit in a frame or or go on a wall without um being really short on the height and really long in the wit. Once you've taken your sequence of images, it's really, really simple to get them together as a panoramic in light room. We highlight them on the filmstrip, right click photo emerge panorama. So if you were to do this same phone emerge sequence in photo shop, it would give you more than three options for how it blends the images. But in light room, it gives you these three options spherical, cylindrical in perspective. Perspective is really only useful if you're shooting inside of something that protrudes towards you like a room, and the walls of the room are coming towards you. So I usually go with what the auto select projection is, unless I have a really strong opinion in another way. Now this particular panoramic It was a bridge that stretched over a River, and when it's attached these together, it's got him pretty warped, and that's actually the way I like it. I'm gonna stretch it out. Like I said, I think Mawr, Rectangular, um, or even aspect ratio is little more appealing to look at something that it's really long this way. When I shoot a panoramic, I tried to pig the material that has interesting things all over. So in this case I was on a bridge and there was water. And then there was kind of spooky tree next to the bridge, and I'm not really sure when I'm shooting a panoramic. If all the elements are going to fill up the space, and in an interesting way, it helps if you have something that's close to you so insane. With almost all nature photography, you want some foreground elements, and you want some background elements, and you want them to play off of each other. It's more interesting to have that immersive natural experience than to have everything be far off on the background. For example, if I wasn't standing on the bridge and if I wasn't near the spooky tree and if I wasn't directly overhead of the water would be a much less interesting composition than what we have, so we click emerge and you're basically done. 8. Wrap Up and Project: So that's it. We've been out several locations. 200 several different lighting conditions. We photograph using backlighting, macro work, black and white filtration, panoramic in the neutral density filters coupled with guerrilla pod. And I want to see what you guys are coming up with. This is your project. You go out, use one or any combination of those techniques. Poster work on the skill share website. Share with the community. Thanks for watching and see you in the great outdoors.