Outdoors and underwater photographer Rachel Keenan shares her tips on getting the best from outdoor photography and capturing the best images on the move.
Some of the most enduring photographs in the world are a consequence of pure luck, capturing that perfect moment spontaneously. However, the vast majority of the most wonderful images are a product of planning, patience and preparation. Check out these five tips, which could help improve your outdoor photography.
Utilise the best light
George Eastman, founder of Kodak, said it best: “Light makes photography, embrace light”. With this simple maxim in mind, schedule your trips around the golden hour. The period just after sunrise, or just before sunset, will yield the most impressive images. The early rise and trudge up hills in the dark that may have you questioning your life decisions, will be rewarded tenfold with the warmth, colour and drama of a scene as dawn breaks. In these scenarios, head torches are helpful… as are snacks.
Equally, avoid midday light where possible. Shooting landscapes at this time will cause deep shadows, with hard to balance, overexposed highlights. The golden hour produces softer and more flattering light.
I’ve found that being a photographer requires you to be at least half pack-mule. The key is knowing what kit to bring (and leave). Whether you are hiking up a mountain or wading through streams, you have to be prepped.
Remember, batteries drain faster in lower temperatures. Carry spares where possible, and tuck spent batteries into a warm glove or inside pocket to squeeze the most out of them.
Surprisingly affordable and they make an invaluable addition to your kit bag. They control the angle at which light enters the lens. This increases saturation in your images, removes unwanted glare from water and sharpens those far-off mountains through atmospheric haze.
Even the most generic scene can be lent excitement and character with long exposures. Think water flowing smokily over rocks, or clouds rolling over otherwise uninspiring overcast skies.
Turn the weather to your advantage
The reality of living in Britain is that more often than not the weather does not behave. As outdoor photographers, we have to be not only prepared but able to turn this tragically common occurrence to our advantage.
Embrace rainy days
Dark skies can be dramatic, foreboding and can ultimately create inspiring images. A lens hood and a supply of lens cloths will help keep the worst of the rain from ruining your shots. Similarly, a snowy scene can be a stark contrast and transformative to even mundane subjects. Ponder on the notion that there is no such thing as bad weather… only bad clothes. Pack also a will to persevere and a flask of tea.
While ‘get it right in camera’ should be the mantra of all self-respecting photographers, don’t be opposed to vamping up an image in post-production. High key sections, those areas with a lot of light in it, can be toned down and detail brought out in the shadows. This will be made far easier by shooting in ‘Raw’. This file type preserves all of the information from the camera’s sensor, unlike its jpeg brother, which compresses and throws away much of the data. Even small ‘point and shoot’ cameras usually have a ‘Raw’ setting.
Adopt a new perspective of well-known locations. Although beautiful places invite all the phone-toting Instagrammers of the world, even the most stunning places on earth are in peril of becoming monotonous if presented in the same way. Challenge yourself to view everything with fresh eyes, and separate your work from the masses – halt those scrolling thumbs in their tracks! Can you climb something in the area to change your field of view, or try some interesting manipulation in post-production? Can you shoot the same scene at night in starlight, or utilise an unusual focal length?
The point is: be unique and offer up something original in an almost fully explored world.
See more of Rachel’s amazing photographs at rkeenanphotography.com