Hiking gives us all an excellent opportunity to take that perfect photograph, the countryside, nature, whatever it may be, but, do you ever feel that when you return home and examine your shots that your photography skills leave a lot to be desired? That feeling that you didn’t quite get it right.
Many people may think that they need to rush out and buy a new camera, or take a course, but not necessarily, whilst there are a lot of great courses out there and an endless supply of free tutorials on Youtube, there are some quick and basic techniques that you can try out on your own first.
1. Do a bit of research
If you are going out on a well-known trail, you can do a quick internet search to see what others have shot on that route before. This will give you an idea of locations and angles to help get you that perfect shot. Also, don’t forget about the area you will be in with regards to lighting, tied in with this would be a check of the weather forecast for when you are due to be out. Now that you know what is out there, you can get some idea in your head of what you want to shoot.
One suggestion would be to write down briefly the locations where you want to shoot and how (if you know in advance) you will get your desired shot.
When searching for pictures by other photographers you can try sites such as Instagram and Flickr, but also try photographer groups on Facebook for advice, most major cities have communities of photographers who are always happy to share information and ideas.
2. Silence is golden
Animals have more advanced senses than humans, if they see, hear or smell you they will be gone. So, if you want to capture wildlife, it’s going to take some time while you are waiting quietly.
Try to blend into the surroundings, for example, using trees as cover and limiting movement, but during this time you will be able to fire off a lot of shots of your surroundings.
3. Make the most of your lighting situation
All photography courses spend a lot of time teaching lighting and how important this is. Whilst I fully agree with this, sometimes the light is just not on your side. The middle of the day and the sun is gleaming through the trees, or in an overgrown area where the light is limited to reach, sometime when the light is against you, just take the shot and hope for the best. You never know that when you get home, it may have just turned out quite well.
4. What’s in your shot?
A sweeping landscape has a place in hiking photography, but we see these in most images. Let’s try something different by assessing the foreground of your shot. Look for a shot with something that stands out and makes it unique from all the others. People, lakes, streams, flower, rocks, and unusual looking trees are a great place to start.
5. Give direction for the right action shots
When you plan to take photos with members of your hiking group in them, be sure to guide them beforehand of how you want them to be positioned in the shot. When taking action shots, it is essential to get the framing and positioning correct.
Why not try;
A low angle shot where the camera is near floor level and the hikers walk through the shot. This means you don’t just see someones back. It looks like they are walking into the picture.
A high angle shot from up in a tree as the hikers are walking past.
A candid shot, granted they don’t always work but sometimes you can get very lucky.
6. Think outside the box when taking a shot
Images of the landscape and your hiking mates are all great for the collection, but dont forget there is so much more out there. Images of other hikers, Bugs, signs, strange looking trees can all add to your collection.
If you are planning on blogging on your trip, the small details can really help the reader envisage your trip.
7. Keep your camera assessable
When we buy a camera, we always make sure we have a nice protective case for it, in case we drop it and to ensure it remains clean and dry. But, while out try to leave the case at home or in the car. Your camera ideally should be around your neck, ready to shoot your next photo. Wildlife will not hang about whilst you rummage in your backpack trying to find your camera. For hiking, I do recommend a small, lightweight and durable camera such as the Sony NEX 6
8. The early bird gets the Shot
If you are planning to be out for a few days or just a day trip, make sure you are up and out early. The wildlife is more active during the night so as the sun rises you get the opportunity to catch the beautiful reds and oranges of the sun coming up and hopefully some animals in that shot would be awesome.
9. The night owl also gets the shot
Hiking is a great excuse to stay up late and capture some fantastic night shots. You can be far from the light pollution of the city and watch the amazing night sky, stars, the moon and the night wildlife. Make sure you take with you a good quality tripod to help you get that much-desired shot. Night shots also take a bit of research so again, plan before you go if you can.
As with many things in life, a good plan with delivers a good outcome, so it’s important to do a little research before you go, but sometimes the unplanned can also produce great results, such as when I spontaneously nigh hiked through Sherwood forest.
Final tip, while researching, I discovered a really useful camera website called Improve photography. You may want to check this guy out, he reviews cameras and equipment and gives excellent advice.