The National Geographic Guide To Landscape And Wildlife Photography

Do you also feel amazed and re-energized whenever you bring a camera out after work, to capture the seducing evening atmosphere? 

I’ve heard several people say that this quickly makes them forget the strains of their daily routines. Photography lets you live in the moment, focus on your subject, and share how you see the world with others. 

Landscape and wildlife photography, or simply nature photography, is great for this, since it often provides fresh inspiration. Whether you enjoy taking photographs of plants, animals, or landscapes, photography is an amazing way of expressing your love of nature and spending your time away from home. 

The National Geographic guide to landscape and wildlife photography has everything you need to get started in nature photography, including the basic equipment you will need. Kindly note: when you are out taking pictures of wildlife, it is very important to be cautious towards nature and the environment, and not upset wild animals.

What is Landscape Photography?

There are many ways you can define landscape photography. But the meaning always remains the same: landscape photography is a way or a method of capturing photographs of nature to bring viewers into the scene

Photograpy in nature
Nature Photography

Landscape photography is how you can demonstrate your connection to nature and capture the life of the surrounding environment. Forests, rivers, deserts, mountains and sea coasts are all subjects of landscape photography.

Once you get to a place where you haven’t been before, try spending more time hiking or driving to different locations and finding more vantage points. You can even bring a compass for calculating the sunrise and sunset and imagine how the place would look in a different light.

How To Capture Compelling Photographs of Nature (Pro Tips for Beginners)

Note that landscape photography doesn’t only involve taking pictures of breath-taking views. It also involves documenting the surrounding environment.

If you enjoy hiking or taking bike tours, for instance, wanting to explore and discover a place in more detail, then landscape photography makes for a perfect hobby for you. You can use your camera to capture the world and present it to us from your own perspective. 

Here are some tips (and sneaky tricks) to help you get started with landscape photography:

(i) Consider taking a photography course to improve your knowledge of photography and get the right camera settings. This will help you in many ways, such as finding like-minded colleagues with whom you can share or exchange your ideas. And you will also get some pro tips from experts regarding your photographs.

(ii) The most striking and seductive photographs of nature are usually taken during the sunrise or sunset. During this time of day, the sky turns amazing colors and the light is softer, so there are no strong contrasts.

(iii) It is advisable to experiment first with automatic camera settings, especially if you are new to photography. But manual mode is often the best way to go. This is because manual mode allows you to adjust the focus, exposure time, and so on, so you can take pictures that look the way you want.

(iv) To capture unique pictures, however, it is worth taking new perspectives or making the foreground look more interesting. Pro tip: basic rules of composition, such as symmetry, golden ratios, leading lines, and the rule of thirds, can make your photographs look more professional.

Cameras, Equipment, and Lenses for Landscape Photography

If you are a beginner, it is best to get only the most needed equipment first and update as you grow and get to know your equipment better. Here are some equipment recommendations for good landscape photography you can consider starting with:

Camera

You can start with an affordable single-lens reflex Digital SLR or mirrorless camera. These cameras are simply a good value for the dollar. Before you buy a camera, ensure that it has interchangeable lenses, a standard zoom (16 to 70 mm), and a large sensor.

Lenses

An ultra-wide-angle lens is great for capturing the whole landscape. You can get the ones with a focal length of between 14 and 16 millimeters.

Filters

You can begin working with 2 filters (graduated and ND Filters). A graduated filter darkens the sky to enhance exposure, while ND filters, also called gray filters, allow long exposures. 

Tripod

Get a tripod that has a stable stand so you can use it on uneven terrain or even in the water. Be sure to choose one that has a ball head that will allow you to position your camera precisely.

The above basic photography equipment will help you take nature photographs that you will be proud to show. However, if you are still not sure of which camera or lenses are right for what you want, you can always talk to an expert in a specialist shop before you buy photography equipment online.

What is Wildlife Photography?

Wildlife photography focuses on documenting different types of wildlife in their natural habitats. Wildlife photographers may require fieldcraft skills just as much as they need photographic skills to capture award-winning images. 

Wildlife Photography
Nature and wildlife photography

Some animals are hard to approach and therefore, having knowledge of their behavior can help you predict their next movements. Sometimes, you may need to use a hide for concealment or have some stalking skills to photograph some wildlife species without spooking them.

