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The Fun of Nature Photography and Wildlife Tips


The Fun of Nature Photography and Wildlife Tips for hiking and camping is perfect for exploring your creative side with the camera!  Any digital camera will do, but you'll find out along the way that it's fun to use toy cameras, Instax cameras, and a good ole' polaroid too.  Grab your camera and let's go exploring, shall we?

I got into nature photography because I love spending time outdoors.  I never had a DSLR camera, in fact, I started out with a point and shoot camera for picture taking.  So, I learned to get creative with taking pictures.

In fact, you'll probably notice on GNL that I take almost all of my pictures outdoors.  I've come to realize that nature is my theme for this site and it shines through.

I find food photography and even some of my more personal posts, have become synonymous with nature photography.  It seems to me, almost everything looks better outside!

Tips for Getting Started With Nature Photography

Getting started in nature photography means that you have to physically go outside.  It can be on your porch, in your garden, backyard, your neighbor's treehouse, or in parks and recreation.  You choose!

You just have to put yourself out there.  My number one tip for you is to spend time in the great outdoors.  It can be hiking, camping, travel adventures, or even drinking pink lemonade on your porch.

Here are some invaluable tips for becoming a nature photographer that has been really helpful to me on my photography journey:

  • Take multiple pictures of the same thing.  Yes, you're going to have to delete some of the rubbish, but it's in the messiness that you'll find your diamond in the rough photograph.  Snap away!
  • Look for secret, hidden places around your home or garden.  It could be a white picket fence with vines and honeysuckle growing from it or a secret garden that was hidden in the shadows.
  • Follow the shadows.  Speaking of shadows, follow them for unique lighting.  You can use it to highlight an individual as in my first picture.
  • Use the light.  Let's face it, the weather changes daily and this affects the lighting.  That, as it turns out, can be a good thing.  Use direct sunlight for pool pictures in the summer.  Use sun showers, like in the picture above, for capturing the rain.  Use twilight for an ethereal glow.  
  • Utilize magic hour.  In photography, magic hour is that last light at the end of the day, somewhere between twilight and afternoon.  It's where the light is at the perfect setting for taking great pictures.  
  • Always keep a camera with you.  It really doesn't matter what kind.  You can use an Instax or toy camera for instant pictures like my daughter Chloe does or a Polaroid camera from the 1970's as my oldest daughter Angeleah does.  Just keep one on you and make sure it's protected in a camera bag or hiking backpack.  
  • Capture magical moments.  These are the moments when there's a pink flamingo in your backyard or there's a manatee in the ocean in late spring.  These are the rare, magical moments in time that we all live for.  Encounters with nature and wildlife can be phenomenal to tell your grandchildren about someday in a story.  Having a photograph to back it up as proof makes it even better.

Best Places for Nature Photography

If you're just getting started in nature photography, start from around your house.  You can take pictures of your garden, backyard, under the old oak tree in your front yard, wherever.  This will build your confidence and skillset for picture taking.

Start with something easy, like outdoor houseplants and flowers in pots.  This will give you something to focus on in different lighting and composition.  

Here's a list of my favorite places to take nature pictures:

  • On the porch.  I find that a porch is a great place for laying out rocks you've collected on hiking trips.  It's also a place where you probably already keep plants and flowers, usually in a variety of pots and planters.  
  • The windowsill.  Perfect shadow lighting and sometimes direct sunlight for windowsill or container gardens, herb gardens, and flower pictures.  
  • Under a tree.  Some of my best pictures have been taken in trees.  Under a tree, tree bark, amber on a tree, and in between tree lines.  
  • In the garden.  Outdoor gardens make for some great pictures, especially a butterfly garden.  There will be lots of opportunities to capture butterflies, snails, ladybugs, hummingbirds, plants, and flowers.
  • Parks and recreation.  Parks and nature preserves are the perfect places to capture outdoor photography.  There are signs throughout the parks that will give you information on venomous snakes, arachnids, and invasive species of plants.
  • Walks around the neighborhood.  No matter where you live, whether it be desert habitat or on a prairie, taking a walk around the neighborhood snapping pictures will give you great insight into the world of nature.  You might see a grasshopper, a Florida black snake, or a horned toad lizard!
  • Piers and marinas.  Not only are these spots great for wildlife photography, but they are great for capturing the beauty of nature.  Take a picture of the glassy water with the sun sparkling off of it.  It's magical!

Tips for Capturing Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography can be a little more tricky than watching the grass grow and taking a photograph of that snail in your garden.  It takes skill and practice.  

To take pictures of birds, squirrels, whales, or fish jumping out of the water requires a lot of patience.  This goes back to taking multiple photographs to get that perfect moment when the bird is going to take flight or that fox is running into the woodlands never to be seen again by humans.  

