Shooting on the Trail: How to Get Started with Outdoor Photography

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female traveler photographing temples at Bagan Myanmar Asia at sunrise

Many people have a love of both nature and photography. Some people are lucky enough to be able to indulge in both these hobbies – frequently spending time outdoors and taking beautiful pictures with their cameras. Others, perhaps lacking the time or inclination to do the same, content themselves with following posts on social media.

If you’d like to give it a try yourself, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some things to consider.

Your skill level

Taking pictures is a skill, even if you’re starting out as a casual photographer. Spending time outdoors will draw upon several practical skills, even if you don’t consider yourself an outdoorsman.

When you view these two things as skills, you put yourself in a better position to enjoy every adventure. You’ll understand that starting out, you can expect newbie mistakes. Your photos might not always turn out great, and you’ll fumble now and then with tasks like setting up a tent or a tripod. Coming in with a beginner’s expectations will let you enjoy the learning curve, and appreciate where you came from once you’ve gotten better.

Where to go

Spend time planning the destination, but allow yourself to stumble upon something new. Most photographers are constantly in search of less popular destinations.

We can be oversaturated with images of the same scene. Being a photographer isn’t all about technique, equipment, or having a beautiful location or subject. Try to change your point of view, walk around, and find something different to become the focus of your image.

As you adjust to the outdoors, you’ll become more comfortable and can start to vary your experience. Try heading out under different conditions or seasons – within reasonable safety limits, of course. Your senses will take note of the difference and enhance your pleasure at being within nature. It will also open up more opportunities for variety in your photography.

You may also want to explore some more. Instead of hiking around your campsite, you can bring a bike and gain access to less explored roads and expand your range of travel. Bringing a bike also lets you carry heavy camera gear with less strain on your back.

What to bring

close up shot of a man holding a camera outdoor

Photographers and outdoor enthusiasts just love their gear. You’ll be engaging in both activities, and on top of that, you’re going to need camping gear, food, and water. Focus on bringing only what you need, then carefully consider each optional item you want to bring along – especially its weight.

If you have an SUV, or even better a pickup, you can stow a lot of gear inside and carry the rest on the roof or on the bed. You can order a bike rack for your truck online and install it yourself. When you get to your destination, park and bring along only what you need while out on the trail. Water, light snacks, a weather-resistant camera bag, and tools and tubes for your bike, should suffice – you can just head back to the vehicle later on for other needs, or when it’s time to set up camp.

Enjoy nature responsibly. Wherever you go, observe the regulations. Be considerate of other people who have come outdoors to experience nature just like you, in their own ways. Stay safe on foot and on your bike, and have fun as you experiment with your camera and become a better photographer.

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