Nature Photography Tips    

Put Yourself in your Photos
(aka .... Be your Own Supermodel!)


As a stock nature photographer, I learned years ago the value of photos that include people in them. There's much more demand and profitability for a photo that features a person enjoying nature, than of a red-backed salamander in a rotten log. Although I love photographing the salamanders that live in my yard (and I do shoot them often), they're not exactly hot sellers. On the other hand,  I get calls almost daily for photos of people in nature, doing myriad of recreational activities.  All this aside, sometimes a photo is simply better with someone in it to convey the scale of the landscape, or communicate emotion. 

And herein lies the problem: I tend to be a lone-shooter. My best photography usually happens when I'm by myself, totally immersed in a location and focused on making images. Solo shooting allows me the ultimate flexibility and freedom to respond to light and follow good opportunities. If I miss a meal, it's only my stomach complaining. So how does a lone-shooter get photos of people in nature? 

Sometimes I stumble across people when I'm out shooting and politely ask them if they mind being in a photo. But there aren't usually people out at remote locations when I'm shooting at sunrise or sunset.... except me. So I've adapted by becoming my own personal supermodel!  Thanks to camera technology, a bit of planning and lots of practice, I'm able to get quality self-portraits of myself out in nature.

Here's how I shoot environmental self-portraits:

1) Frame the scene and plan exactly where to stand and how to pose. Mark the spot with a small pebble or leaf.  

2) Focus the camera and work out the proper exposure. Set the camera to manual exposure so when you add your body to the scene, it doesn't throw off the exposure.   

3) Use the camera's 10second timer or a concealed long cable release (I have a 10m/30ft extension) to trip the shutter. 

4) Run to the desired spot, suck in gut (yes, I have to do it), and pose. 

5) Check the preview on your digital body, and refine/re-shoot as needed. It often takes me several shots to get one that's just right, where my posture and facial expression seem natural. 

Taking self-portraits feels a bit weird at first, but when you don't have another person with you, it's certainly worth jumping in as your own model. Heck, it might even be fun! 

About the photos:

Gear: Canon EOS 1Dsm2 body, 17-40mm or 70-200/2.8 IS lens, Singh-Ray polarizers & ND grad filters

op left: Petrel Point Boardwalk, Red Bay, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario 
top middle: Compass in hand, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
top right: Skinner's Bluff - Wiarton, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario 
bottom left: Yanacocha Cloud Forest Reserve, Ecuador
bottom right: Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba

CLOTHING HINT: You can't beat the color red - it really stands out in natural scenes. I always have a selection of red clothing with me.... just in case! 



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