Here are some invaluable tips that will help you capture wildlife, woodland creatures, birds of prey, and the twinkle of real-life fairy lights:
  • Be very, very quiet.  If you stay still and try to move as slow as a hundred-year-old tortoise, then you will get a picture of your target animal.  '
  • Proceed with caution.  Wildlife photography is serious business.  It involves working with wild animals in their natural habitats.  You never know what they are going to do.  Some animals are territorial, such as bears and alligators, while others are afraid of you.  Just remember that this is their world and you're just living in it.
  • Be very, very patient.  Taking a picture of an animal that's moving takes a lot of time and patience.  It took me at least ten minutes to get the picture of the white ibis bird above preparing to take flight.  Patience pays off and has its rewards!
  • Have the camera ready.  This may seem like a given, but I can't tell you how many times I forgot to take the lens off or didn't have my camera out.  Those are the perfect pictures you miss out on.  
  • Take lots and lots of pictures.  Again, take multiple pictures of the same object, especially if that object is an animal and it's moving.  Your perfect shot might be in there somewhere.  
  • Don't molest the animals.  I talked about this a little in this post on hiking.  Feeding the animals and trying to interact with them can make them dangerous.  Respect mother nature or else it might just bite you back!

Best Places for Wildlife Photography

The best places for wildlife photography are on nature preserves, camping trips, hiking adventures, and places uninhabited by humans.  Again, when going to a place in the wilderness where there are slim to none humans, please be safe and aware of your surroundings.  

I also recommend not going it alone.  Two people are okay if it's for hiking or camping, but if you're going out far, you'd be better off in a small group.  This is for your own safety.  

Nature preserves are great because there are man-made pathways with brick walls to separate you from the animal.  It puts some safe distance between you and say, that alligator swimming in the lake.  

If you decide to go off the beaten path, just be sure to play it safe.  Know where you're going and have a map or compass with you.  Have something with you to fend off or scare a dangerous animal away.  

This especially proves to be true when camping.  Lighting a campfire keeps the animals away.  There's a reason that fire was a great discovery for the caveman.  

Here's my list of best places to take wildlife photographs:

  • On a pier by the ocean.  It's a safe place to get pictures of seals, seabirds, fish, crabs, and even sea urchins.  Some of my best pictures were taken at the pier.  Check out this post!
  • Camping - Taking a camping trip helps you to spend some time in nature, right in the heart of the wilderness.  There's no better time to get photos of your birding adventures, raccoon bandits, and squirrel tree friends than on a camping adventure.
  • Hiking - Goes hand-in-hand with camping, but helps you navigate the wilds of nature preserves on foot.  You'll see creatures you might not have seen before!
  • At the beach.  The beach has a plethora of living sea creatures for you to take pictures of from a safe landing.  Take pictures of hermit crabs, sea squirts, octopus, starfish, sea urchins, and snails.  
  • From a boat or kayak.  A boat or kayak are two really great places to practice wildlife photography.  Kayaks are really close to the water so you'll be able to get pictures of fish swimming through seagrass, giant conch shells moving, and horseshoe crabs in a saltwater marsh.  From a boat you can take shots of whale watching adventures, dolphins jumping out of the water, and even sporting fish.  

Outdoor Photography Ideas for Plants and Flowers

When taking pictures outside, it never hurts to keep a few ideas in mind.  I'm constantly generating ideas for animal pictures I'd like to take here in Florida (and elsewhere), as well as plants, flowers, insects, and rain.  Feel free to use any of these concepts!

For Plants and Flowers:

  • Capture a picture of a carnivorous plant-eating its prey.  One picture that I've always wanted to take is a venus flytrap mid-meal!  Seriously though, how cool would that be?
  • Macro-Photography.  This means you are taking extreme close-ups of plants and flowers.  It might be the inside of a plant, dew on the grass, or a palm frond floating on a pond.  
  • Flowers bending in the rain.  This always makes for a pretty picture, especially if it's in a field of grass.  For bonus points, you can capture the flowers being pummeled by rain and coming back to life.  
  • Plants moving towards the sun.  Did you know that plants move throughout the day?  The photosynthesis part of them moves towards the sun.  Take a picture of the same plant five days in a row and you'll see the subtleties of its movement.


Taking pictures of humans and flowers:


  • Have someone smelling a rose or running through a bed of flowers
  • Take a photograph of a woman or young girl creating a flower arrangement outdoors or on the windowsill.
  • Take a photograph of a friend or family member pouring water onto the flower garden in rain boots


Taking pictures of humans and plants:


  • Take a photograph of someone holding a plant without a pot.  This way you get the rich, organic soil and roots.  Makes for a very grounded picture!
  • Plants in each pocket.  Sure, it's a little messy, but they can wear overalls for the garden to achieve this look.  Plus, it's cute!
  • Making a houseplant garden in a pot.  Get them with garden gloves and a garden shovel, lifting moss peat into the pot with the plant next to them.

