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Technique

A year’s worth of inspirational projects is presented in 52 Assignments: Nature Photography produced by professional nature photographers, Ross Hoddinott and Ben Hall. As a taster, here are three abridged excerpts from the book, plus interviews with the two authors Fall in love withnature

Assignment 08: Worm’s-eye view

“Aworm’s-eye viewemphasises your subject, andhelps you to obscure clutter” so it becomes more out of focus. For example, a messy or distracting surface – such as grass, water, fallen leaves, snow or sand – will be rendered so out of focus that it simply records as a wash of colour, producing a far more aesthetically pleasing result than from shooting higher up. This technique is best applied with a telephoto lens with a focal length of more than 300mm, together with a large aperture. The narrow zone of focus created by this combination will help your subject really pop out of the picture. Your focusing will need to be pin- point accurate – always focus on an animal’s eye. So now set out to capture a series of four ground-level images and share them on your website, or social media feed.

For this assignment, be prepared to get down and dirty. We want you to lie down on the ground and take a photograph of nature at a low level. Lying down reduces disturbance and allows you to capture more intimate and striking images of nature. It is also an excellent way to create a natural eye-to-eye perspective. A worm’s-eye view emphasises your subject, and helps you to obscure clutter and distraction by reducing the foreground and background to a hazy blur. By shooting with your lens at ground level, you will obscure almost all recognisable detail either side of the lens’s plane of focus. This is because, when you lie down, you place extra distance between the subject and its background,

researching will be time well spent. With the Covid pandemic still some way from going away, now’s the perfect time for a spot of research, reading books or going online. Of course, there is also all the learning you will get from actually doing it. And, as is usually the case in photography (as with life), the more practice you do, the better you’ll get. Then there’s the kit to be considered, which depends on which subject tempts you most. With birds and mammals, for example, it’s usually the need for long telephoto lenses; for plants and insects, lenses that focus really close are essential. We’re using a very broad brush here, but you get the idea. Anyway, to get your creative juices flowing, please check out 52 Assignments: Nature Photography and get thinking about the natural world.

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY is more popular than ever before and even though nature photography is challenging, fun and rewarding – with such a huge diversity of subject matter – whether your taste is for big game (when travel is possible again), or for insects in your back garden, there’s something for everybody. But having an interest is one thing, capturing it is quite another, and that’s the challenge. Fieldcraft and knowing your subject are really important, so if you’re new to nature photography, or thinking of broadening your natural horizons, the time that you spend

BUY THE BOOK 52 Assignments: Landscape

Photography by Ross Hoddinott & Ben Hall, price £12.99, Ammonite

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“Having an interest is one thing, capturing it is quite another”

LEFT Low-level photography can be uncomfortable for the photographer, but the results can look bold and extremely intimate

Assignment 17: Perfect storm

either light or heavy rain, background choice becomes important. A dark background will make the rain appear more prominent, so look for areas of shadow to shoot toward. So the next time it rains, get your waterproofs on, go out and begin this project. Over time, collect four of your best images showing wildlife battling the elements.

Many effective images are taken in extreme weather conditions. Falling snow, stormy skies, churning seas and even rain can add an extra element to an image that tells a story and draws the viewer into the subject’s world. Your brief here is to make the most of adverse weather, and to do that you must know how to best exploit it. Snow, for instance, can be used to create a feeling of exposure and extremity. Try heading into the hills to capture subjects against an expansive and desolate landscape. Give the subject space in the frame to accentuate the element of weather. This, in turn, can lead to a feeling of solitude, adding power and feeling to your images. Stormy weather and high winds can churn up the sea, creating a real sense of wildness – the perfect scenario for capturing seabirds in flight. Rain, too, can add its own special type of atmosphere. When shooting in

RIGHT A fast shutter speed will freeze falling snowflakes as white spots mid-air

TECHNIQUE l Shoot at a high ISO in low light. It is better to have to reduce the resulting noise in post-processing than shoot a soft image that cannot be improved later. l On dark, overcast days, the light will often lack contrast and mean your camera’s autofocus system will struggle. Switch to manual focus for consistent results.

l A fast shutter speed will freeze the motion of rain droplets or snowflakes, while a slow shutter speed will render them as streaks. l Snow will fool a camera into underexposing,

so dial in plenty of positive exposure compensation and check the histogram. l Invest in a waterproof cover to protect both your camera and lens.

18 Photography News | Issue 85

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