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Tips and techniques

NATURE’S VIEW: Maybe it’s time

By April 8, 2016No Comments

Story and photography by Jim Clark

 Spring morning, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Spring morning, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Spring who?

Doesn’t matter, it’s spring!

Yep, spring is entering our world and I bet most of you are fine-tuning your equipment, adjusting your winter-weary attitude and charting locations to explore and photograph. You are doing this, right?

The answer, I hope, is yes. And if that’s your answer, then here is another question to ask yourself: Is this the year I’m going to try something different with my photography? And the answer I’m looking for is Heck yes! or a somewhat revised affirmative response.

Make this the year you say to yourself, Maybe it’s time… Then, fill in the rest of the sentence, and go for it. Make this the year to increase your confidence, improve your skills, and elevate your enjoyment in photographing nature.

Great egret, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Great egret, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Here’s a few Maybe it’s time challenges for folks just entering the world of nature photography:

Maybe it’s time to finally use that tripod. There’s got to be a reason that so many professional nature photographers emphasize using tripods, eh?

Maybe it’s time when handholding a camera to cup one hand under the lens, not on top of it. Avoid photographing like a soccer parent and, instead, photograph like a nature photographer. This simple technique will help ensure a much sharper image.

Maybe it’s time to photograph a scene from different perspectives. Rather than photographing at your standing eye level, experiment with various viewpoints: ground- and belly-level, looking up, looking down. Use those legs for moving around the scene and don’t forget that tripod.

Maybe it’s time to embrace High Dynamic Range (HDR) and use it to photograph landscapes during high-contrast situations. Yep, you should use that tripod.

Maybe it’s time to learn how to read light by photographing the same scene at different angles (front, back, side, diffused) and at different times of the day.

Maybe it’s time to learn more about the subject or location you are photographing. Stay hungry to learn more because the more you know, the better you can be.

Maybe it’s time to learn how to clean the camera sensor. Yeah, it’s scary, but it’s really not that hard to do.

Maybe it’s time to learn how to use the three most important filters in your camera pack: polarizer, neutral density and split neutral density. And I love those variable neutral density filters.

Gadwall Drake 04022015 Chincoteague NWR VA (c) Jim Clark_16

Gadwall, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

Maybe it’s time to practice patience, and through newly gained knowledge of the subject, the light and the season, capture a defining moment in time. Engage all your senses to capture a true sense of place in your photography.

Maybe it’s time to enjoy a moment in nature. Put your camera down, turn off the cellphone, and spend some time absorbing all that surrounds you.

Maybe it’s time to read the manual and learn how to operate all the bells and whistles on your camera. Ever try to use the back-button autofocus? Once you do, you’ll never go back to using the shutter button for that.

A past NANPA President and contributing editor for Outdoor Photographer, Jim is also a nature photography instructor for the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Wallops Island, Virginia. The author/photographer of six books, Jim is particularly proud of two children’s books he did with his son Carson. Jim was also a major contributor to the book, Coal Country. Visit Jim’s website at, blog at or visit him on Facebook.