How to prepare for nature photography

Gunug Bromo during sunrise © Johannes Mändle

If you want to create wonderful pictures of nature, there are lots of things to consider before going out with your camera and starting to shoot. In this article I want to give you my advice on achieving this. Below, I listed some questions which help me and might help you capture better nature photography.

Are you familiar with your camera?

If you’re new to photography, I suggest you first to play around with the different settings and get a feeling for the outcome before going on a big trip. Otherwise you might be overwhelmed and not know what to do when you’re out for a shoot. Sometimes, you only have a few moments with perfect conditions, so it’s essential to master your equipment.

Are you familiar with the place where you want to shoot?

It’s much easier to take stunning pictures if you already know where you have a great view of what you want to capture. If you’ve never visited the place, you should plan some time beforehand to get an overview of the different angles and possible views. Furthermore, you can try to explore the place virtually before, for example on Google Maps, and mark spots which could be great for shooting.

When is the light the best at this location?

This heavily depends on what and where you want to shoot. Typically the blue hour and golden hour provide perfect lighting conditions. However, depending on where you are it could be that during this time the light is hidden, e. g. by mountains and your favorized spot remains in shadow.

Do you know the weather conditions?

This depends on the kind of picture you would like to capture. Dark clouds and rain can create an impressive mood in the picture, but if you’d like to shoot blue water on a clear sky for example, then it’s essential to keep the weather in mind. This also includes preparing the right clothes for your location.

Is it a tourist place?

If so, then you might have to put some extra effort into the shoot and go there before the mass of people comes and distorts the harmony of the image. Especially in this case, you can take a look at pictures from other people and try to figure out where they took theirs, in case you like their view. Moreover, it’s great to separate from others and try to find new shooting locations and angles and make the view truly yours.

View over the Bromo valley © Johannes Mändle

In the following, I’d like to give you an example of my work. Back in 2019, I was on a journey through Indonesia. One of my biggest goals for this trip was to capture a perfect sunrise at Gunung Bromo, an active volcano in Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park on Java.

Before I started my journey to Java, I did a lot of research on how to get to Bromo, how can I combine it with visiting other places on the island, how much time should I plan for it?

The more research I conducted, the more it turned out to be a very touristic place, which eventually has its pros and cons. The good thing about it is that many people know this place and can tell you how to get there. In the case of Bromo, there are actually multiple organisations which provide day trips to the National Park. Mine started from Probolinggo.

The bad thing, however, is that you need to share the place with lots of different people if you’re up there to shoot. And they’re all there for the same goal as you. Seeing the sunrise above the Bromo valley, in my case.

So what did I do?

While most of the people stayed at the main spot, I walked around to find more unconventional places. I took many pictures during sunset because I know that the smallest change in light and perspective can have a huge impact on the resulting picture.

You’re not convinced about that? Then take a look at the images of Bromo, one at the top and the other at the end of this article. Both pictures show Bromo during sunrise, but one is a few minutes later than the other. Can you see the difference in color shades and shadows?

View on Gunung Bromo shortly after sunrise on Java, Indonesia. Gunung Bromo is an active volcano.
Gunung Bromo during slightly progressed sunrise © Johannes Mändle

I hope this article helps you better plan your next photography trip and be better prepared for capturing the beauty of nature. I’d be very happy to hear your thoughts about this article or shooting better nature photography.

If you like my work, feel free to follow me here on Medium or check out my Instagram and Unsplash.

Photographer, Frontend Developer, Traveler. IG @leonardo_64