Although you can photograph wildlife with basic equipment, to photograph some species successfully, you will need specialist equipment. For example, you will need an underwater camera to capture marine life, a macro lens to photograph insects, and a long focal length lens to capture birds. 

Wildlife Photography Tips For Beginners

Unlike landscape photography, which often involves taking pictures of still images, photographing wildlife is a bit more challenging and complicated because you are photographing moving subjects. 

And just like wildlife, sometimes you may need to move around or just wait and wait and WAIT until something cute happens in front of your camera. You need to be patient and be ready to react quickly when the right moment comes.

For many, patience is what makes the big difference in wildlife photography. It is what makes your images look more appealing and also why it feels amazing when you capture prize-winning shots.

Here are some tips to help you tap into the world of wildlife photography:

(i) If it’s your first time, you can try practicing at home with your pet or your friend’s pet, or even visit a national park or a zoo. 

(ii) You can consider enrolling in a photography course where you will learn pro tips from photography experts. And on top of this, you will also find out about some good places for animal photography around your residential area.

(ii) The best time to encounter an animal in the wild and snap memorable photos with soft light is early in the morning or in the evening during sunset—also known as the golden hour.

(iv) Photographing wildlife at eye level provides the best effect and an interesting perspective altogether. In this case, you might need to kneel or lie on the ground to get the perfect shot.

Always remember to not disturb, or try to attract, or feed wild animals. And also remember that, to capture the right moment, you will need to be patient and fully focused. Doing so will reward you with amazing images of wild animals and make your tour worthwhile. 

One more thing: it is also quite beneficial to learn some basic rules of photography composition for your photographs to look professional and more impressive. And in addition to that, you can also give your pictures a new shine with the right tricks and techniques during image editing.

What Is The Right Equipment and Camera for Wildlife Photography?

To get crisp photographs that reflect all the details, a professional wildlife photographer will always bring a camera and equipment that can capture long distances and fast movements. 

If you want to snap memorable pictures of the wild, you will also need a suitable camera and a few other pieces of equipment. Here’s what you can consider getting for a start:

Camera

An affordable Digital SLR or mirrorless camera is sufficient as you slowly gain experience. Look for these features to make sure that your device can capture fast movements properly: a Large zoom of approximately 300 mm; a full-format large sensor; interchangeable lenses; and the capability to take continuous shots at around 6 fps. 

Lenses

To take photos of wild animals from a safe distance, I’d recommend using fast telephoto lenses (at least 200 millimeters) with an image stabilizer. You can tell how fast your lenses are from their maximum aperture. Those with a value of f3.5 and below are often considered fast.

Tripod

Tripods provide stability and flexibility when you are photographing in nature. When you are shopping for your photographic equipment, be sure to get a small and handy model that you can carry around without any problems.

5 Animal Photographing Tips for Beginners

Are you thinking of tapping into wildlife photography?

Whether you are just starting out or already an addict, these tips from Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalists and grand prize winners will help you up your game.

01. Start with a familiar environment.

Capturing a cute image doesn’t necessarily mean traveling far from home. Karine Aigner, wildlife photographer of the year 2022, also believes that capturing an image that makes you proud is often within reach.

This is especially true, as most photographers would also agree that the most satisfying shots are usually taken at home—once you have learned about the bees and butterflies in your neighborhood.

While anyone can take a plane to a remote location, your own home is still a good place to start. There are some things about wildlife that others are ignoring that you can learn about if you examine your surrounding environment closely. And although it might be harder to find wildlife in your home than in the wild, the rewards are overwhelming.

02. Understand your subject.

Even though some glorious moments are captured by luck, award-winning shots are often the results of a photographer’s knowledge. Simon Stafford, winner of the 2016 Mammal category, mentioned that being aware of an animal’s behavior could lead you to just the right spot and at the right time.

Simon’s 2016 award-winning shot, “The Aftermath,” portrays the darker side of nature and wildlife. Returning to the site of a stampede, Simon anticipated that hyenas would be making the most of the horrifying scene he had previously witnessed.

