Planning On A Nature Photo Walk?

Planning On A Nature Photo Walk?   A Beginners Guide by BreAna L. Cannon emerging member of Academy of Photography Over the years, one of my most enjoyable past times […]

Planning On A Nature Photo Walk?


A Beginners Guide


BreAna L. Cannon emerging member of Academy of Photography

Over the years, one of my most enjoyable past times was going on a nature photo walk. I call it a past time, because I was not doing it for any monetary profit. This was strictly for fun, exercise and most of all, it combined my love of nature and photography. Being out in nature, away from the distractions of the city, even when doing a lot of walking, can be very relaxing. I would go to one of the many county or state parks or even to the beach or causeway in my area of Florida and just enjoy photographing the sites. Most of the parks here have lakes and trails, which offer wonderful wildlife photo opportunities, such as deer, alligators, armadillo, raccoons, snakes and otters just to name a few. There is also some incredible birding, as well as interesting insects and plant life. One of my favorite things about nature walks is, you have no control of the environment and never know what you might see. I recommend, you always have your camera ready to take the next shot.

One of the most important ways to have an enjoyable photowalk is to be prepared. Preparation for a photowalk starts well before you get to the location. Here are some tips to get you started.



-Research locations you have never been to. Find out what wildlife can be found there. Last thing you would want to do is disturb a mother bear or other potentially dangerous wild animal.

-Always use the buddy system. ANYTHING can happen while you are out there. When you are with someone else, you will look out for each other.

-Make sure you have a phone with a fully charged battery. Don’t get caught in a situation where a phone call could be the difference between getting needed help or not and not having one.

-Whenever you go, let someone who is not going, know where you will be and approx. what time you should be back.

Great Horned Owl Chick Close Up


-Make sure to bring water. Keeping hydrated is very important whenever you are exerting any energy. OK, this may seem like a no-brainer, but I have led  photo walks where photographers have come with no water and wished they had brought it.

-Sunscreen and insect repellant are also must haves when going out in nature. Almost every photowalk I have been on, had a combination of both shaded and unshaded areas. Well…. the shade usually comes from the trees and where there are trees, there are bugs. Need I say more?

-Dress appropriately for the conditions. Being either too hot or too cold, while trying to take photos can be miserable.

-You need a good pair of comfortable shoes while out there. Unless you are walking a paved trail, the terrain can change at any moment. You may be on a dirt path one minute and a rocky one the next. Believe me, your feet will thank you atthe end of the walk for wearing a good pair of shoes.

-Lastly, I like to wear a hat. I have found a kayaking hat to be ideal. Most have a short brim in the front and won’t get in the way of your lens, and a longer brim in the back, protecting the back of your neck. These can be found pretty inexpensive on Ebay, Amazon or just search Kayak hat.

White Pelican Tagged #959



Here, you have many choices of  brand, type and cost. I know, many of the camera manufactures are offering some pretty impressive “point and shoot”, mirror-less, and DSLR cameras. Depending on the type of images you are looking to produce and photography budget, I am sure you can find something in one of these categories which will make you happy. Remember, you do not need the most expensive or latest and greatest equipment. The Camera is a tool, the photographer is the artist.

Rosette Spoonbill Headshot


If you are using a DSLR, you will need a lens in addition to the camera body. I am not saying, you have to run right out and buy a new lens. You can buy most cameras with a “kit” lens. If you are a hobbyist, going out to mainly have fun and commune with nature, these lenses will usually do the trick. If you do choose to upgrade your “kit” lens, almost any type of lens can be used, but my personal choice’s are Zooms. They will give you the versatility of covering a wide range of focal lengths. Being a Canon user, my choices of lenses are the 24-70 f2.8L, the 70-200 f2.8L and the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L. This combination gives me a 24-400mm arsenal. Because I carry my equipment on a Thinktank gear belt with removable lens pouches, depending on where I will be going, I will take only one or any combination of the three. With no intention of a plug, I must say, even with a bad back, the Thinktank belt system is extremely comfortable even when carrying all three lenses, batteries and a teleconverter. An added bonus to having the pouches is that there is always one open. I use that one for a bottle of water.

