Harrisburg, PA (WHTM) — June 15th is Nature Photography Day, a day when we celebrate the work of the intrepid souls who travel to the far ends of the Earth to bring us striking, beautiful, and inspiring images of nature.
Maybe you’ve wondered if you could do nature photography yourself. But wouldn’t that mean sinking vast sums of money into camera gear? Multiple camera bodies, lenses ranging from super-wide-angle to extreme telephoto, tripods, batteries, recording media.
That’s just the start!
If you shoot video you need camera stabilizers, drones, audio recording gear, plus the crew to help you get all this stuff in and out of locations!
Well, that’s what it would be like if you work for National Geographic or BBC Earth. There’s no denying they have some really incredible and expensive gear.
But you’d be amazed how much you can do with just a cell phone.
Early cell phone cameras left a lot to be desired as far as picture resolution goes, but the imaging quality has improved dramatically over the years. If you want to learn photography, your cell phone is a great place to start. It’s simple to use, and you carry it around all the time, so if an interesting photo opportunity arrives, you’re set.
The important thing is to keep your eyes open.
Wildlife can show up in all sorts of unexpected places. We’ve had a fox show up several times in the abc27 parking lot. I also got some video in the parking lot of a June bug larva, a rather weird-looking grub that travels on its back with legs up in the air.
There are probably all sorts of unusual creatures where you live, whether you’re out in the country, or living in a big city. Even, your bland backyard is an exotic faraway location to somebody on the other side of the planet.
Sooner or later, if you’re really serious about your photography, you’re going to want things to improve your picture taking.
A good first investment is a tripod for steady shots. This is especially important for video; shaky shots can be dramatic, but they also can be distracting and irritating. Tripods are also helpful if you want to use special features on the cell phone like timelapse photography.
Since cell phones don’t have a way to attach them to a tripod, you’ll need a special adapter, which screws onto the tripod and has a clamp to hold the cell phone in place. Mini tripods are useful for low-angle shots, as well.
If you go to the beach, the sand and saltwater can do a number on your cell phone. Keep it in some kind of waterproof pouch between shots. Some of them are optically clear, so you can actually shoot without taking out the phone.
Now since wild animals are, well, wild, they are much more likely to run away than to approach you. If you have some critters in your area you’d like to photograph, but they’re a bit shy, you might try a little camera trapping. This is where you set up a camera, start it recording, go away and hide, and hope for the best. You can do this with your phone, but you’d have to set it to “record continuous video”.
Sooner or later you’ll fill up your camera memory. Besides, how do you answer the phone if it rings?
Time to contemplate another expenditure. A reasonably good trail camera can be had for a reasonably good price. It will only record when something triggers its sensor, and animals tend to ignore them. Most of them also have an infrared light for night photography. You can find out what’s going out in the yard while you’re asleep, or what the cats are doing in the kitchen at 2 a.m.
One shortcoming of cell phones is that they don’t really do telephoto shots. If you’ve tried using the digital zoom on the camera, you’ve no doubt noticed the picture becomes grainy. That’s because they zoom their pictures by electronically cropping the image, which means the individual pixels take up more space on the picture, and the quality of the image suffers.
When this starts to get frustrating, it’s time to think about making the next move, to a camera with an optical zoom lens. This could be either a camera with a built-in lens or one with interchangeable lenses. The optical zoom changes the image size by moving lens elements back and forth inside the lens barrel. The image size always stays the same, with no graininess.
One final word of advice. No matter how skilled you get with whatever camera you use, you’re going to produce some clunkers. Remember, the recycle bin is your friend. Use it wisely and often.