His advice is that you should research your subjects first, to get to know them well enough that you can anticipate their behavior. So, whenever you are out in the field, just remember to observe. Every animal or group of animals has its own characteristics. Monitor behavior so you can be able to anticipate what might happen next.

03. Be prepared to wait and watch.

Some wildlife photographers go the extra mile to capture prize-winning photographs. We have seen, or at least, heard about, those photographers who wait in below-freezing temperatures for weeks, or those who go back to a place to capture lifetime shots of rare and fleeting moments.

Ganesh H Shankar emerged as the winner of the 2016 bird category with his one-of-its-kind shot of a rose-ringed parakeet that was trying to wrestle a monitor lizard from its nest. Although he was lucky to come across such a memorable moment, Ganesh explained that it took him a few days of watching and waiting for the cutest thing to happen.

04. Embrace unsettling moments.

Nature may seem cruel sometimes, but it is in these moments that you find beauty and fascinating tales. Scenes of struggle or predators hunting and killing their prey are a common subject for a wildlife photographer. Although such events can be somewhat disturbing to witness, capturing them could make you the photographer of the year, as it did for Don Gutoski.

Don Gutoski’s 2015 prize-winning image, “A Tale of Two Foxes,” is both cute and jarring. While the blood may appear graphic, it conveys a story of food or territorial struggles and a need for conservation. It also shows that climate change does have notable impacts on wildlife.

05. Take lots of pictures.

Usually, it takes several photographs, sometimes even hundreds, to produce something to be proud of. Wildlife photographer Imre Potyò also earned a place among the Invertebrates finalists in 2016 with his image, “Light Fandango.” The photograph, which he snapped in the dark of the Danube River, in Hungary, shows what appears to be egg-laying mayflies.

The wildlife photographer of the year 2016 described his approach as highly experimental. Imre enjoys working in unique and unusual environments, particularly at night. To capture such a fleeting moment in low light, Imre said that he had to experiment with lighting and take a lot of pictures. And it took him hundreds of pictures to get one or two of the correct compositions.

The Trick to Capturing Award-Winning Wildlife Photographs

Patience is the name of the game when photographing wild animals, whether you are trying to capture the wildebeest migration in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve or you have been tracking a rare bird species in your neighbor’s backyard.

Wild animals will always do what they want, whenever they want to. And you can’t ask them to keep steady, or do something cute, or even come out of the dark. You must be around and ready to capture that great moment when it finally decides to happen in front of your eyes.

It takes time and effort to get a good wild animal shot, and even more time to get a great shot. The longer you spend studying an animal (or a group of animals), the better you get to know or understand their ways and habits.

You will be able to see the personalities of different animal species and reach a point where you can anticipate what an animal can do at a certain time of the day in a particular situation.

For example, knowing when the mother cheetah starts hunting, or which of her cubs is most playful, will help you get your best photographs. And just as it is with other photography genres, the more time you spend waiting for the perfect moment, the more intimate and revealing your pictures are likely to be.

Character and Environment

When you are taking photographs of wildlife, remember that animals too have personalities, and you also want to show that in your photographs. But at the same time, you don’t want to be working so tight with long lenses.

You may also want to show their surroundings, as it also tells an interesting story. You can move a few feet back, and with your wide-angle lenses, take a wide shot that gives the viewer a sense of the kind of environment the animals live in. There is so much information about the buffalo in this wide shot:

wide landscape photography
wide landscape photograph of Capé buffalos.

This photograph shows that these animals live in large groups, and the land is relatively dry. And it also shows that the animals drink from water holes, but we don’t see much of their personality, which is why we also need to get the close shot. Like this example:

Wildlife photography of cape buffalo.
A glimpse at the face of a Capé buffalo.

To Conclude

Whenever you are outdoors taking photographs of nature and wildlife, don’t just focus on the big animals that often get the most attention. Everybody wants a good photograph of the big animals, but don’t you agree that there are several other forms of cute life around to capture?

I mean, all animals are interesting and amazing in different ways, but some of them are just too beautiful. So, whenever you are out hiking or waiting in your car for something great to happen, don’t take it as a destruction to look around. You will be surprised by what you might discover that you also want to share with the world.