A much lighter lens option, is one of the “all-in-one” lenses offered, such as Canon or Nikon’s 18-200, Tamron’s 18-270 (available for Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax) or Sigma’s 18-250 (available for Canon or Nikon). There are more, I just don’t want to sound like a shopping list, lol. An all-in-one lens will give you a range from wide angle to telephoto. While you do sacrifice some image quality going this route, you still have a great focal length range at a very reasonable price. If you are interested in a lens of this type, search All-in-one lenses, for more information.

Woodpecker, Pileated


The addition of flash, even in sunlight can make an incredible difference in your photos. It can be used to remove or control shadows and highlights, adding dimension to the shot.



Make sure all of your batteries are charged and at least one is in the camera. It is always a good idea to bring extras. Believe me, having your battery die in the middle of a walk, with no replacement is a great way to ruin what could have been an awesome trip. After doing this once, I bought a small cell phone case, which attaches to my Thinktank belt and holds two extra batteries. Now, whenever I go out, they are always with me and I will never be caught without power again.



Check and make sure you have an empty card in your camera before leaving the house. It is also a very good idea to have extra cards with you whenever you go out. You may think, having a high capacity card, such as 16 or 32gb card will be all you need. Well, in most cases that will be more than enough space, but what about if your card fails? These cards are just electronic storage and anything electronic has the potential to fail. Be safe, take extras.



I recommend adjusting your camera settings before you start your walk. Your settings will depend on the lighting conditions of where you will be shooting. Because the lighting will change along your walk, set up for the location where you are starting out and be prepared to adjust as the light changes. In most cases, your condition changes will be subtle, so setting  prior to starting will at least get you close and your adjustments should be minor from there. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Please keep in mind, these are just suggestions and not set in stone.

-I will usually use AV / AP (Aperture Value – Canon, Aperture Priority – Nikon) while on a nature walk. I have found this setting good for most situations. This setting will allow you to control your aperture and the camera will set the shutter speed.

Aperture – Early in the day, I prefer a using a lower F-stop which will give a larger aperture opening. As the sun rises higher in the sky and gets brighter, I start to adjust to a higher F-stop (search the Sunny16 rule for more info). As the sun starts to set, I start going back to a lower F-stop.

ISO – I would recommend using the lowest ISO you can get away with. I usually start out around 100 – 400 depending on the conditions. Remember the lower the ISO, the less chance of noise in your images.

White Balance – This is a matter of choice, but I personally hate Auto White Balance! LOL. Some people love it. I feel, it takes control away from me. I prefer the actual kelvin settings, but would recommend, if that isn’t for you, give the custom settings (such as cloudy, sunny, flash etc. a try).


Respect The Environment:

I can’t express how important this is. While out on a nature walk, you will be in an area that is home to all kinds of wildlife. Much of their survival depends on our actions while while we are in their home. Being mindful and careful to leave the area just as you found it essential. One of the things we enjoy most about nature is it’s beauty. When people litter, take plant life away or hassle the wildlife, they are in fact degrading the environment. Taking a flower or two, might not seem like a big deal on a small scale, but you have to look at the big picture here. Many animals and insects depend on this flora for their food and even their homes. If everyone started removing it, the wildlife will eventually also leave. I don’t believe I have to go into hassling the animals or littering, this is pretty much self explanatory. This reminds me of a saying posted at many wildlife areas. I can’t remember it word for word, but I goes something like this,

While you are here, enjoy yourself.

LEAVE only foot prints

TAKE only Pictures

If we all will live by this, we will be helping preserve our natural habitats for many future generations.

I invite you to take a look at my Florida website, to see a small sample. If you do, it will not only see nature, but also it include some of the sites and attractions around Florida. I am still in the process of building it and will be adding much more photos.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it will help you on your way to having a great  nature walk and get some amazing photos. Now all that’s left is to get out there and have fun!!!


BreAna L Cannon'

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