Outdoor Photography Ideas For Animals

In order to get the best pictures of animals, keep a few ideas in the back of your mind.  Most of the time it's going to be the luck of the draw because you never know what you're going to see that day.  

For example, one day you might see a sidewinder snake in the sand of the Mojave desert and the next day you might see a jackrabbit.  Honestly, you never know how it's going to go!

Keeping this in mind, try to come up with ideas for the future of animals you'd like to photograph in your region or country.  When going on road trips, make a list of those places.  It increases the likelihood of you actually spotting a cool animal and getting it on camera!

For Animals and Wildlife:

  • Macro-photography for animals.  Again, this is extreme closeup so please be careful because hey, these are wild animals in their natural habitats.  Always keep safety at the front of your mind.  You can take a picture of snakeskin, the scales of a lizard, and the fur of a woodland creature to start!
  • A fish jumping out of the water.  This one can be difficult to pull off but if you go at the right time of day and you are patient, it could happen for you!  Best time for this is early morning when predators are feeding and just before sunset.  
  • A bird claw (see below).  It's a rare moment when you can get that close to a bird without scaring it away.  It's cool to see the pattern on their craws that they use for hunting.  
  • An osprey nest.  Really any birds nest will do but wouldn't it be fun to capture a bird of prey in its nest?
  • Monkey in a tree.  Granted, this might only happen if you visit a jungle in South America, but hey, that could be an awesome longterm photography goal to have!
  • An alligator swimming in a bayou.  I see them all the time in Florida and have yet to capture them.  It's because it always happens the one time I don't have my darn camera present.  This goes back to the rule of always have your camera with you and at the ready!

Taking pictures of humans and wild animals together:

  • Um, no.  Just don't.  There was a guy recently who tried to take a selfie with a bear and was attacked and killed.  Use your noodle and play it safe.
  • On the other hand, if it's a safe animal such as a bird or squirrel, you can take a picture with human near the wild animal.  Please know the difference between your safe animals and the dangerous ones.  
  • Don't touch wild animals either.  One day we stopped on the side of the road to try to save a baby turtle.  It turned out to be an alligator snapping turtle, so I lead it in the right direction without touching it or picking it up.  

Outdoor Photography Ideas For Insects

Insect pictures are really fun to take!  I tend to go for the girly bugs when photographing them but to each their own!  You have to find your own style.

It's sometimes more difficult to get pictures of bugs because they are tiny and flighty.  Capturing a butterfly in flight is always a goal, as well as a battle.  It's not impossible though.  People do it.

There are still a few insect photography pictures I have yet to tackle and yet I know they are coming.  Try to make a list of the types of bugs you'd like to get and how.  This really helps you to start generating ideas!

For Insect Photography:

  • Macro photography for insects.  This one should be a given.  You'll want to see into a bee's eyes magnified ten times.  You'll want to capture the antennae of an ant up close and the pattern of a luna moth's wings.  It's a sight to behold!
  • An ant carrying food.  Ants make for good pictures even without a special lens.  You'll want to get a photograph on an ant carrying food for his picnic spread.  
  • A praying mantis with its head perched.  You might have to get a little closer to get her head cocked the right way, but a praying mantis is bomb.  
  • A butterfly in your hand.  This is a popular one.  Butterflies are sweet, gentle creatures in my opinion.  They are majestic and trusting, so if you are patient, one might just fly on your hand or finger and linger for a bit.  
  • A dragonfly drinking water.  This is a cool one because you simply have to have water droplets or something for her to drink for her to come near you.  Getting her to stay is another matter.
  • A snail trail.  If you can get a close-up of a snail leaving a mucous trail in its wake, that would be an awesome photograph!
  • Lightening bugs lighting up your backyard.  Fireflies make for great nighttime insect photography.  I mean they positively glow.  This one is challenging so know your camera for this one!

Taking pictures of humans and insects together:

  • This one can be pulled off if you know your species.  Never force an insect to do something it doesn't want to do.  There's a lot of trust involved with this exercise.  
  • You can do the butterfly on the hand one or have a ladybug in your hair.  Bonus, if you can get several!
  • Get face time with a dragonfly.  Have you ever had a dragonfly fly up to your face, pause, and look at you, then keep coming back for more?  I have and I wish I had the picture to prove it!
  • Let an ant crawl on your flower stem while holding it and grab a quick picture.  I don't really think it's a good idea to let an ant crawl on you for the simple fact that they can leave a bite.
  • Do not mess around with bees or wasps for obvious reasons.  Know your insects.  Steer clear of the dangerous ones and most of all, have fun!
What kind of outside pictures do you like to take?  Do you go birding with binoculars and boating in the summer on the lake?  Tell me all about your best captures on camera in the comments!

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