Photographing nature might not come, well, _naturally_ to everyone. Heed these tips for phenomenal shots of elements like light, water, and wind.
Step 1: Pack light Pack light -- less is more when you’re communing with nature. All you need is a camera with manual settings -- an SLR or an advanced point-and-shoot -- a tripod to help stabilize your shots, and extra batteries and memory cards.
Step 2: Get phenomenal light Skip the snooze button and bypass cocktail hour; 2 of nature’s most phenomenal displays -- and the trickiest to capture -- are sunrise and sunset. Because the intense light in the sky is often overexposed, try different exposures, starting with a fast shutter speed and working down to slower ones. If your camera allows it, adjust your white balance to "cloudy" or "shade" to better capture the warm tones of the light.
TIP: For other photos, shoot during the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset -- the "magic hours" that produce more texture, warmer colors, and a softer quality than at midday.
Step 3: Shoot reflections Standard shots of babbling brooks are fine for grandma, but for a really interesting take on a body of water, look for reflections of the surrounding landscape. To get the best angle, get close to the water and low to the ground. Set the focus on the reflection, and wait for the water to be still and smooth before snapping your picture.
Step 4: Catch the wind Sure, nature's purdy, but your friends will only look at so many landscapes without yawning. Add some action by photographing objects blowing in the wind. Set your camera to a fast shutter speed, with an exposure approximately 1/250th to 1/125th of a second, to freeze the object in motion and an f-stop between f/8 and f/11.
TIP: Use a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second or faster to freeze the motion of water and isolate individual droplets.
Step 5: Work a slow shutter speed Feeling extra artsy? To blur grass or leaves blowing in the wind or make running water look silky, set an exposure time to between 1 and 5 seconds. Close your aperture as much as possible, using an f-stop between f/11 and f/22 to limit the amount of light entering your camera during the long exposure, and stabilize your camera on a tripod.
TIP: Hang a sandbag from your tripod to stabilize it in windy conditions.
Step 6: Don’t trash the place Fulfilled your artistic vision for the day? Don’t be a jerk; remember to take all your trash with you so nature remains just as phenomenal for the next shutterbug.
FACT: In 1985, a mountain in Yosemite National Park was named after acclaimed nature photographer Ansel Adams.