The Beauty of Nature Photography

The great outdoors provide a wealth of photo opportunities, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when attempting to capture the beauty of a mountain landscape or a rushing waterfall. Here is a short list of tips to help improve your outdoor photography results.

Use Scene Modes

Most Olympus digital cameras have Scene Modes, which are ideal for many types of outdoor shots. “Landscape mode” is best for typical landscape shots as it optimizes the camera to capture vivid blues and greens. If you’re after close-in outdoor shots rather than landscapes, try your camera’s macro mode. Other popular outdoor shooting modes include Sunset, Beach and Snow, and Sport.


Photo taken in Landscape Mode by Louise from Nelson, BC.


Photo taken in Landscape mode with Wide Angle Adaptor by Valerie from Stamford, CT.

Think Wide

Want to capture a mountain landscape? Zoom all the way out for the best results. This will allow your camera to capture most of your view in the shot. Use a camera with a wide-angle lens, interchangeable lenses or in-camera Panorama mode to capture even wider vistas.

Panorama mode

Photo taken with Panoramic Photo Setting by Ann from Lenox, Mich. using an SP-550 UZ.

For advanced tips on capturing panoramas, check out this article from Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman.

Outdoor Portraits

If your camera has the “Landscape + Portrait” scene mode, try using it for shots where you want to capture your subject standing atop a rocky cliff in front of a scenic river canyon. Use this mode with flash to remove shadows from your subject’s face, while still capturing the enormity of the natural vista.

Don’t have “Landscape + Portrait” scene mode? Shoot at your camera’s extreme wide angle (zoom all the way out) and use your camera’s “fill-flash” to help reduce harsh shadows. If you have a camera Aperture Priority mode and choose the smallest aperture (like f16 or f22) in order to ensure the broadest depth of field. Note: small apertures correspond to larger f-stop numbers, while large aperture settings correspond to smaller f-stop numbers, like f2, for example. For more information about aperture and outdoor photography, see this article detailing settings for outdoor portraits.

Not sure how close to get? Olympus cameras with a built-in flash have a flash working range of about seven feet, but it varies from model to model. External flashes available for models equipped with a hot shoe extend the range to as much as 50 feet. Whichever flash you use, if your subject is beyond its working range, there is a danger that your images will be underexposed (dark) or out of focus.

Zoom Closer

When you can’t move closer to your subject, don’t forget about your camera’s zoom. Zooming uses the camera’s optics to bring your subject closer to the camera, rather than the other way around.

If your camera has a digital zoom feature, you can get even closer, but keep in mind that digital zoom halves the resolution of your image for each multiple of magnification. That means you’ll capture less detail, which isn’t going to work in your favor if you plan to print enlargements. Your best bet is to shoot at your maximum optical zoom using the highest-quality recording format available.

Some newer Olympus cameras feature a Fine Zoom or Super Resolution Zoom setting. This feature boosts image magnification on top of optical zoom, but prevents the "pixelation" (grainy appearance and jagged edges) that can occur in images captured using digital zoom. It works by using a smaller portion of the camera’s image sensor to increase the effective zoom of the camera. Essentially, it limits the digital zoom to optimize the image quality for common smaller print sizes and screen viewing.


Bonus Tips for Advanced Camera Owners:

Shutter Speed and Moving Water

You can control exposure time in Shutter Priority and Manual shooting modes. Setting a higher or lower aperture value will also effect shutter speed. Slow shutter speeds (long exposures) help display movement in a waterfall by blurring the movement of the water. You may need a tripod to help prevent blur when shooting with a slow shutter speed. Using a low ISO and a filter to block some of the light hitting your camera will allow for longer exposure times while avoiding overexposure. If you have an X-Series camera like the XZ-1, XZ-2 or XZ-10, you can use the built-in Neutral Denisty (ND) filter setting to cut the amount of light.

Setting a fast shutter speed (short exposure) helps prevent blurriness – even when you don’t have a tripod. Short exposures are good for capturing crashing waves or other fast moving subjects. A fast shutter speed also means that less light will reach the sensor. To avoid underexposing a shot, use a high-sensitivity shooting mode when you set fast shutter speeds. This lets the sensor absorb more light energy in a shorter amount of time. The setting that controls this is called ISO. The higher the ISO value, the more sensitive the sensor becomes. Because high ISO settings absorb so much light, use them with care. On a sunny day, shooting with high ISO may cause highlights to be blown out or the entire image will be overexposed. These modes are best used in dim light.

Interested in more information on this topic? View additional settings and advice for capturing waterfall effects.

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